9-10:15 M/W Office Hours: 8:15-8:45, 12:45-1:15 M/W, 4:45-Spring, 2015 5:45, M and by appointment.
A hallmark of democratic societies is the commitment to equal treatment under law. Unfounded and unjustified forms of unequal treatment are anathema to a society that values a limited and accountable government. The U.S. Constitution helps define the authority and limits of our government, as well as the rights citizens enjoy in our polity. This course is designed to examine the constitutional bases that ensure equal treatment under law. Its main pedagogy and focus is to analyze key cases in American constitutional law that helped define what discrimination is what limitations the constitution might place on discriminatory treatment. Public, or government sponsored discrimination, as well as private discrimination is examined on the basis of several characteristics including but not limited to race, class, sex, disability, sexual orientation, age. In addition to traditional concepts of discrimination, this course also examines issues of governmental discriminatory treatment as applied to voting rights.
Ducat, Craig, Constitutional Interpretation, Rights of the Individual, Volume II, 10th Edition. In addition, be prepared to read additional cases relevant to our curricula that are not found in our text.
Inherently a vulgar subject but one with which we must all contend. You will have two essay examinations, one midterm and a final, each worth 100 points. You must also write a 5 to 7 page position paper/analysis on a subject relevant to civil rights. The paper is worth 30 points. If you wish full comments along with your grade, the paper is due no later than Wednesday, April 22nd. If you are willing to forego comments on your paper, you may turn it in no later than April 29th for full credit. Any paper turned in later than April 29th is late and will receive a 6 point penalty. The absolute last second a student may turn in any late work for even partial credit is the last moment of our last regularly scheduled class on Wednesday, May 13th. Students will also write legal briefs on most cases, and occasionally turn in their legal briefs as a graded assignment with each brief worth 10 points. Briefs must be typed, not handwritten. If you turn in a handwritten brief, it will be docked 3 points before I grade it. If you turn in a brief late it will receive up to half credit. You may drop your lowest graded brief when calculating your grade. You may submit a brief via email prior to the class the brief is due to avoid any late penalty. Finally, students will be called upon to present briefs of assigned cases. While not graded, the quality of your oral presentations may affect my perception of whether you should receive the benefit of the doubt if the points you earned borders between two different grades. Similarly, class participation can help tip the scales in your favor if your final grade is in doubt. The percent of your total grade for all of these assignments is based on the likelihood that I will collect for a grade, four or five briefs, with your lowest scored brief being dropped.
Attendance will be recorded each day but you get 2 ½ weeks (five class days) of paid vacation (what a great deal!). For each day of class you miss after five absences, you will lose two points. If you use less than five absences in the semester, you will receive two extra points toward your final grade up to a total of ten extra points. For example, if you miss five days of class, you neither gain nor lose points. If you miss six classes, you lose two points, seven classes, four points, etc. If you miss only four classes, you earn two points; three class, four points and perfect attendance earns you ten extra points. Not only is this a good way to encourage you to attend the greatest show on earth and earn points, but just being in class regularly will help you better master the material.
Any student caught cheating on any assignment will automatically fail the course and will have an academic dishonesty report submitted to the office of Judicial Affairs. Please refer to the university policy on academic dishonesty. I hate to bring this point up but the sad reality is that some students engage in various types of dishonest behavior and while many may not be caught, please be advised that if I catch any student violating university policy on academic dishonesty, you will fail the course and be sanctioned by the Office of Judicial Affairs. Per SJSU mandate, I am required to restate the policy on this syllabus and it reads as follows:
Academic integrity is essential to the mission of San José State University. As such, students are expected to perform their own work (except when collaboration is expressly permitted by the course instructor) without the use of any outside resources. Students are not permitted to use old tests, quizzes when preparing for exams, nor may they consult with students who have already taken the exam. When practiced, academic integrity ensures that all students are fairly graded. Violations to the Academic Integrity Policy undermine the educational process and will not be tolerated. It also demonstrates a lack of respect for oneself, fellow students and the course instructor and can ruin the university’s reputation and the value of the degrees it offers.
We all share the obligation to maintain an environment which practices academic integrity. Violators of the Academic Integrity Policy will be subject to failing this course and being reported to the Office of Student Conduct & Ethical Development for disciplinary action which could result in suspension or expulsion from San José State University.
If you wish, you may view the complete policy on Academic Integrity by typing in the following URL:
All written work must be legible. If I cannot read an exam, you will have to read it to me in my office as part of an oral exam. This is not as easy as it may seem so please write legibly. Tardiness tends to be a distraction to the entire class and while an occasional tardiness cannot always be helped, excessive tardiness (more than a couple of times) will be duly noted. Finally, please turn off your electronic communication devices as they also pose a distraction to the class. For those who work with the Educational Access Center, I will respect the accommodations of the Center the three of us agree upon.
Computer use policy
Any student caught using a computer for amusement and not for the class will earn a permanent membership to my shit list. If quantified, membership to my shit list gives you the privilege of losing at least 10 points from the total semester points you earned. Browsing, im’ing, emailing or any type of computer use for self amusement is rude to those sitting around you. Serious students complain that those around them who use their computer for self amusement break their concentration. If you plan to play with your computer, rather than to use it as an educational tool, banish yourself to a corner or the back or the classroom where you will be less of an annoyance to those around you. I’m really sorry to take such drastic and unpleasant action but the amount of rude computer users in class has really become a problem. WTF is up with that?
The nature of this course demands from you a constant reappraisal of how the Supreme Court develops constitutional issues. As a dynamic process that reflects the transient values of society, constitutional law, to be fully appreciated, must be studied as a continuum. Each case is much like a frame in a movie. Each frame gives you a picture but the succession of frames gives you a complete story. Similarly, while a case may give you some insight into a constitutional principle, analyzing the compendia of cases on a specific area of law will allow you to understand constitutional issues far beyond that which would be possible from studying a single case. Therefore, I expect from each of you, diligent preparations out of the classroom and intelligent, rigorous conduct in the classroom.
General Course Readings.
Introduction to the theories of constitutional interpretation
Essay: The Modes of Constitutional Interpretation, pp. 1343-1372
Ch. 14, Equal Protection of the Laws pp. 1142-1143
Unit One: Public forms of racial discrimination
Government Based Racial Discrimination, 1143
Plessy v. Ferguson, 1143-1147
Sweatt v. Painter, 1147-1148
Brown v. Board of Education, 1149-1153
Note, Stell v. Savannah-Chatham County Board of Ed., 1153-1154
Note, Bolling v. Sharpe, 1155
The Brown II problem, “With all deliberate speed,” 1155-1157
The Scope and Duration of Desegregation, 1160-1161
Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Ed., 1161-1166