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Course Details

State Constitutional Law (Becker)

Spring 2023   LAW 907-001  

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Additional Information

Skills Training
Oral Presentations
Team Projects
Expository Writing

25% Participation,
50% Paper,
25% Other (As noted above, I'll grade the class partly on 25% class participation, 50% on papers, and 25% on the presentations that students give based on their papers. There is no final exam. )

Satisfies Senior Writing Requirement



Class meets in person.

Course Continuity
Students are encouraged to stay home if you are ill or experience flu-like symptoms. If you miss a class for any reason, it is still your responsibility to make up the work missed.

I offer the following to students who miss class due to illness:

- Class sessions are regularly recorded. I will make these recordings routinely available on the course site to everyone in the class.

- When you are better, please make an appointment to meet with me and I will review/answer questions about what you missed.

Meeting Times/Location
R 6:40PM - 8:40PM
Tanenbaum Hall 345



In the United States, the federal constitution is not the only constitutional game in town. Every state has a constitution as well. Those state constitutions sometimes provide greater protections than provided by the federal constitution on a given subject. Sometimes they address topics on which the federal constitution is silent. For each constitution, there is a corresponding state judiciary whose interpretation of that document is supreme. These state constitutions provide a powerful source of law, and looking closely at them can provide valuable insights into the structure of our governmental system. Looking at state constitutions also can help us think about advocacy given how state and federal constitutional law can diverge. In sum, state constitutions create a vital framework for litigating issues, vindicating rights, and impacting the development of law nationwide.

In this class, we will review the relationship between the federal and state constitutions. We will explore decisions by state supreme courts impacting such important issues as legislative districting, the death penalty, same-sex marriage, environmental protection, funding of public education, and criminal procedure. We will explore how state constitutions are amended and other background topics. We will take a look at some state constitutions from around the country. We will be joined by guest speakers who have been involved in state constitutional issues to share their perspectives.

I will assign readings from the textbook STATE CONSTITUTIONAL LAW: THE MODERN EXPERIENCE, 3rd Edition, Holland, McAllister, Shaman, Sutton. I will supplement the reading with materials loaded on this course’s canvas site. Obviously, the scope of state constitutional law is vast. I hope that the class provides a window into this world, and that you take from the class an appreciation that state constitution law should be valued and that it can provide powerful tools for protecting individual rights and developing the law.

Over the class, I will ask each student to submit two papers of about 5 to 7 pages based on a proposition described in the syllabus. (Seven pages is a maximum, not a recommendation.) Students will give presentations based on these papers. If students want to argue opposing sides of a single proposition, that is fine. But i don't insist on it. I want you to explore issues that you find interesting and helpful to the class' appreciation of the topics being explored. The papers are due two days before the day the proposition will be discussed. Each student is expected to actively participate in class discussion as reflected by the fact that the grades will be calculated as follows: 25% class participation, 25% presentation, and 50% papers.

Course Concentrations

Constitutional Law Learning outcomes: Demonstrate a core understanding of constitutional law; Perform legal analysis in the context of constitutional law; Communicate effectively on topics related to constitutional law; Demonstrate an understanding of constitutional law affects other areas of law.

Courts and the Judicial System Learning outcomes: Demonstrate a core understanding of both substantive and procedural issues in the operation of our legal system; Perform legal analysis in the context of procedural issues and the judicial process; Communicate effectively on topics related to procedure and the judicial process; Demonstrate an understanding of how procedural issues and the judicial process affect all other area of our legal system.


"State Constitution Law, The Modern Experience" by Jeffrey S. Sutton
Edition: Third Edition
Publisher: West Law
ISBN: 9781684675210