Courses and Syllabi

American Constitutional Law and Development | Syllabus (every fall semester)

  • Surveys the development of American constitutional law, with an emphasis on how the structures of government (including separation of powers, federalism, and executive authority) have changed over time. A main theme is that the Supreme Court is not alone in articulating constitutional rules and principles. Covers critical periods in the development of American constitutionalism, including the Founding, the early national and Jacksonian eras, the Civil War, the Progressive Era, the New Deal period, and the emergence of contemporary constitutionalism.

The Politics of Civil Rights and Liberties | Syllabus (every spring semester)

  • Covers a variety of topics including discrimination on the basis of race, sex, and other classifications, the right to privacy, voting rights, freedom of speech and of the press, the rights of the criminally accused, and religious freedom. Emphasizes not just the law of civil rights and liberties but the politics as well, including the role of other political institutions besides the courts in the development of contemporary civil rights and liberties.

Courts and Public Policy | Syllabus (fall 2011; spring 2015)

  • Explores the major characteristics of the modern judiciary and how and why the courts have become so active in public policy in the United States. Also examines the courts’ relationship with other governmental institutions, including Congress, the president, executive agencies, the states, and political parties. Considers whether the courts’ interventions ultimately help produce better public policy.

Law, Lawyers, and Social Change | Syllabus (spring 2012)

  • Explores “the law” in a broad sense, including questions such as: What is law? Why is there law? What are the roles of various actors in the American legal system, such as lawyers, judges, juries, and law enforcement personnel? Can law be used to achieve social change? Considers insights from a wide variety of fields including legal studies, political science, sociology, psychology, criminal justice, journalism, and film.

Research Seminar in Law, Courts, and Constitutionalism | Syllabus (fall 2012)

  • Examines several of the main areas of interest in the scholarly study of law and courts, including: the nature of law and judicial decision-making; the functions and origins of courts; the interactions between the judiciary and other political institutions; the role of law and litigation in public policy; and issues of constitutionalism and constitutional design. Explores these issues from a variety of scholarly perspectives, including law and society, judicial behavior, law and economics, comparative courts and constitutionalism, constitutional theory, and American constitutional development.

Introduction to American Politics | Syllabus (spring 2013, fall 2013)

  • Examines how and why American political institutions function as they do as well as important trends in the development of non-institutional influences on the political system (such as political culture and political behavior). Considers perennial questions such as: What is unique about American politics, particularly as compared to other democracies around the world? How democratic and representative is the American political system? What changes to the political system would help to improve American politics?