State Constitutional Law (Becker)
T 6:40PM - 8:40PM
Tanenbaum Hall 345
We live in a multi-polar constitutional country. Sure, the federal constitution is monumentally important. But it is only one of the 51 constitutions that govern American life. Each state also has a constitution that may provide different protections than the federal constitution on important issues while addressing additional topics on which the federal constitution is completely silent. Looking closely at state constitutions and reflecting on their relationship to the federal constitution can provide valuable insights into advocacy and the structure of our federal republic.
In this class, we will work toward developing a perspective on the fullness of American constitutional law. We will explore decisions by state supreme courts impacting such issues as legislative districting, environmental protection, abortion, same-sex marriage, public education, the death penalty, property rights, and criminal procedure. We will look at how state constitutional law has informed the development of federal constitutional law and vice versa. We will explore the amendment of state constitutions and consider how different states may establish different relationships among their branches of government.
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 the course’s Canvas site. Given the vastness of the subject, our overall goal won't be to become "experts" in the entirety of this area. My hope instead is to encourage you to appreciate our federalist system and the notion that state constitutions may provide powerful tools for litigating on a variety of issues.
Over the semester, I will ask each student to submit two papers of about 7 pages focused on different topics based on the subject to be addressed the week the student is assigned the paper. I also will ask the student to present to the class on their paper. The point of these papers and presentations is to encourage you to explore topics you find interesting and helpful to our overall appreciation of that week's subject. I will talk with everyone well before papers are due to help make sure we have a good plan for each week.
I expect each student to participate in class discussion as reflected by the fact that the grades will be calculated as follows: 40% for the two papers, 40% for the two presentations, and 20% for class participation.
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.
Criminal Law and Procedure Learning outcomes: Demonstrate a core understanding of criminal law and procedure; Perform legal analysis in the context of criminal law and procedure; Communicate effectively on topics related to criminal law and procedure; Demonstrate an understanding of the role criminal law and procedure play in society and their impact on other areas of law and society.
Perspectives on the Law Learning outcomes: Demonstrate an understanding of how the law affects, and is affected by, the individual course topic; Perform legal analysis in the context of the individual course topic; Communicate effectively on the legal and other aspects of the individual course topic; Demonstrate the ability to use other disciplines to analyze legal issues relevant to the individual course topic, including economics, philosophy, and sociology, as appropriate.
Environmental Law Learning outcomes: Demonstrate a core understanding of environmental law; Perform legal analysis in the context of environmental law; Communicate effectively on topics related to environmental law; Demonstrate an understanding of how environmental law affects other areas of law.
"State Constitutional Law: The Modern Experience" by Jeffrey S. Sutton