Thursday, July 09, 2015

POSC 3210: Civil Rights & Liberties

The course is an intensive survey of the Supreme Court’s doctrine in the areas of civil rights and civil liberties.  Topics include substantive due process, the equal protection clause, free speech, the establishment of religion and the free exercise thereof, and the rights of the accused.  No prior knowledge of the Supreme Court is required. 

Spring 2015

Required Text

O’Brien, David M.  2011.  Constitutional Law and Politics, Volume 2: Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.  Eighth Edition.  New York, NY: W.W. Norton.  (CL&P)


            1/13     Introduction

            1/16     No Class

I.  The Fourteenth Amendment
      A.  The Privileges and Immunities Clause

1/20     The Privileges and Immunities Clause – CL&P: pp. 274-278 (The Slaughterhouse Cases); Blackboard (Saenz v. Roe)

      B.  The Due Process Clause

1/23     Economic Due Process – CL&P: pp. 261-273 (Essay); 281-287 (Lochner v. New York); 290-293 (West Coast Hotel v. Parrish)

1/27     Nationalization of the Bill of Rights – CL&P: 320-334 (essay), 342-345 (Palko v. Connecticut); 345-350 (Adamson v. California)

1/30     The Foundation of the Right to Privacy — CL&P: 1280-1283 (essay); 355-364 (Griswold v. Connecticut)

2/3       The Right to Die — CL&P: 1342-1350 (essay); 1363-1371 (Cruzan by Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health); 1371-1381 (Washington v. Glucksberg; Vacco v. Quill)

2/6       Gay Rights — Blackboard: (Bowers v. Hardwick); CL&P: 1352-1363 (Lawrence v. Texas)
C.  The Equal Protection Clause

2/10     Race Discrimination — CL&P: 1382-1391, 1504-1512 (essay), 1513-1521 (California v. Bakke); 1548-1552 (Gratz v. Bollinger); 1552-1561 (Grutter v. Bollinger)

2/13     Gender Discrimination — CL&P: 1561-1563 (essay); 1573-1577 (Craig v. Boren); 1577-1580 (Michael M. v. Superior Court); 1581-1593 (U.S. v. Virginia),

2/17     Disability & Sexual Orientation Discrimination — Blackboard (City of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center); CL&P: 1597-1598 (essay) 1599-1609 (Romer v. Evans); Blacboard (U.S. v. Windsor)

2/20     University Closed (Class Meets on TUESDAY)

2/24     Midterm Exam

II.  Freedom of Speech

      A.  Judicial Approaches to the First Amendment

2/27     CL&P: pp. 441-447 (essay); ???-??? (Gitlow); 455-466 (Dennis v. United States); 467-469 (Brandenburg v. Ohio)

      B.  Definitional Balancing

3/3       Obscenity and Pornography I — CL&P: 469-481 (essay), 489-493 (Miller v. California); 493-499 (Paris Adult Theatre I v. Slaton); 503-509 (City of Erie v. Pap’s A.M.)
3/6       Obscenity and Pornography II — CL&P: 509-517 (Reno v. ACLU); Blackboard (Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association)

3/10     Offensive Speech — CL&P: 523-528 (essay); 529-533 (Cohen v. California); 533-538 (FCC v. Pacifica Foundation); Blackboard (Snyder v. Phelps)
3/13     Offensive Conduct — CL&P: 672-676 (essay); 694-701 (Texas v. Johnson); 553-560 (Virginia v. Black); 551-553 (Wisconsin v. Mitchell)

            3/17     No Class: Spring Break

            3/20     No Class: Spring Break

III.  The Religion Clauses

      A.  The Establishment Clause

3/24     Public Funding of Religion – CL&P 729-737 (essay); 774-780 (Lemon v. Kurtzman); 814-823 (Zelman v. Simmons-Harris)

3/27     School Prayer — CL&P: 738-749 (essay); 780-787 (Wallace v. Jaffree); 788-795 (Lee v. Weisman)

B.  The Free Exercise Clause

3/31     The Free Exercise Clause — CL&P: 857-865 (essay); 837-845 (Oregon v. Smith); 866-872 (Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v. Hialeah)

            4/3       Easter Break

IV.  The Rights of the Accused

      A.  The Fourth Amendment

4/7       Foundational Principles — CL&P: 890-892, 991-996 (essay); 997-1002 (Olmstead v. U.S.); 1002-1005 (Katz v. U.S.); 1005-1008 (California v. Ciraolo)

4/10     Pat Down Searches/Drug Testing — CL&P: 904-913 (essay); 914-920 (Terry v. Ohio); 959-962 (essay); 972-976 (Vernonia v. Acton); 986-990 (Safford v. Redding)

4/14     The Exclusionary Rule — CL&P: 1022-1026 (essay); 1027-1034 (Mapp v. Ohio); 1034-1039 (Nix v. Williams); 1051-1057 (Herring v. United States); (Kentucky v. King?)

            4/17     Moot Court

            4/21     Moot Court

      B.  The Fifth Amendment

4/24     Self-Incrimination — CL&P: 1067-1073 (essay), 1074-1086 (Miranda v. Arizona); 1103-1108 (Dickerson v. U.S.); 1112-1121 (Berghuis v. Thompkins)

      C.  The Eighth Amendment

4/28     Capital Punishment — CL&P: 1212-1224 (essay); 1254-1260 (Atkins v. Virginia); 1260-1267 (Roper v. Simmons); Blackboard (Kennedy v. Louisiana)

                        FINAL EXAM TBA


Participation & Attendance

Participation.  Participation is a major component of this course (20%).  Students will not receive a satisfactory participation grade by attending class and sitting quietly: regular, thoughtful participation is required.  Effective participation requires reading the cases closely and reflecting on them critically.

Attendance:  Attendance at all class meetings is mandatory, unless an absence is excused in advance.  An unexcused absence will result in a reduction of your participation grade. 

Exams and Papers

Exams.  There will be one midterm exam (20%) and a final (30%).  The exams include short-answer, essay, and multiple choice questions.  The final exam is not cumulative, covering post-midterm material.

Moot Court.  The moot court simulation (30%) will occur in class on 3/25.  The assignment has two parts: (1) an in-class oral argument simulation, and (2) an 8-10 page paper.  You will assume one of two roles—attorney or justice—and written assignments vary depending on your role.  Papers are due on the day of the simulation, with no extensions permitted except under extraordinary circumstances. 

Cheating/Plagiarism.  Under no circumstances will plagiarism be tolerated.  Plagiarism includes (but is not limited to) copying all or part of another student’s work, copying (or closely paraphrasing) all or part of another source without proper attribution, and misrepresenting your sources of information.  To enforce the University’s standards on academic integrity, students are required to submit electronic copies of their papers to in addition to the hard copies submitted in class. 


Your success in this course depends on your ability to read, process, and memorize the holdings of a large number of Supreme Court cases.  The best way of accomplishing this goal is by regularly briefing cases.  There is no correct way to brief a case (your casebook includes suggestions on pages 1647-1650), but some basic guidelines are provided below.

For each case you read, prepare a flashcard with the following information:

  1. Name of the case
  2. Brief statement of the facts
  3. What is the legal question presented?
  4. What did the Court rule?
  5. What legal principle did the Court rely upon to reach this ruling?
  6. What reasons did the majority opinion give for relying on this principle instead of alternatives?
  7. Were there any important concurrences/dissents?  What were their arguments?
  8. How does the case relate to others that we have read that day/week/month?

NOTE: When briefing cases, points e, f, and h are the most important and will be the focus of exam questions and our classroom discussions.  Be sure that for each case, you can describe the legal principle, the reasons for it, and how the case contributes to the development of the law.  These points are far more important than the factual background of the case (point b).

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