U. S. Constitutional Law and Politics I syllabus

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U.S. Constitutional Law and Politics I - Syllabus
Course Information:
Course: PSC 2214 (formerly PSC 114)

Semester: Fall 2011

Time: Thursday 7:10-9:40 pm

Location: Phillips Hall 306
Instructor Information:
Name: Daniel Ericson, Esq.

Office Monroe 409

Hours: Thursday, 6:00 – 7:00 pm or by appointment

E-mail: ericson@gwmail.gwu.edu (best way to reach me)

Phone: 202-994-7841 (GWU Office, Thursday evening); 202-452-3359 (office during the day, M – F)
Course Description:
This course will cover the powers of federal and state governments under the United States Constitution. Primarily, we will address the powers of the federal Judiciary, Congress, and the President in our federal system. The issues to be covered include judicial review, justiciability (i.e. the appropriateness of a case for federal court determination), Congress’s enumerated and implied powers, presidential power, separation of powers disputes – with an emphasis on national security issues -- and federal-state relations. We will seek to place important Supreme Court cases in their political and historical contexts. When possible, we also will study current issues in constitutional law that are relevant to the course.
Course Prerequisites:
PSC 1 – Introduction to American Politics and Government (or similar course).
Texts (only first is required):

  1. Epstein & Walker, Constitutional Law for a Changing America: Institutional Powers & Constraints (7th edition 2010) (“E&W”)

  2. Charles Rossiter (editor), The Federalist Papers (2003 edition)

  3. Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong, The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court

  4. Jeffrey Toobin, The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court

Learning Outcomes:

  1. You should understand how the U.S. Supreme Court decides cases, and have a substantial knowledge of the constitutional provisions and cases covered in the course. You also should understand the political and historical contexts of significant cases.

  2. In addition to having knowledge of the constitutional law covered, you should be able to apply the law to factual scenarios to determine whether any constitutional issues are implicated.

  3. You should be able to think critically about the material, such that you can prepare concise answers to questions both in class and on an examination -- supported by examples from the case law and other material that we have studied.


  1. Final Examination – Date TBD (during the University’s examination period) – 45%

  2. Mid-Term Examination – 35% - 10/27/11 – Covers Units I – III (in part)

  3. Other - Participation (required and volunteered)/Attendance/Quiz/Possible Collection of Case Briefs and/or In-Class Writing Exercise – 20%

The grading scale will be as follows: 93 through 100 = A; 90-92 = A-; 87 - 89 = B+; 83 – 86 = B; 80 – 82 = B-; 77 – 79 = C+; 73 – 76 = C; 70-72 = C-, and so forth. For exceptional participation and contribution to class, your grade may be improved a half step.

The course examinations will include both objective and subjective questions. There will be multiple-choice questions, short answer questions, and at least one or two lengthy essays on each exam. The essay(s) are likely to include both a hypothetical component (i.e. apply the law learned in class to a hypothetical factual pattern developed by the instructor) and a policy component (i.e. a “what-do-you-think and why” kind of question typical of political science courses). The final will be longer than the mid-term and more writing will be required. Please note that I maintain a policy of not answering student questions twenty-four hours before exams in order to maintain a level playing field.
I shall post some assigned readings and other material on Blackboard. I also encourage students to post questions regarding course topics (or other constitutional law and policy issues, for that matter) on Blackboard. That way, all of us can benefit from the discussion.
Class Format and Policies:
The principal focus of the course will be to read and discuss U.S. Supreme Court decisions in constitutional law. This will include a combination of instructor lecture and student recitation. In most classes, I will call on students – based on who “is on call” for that class – to both discuss and answer questions regarding the reading assignments. This exercise will count towards your participation grade. I will take volunteers as well. If you are “on call” for a particular day and not prepared, you may place a note on the podium before class (or e-mail me at least one hour before class) to inform me of this, so I will not call on you. You may do this once during the semester for any reason whatsoever. In any other case in which you are “on call,” you must be excused from participation (e.g. legitimate illness, family emergency, religious absence, etc.) in the event you are not prepared. If I call on you and you “pass” or are clearly unprepared, this will impact your participation grade. Regarding attendance, in order to both do well and enjoy the subject matter, you will need to attend and be prepared to participate with the cases briefed. On the day that you are “on call,” you may be called on without volunteering to discuss the assigned reading.
The “on-call” system will start on September 15. For purposes of the “on-call system,” the class will be divided as follows: Thursday 9/15 – A-M; Thursday 9/22 – N - Z; Thursday 9/29 – A - M; Thursday 10/6 – N - Z; Thursday 10/13 – A - M; Thursday 10/20 – N – Z; Thursday 10/27 – Mid-Term Examination – No one is on call; Thursday 11/4 – A – M; Thursday 11/11 – N - Z; Thursday 11/18 – A - M; Thursday 11/25 – THANKSGIVING – NO CLASS; Thursday 12/1 – N - Z; Tuesday 12/6 – EVERYONE IS ON CALL.
The readings primarily will come from the “Epstein & Walker” (EW) text. I will add materials to the readings that I will distribute either in class or on Blackboard’s electronic reserve. You should review in the appendix any constitutional provisions mentioned in EW. I also would recommend reviewing any Federalist Papers mentioned in EW. And please note that, due to the length of each class session, the reading assignments will be long. Thus, please do not wait until the night before to complete the readings and case briefs.
The reading schedule is likely to change at least somewhat. We may have to rearrange the dates of coverage of particular material, based upon our rate of progress. In any event, I will do my best to tell you at the end of each class what I expect to cover in the following class. When I haven’t done so or posted the assignment on Blackboard, the syllabus will provide the default assignment.
Unit I – Introduction to Constitutional Law and the U.S. Supreme Court / The Marshall Court / Justiciability
Thursday 9/8 – Introduction to the Course and Syllabus; Introductory Material, Terminology, and Exercise – EW 1-33; and Federalist Paper No. 78 on The Judiciary Department (to be provided by instructor on BlackBoard’s electronic reserve)
Thursday 9/15 – Important Marshall Court Decisions – EW 58-84 and Introduction to Justiciability and the Political Question Doctrine – EW 92-107
Thursday 9/22 – Standing – EW 107-117; Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife (1992) and Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn (2011) (available on electronic reserve); Begin Unit II – Congress’s Institutional Authority – EW 119-122; 131-138 and 143-152.
Unit II – The Legislature’s Institutional Authority and Federalism Matters
Thursday 9/29 –Congress’s Enumerated and Implied Powers – EW 330-336; 527-530; and 357-362; Federal-State Relations and Federalism – EW 357-362
Thursday 10/6 –Quiz covering Unit I (5 % of grade) (40 minutes to simulate one half of the time for the Mid-Term Examination); Begin Unit III – The Early Commerce Power – EW 400-413 and Pre-1937 New Deal Commerce Clause Issues – EW 415-424
Unit III – The Commerce Power and Economic Regulation
Thursday 10/13 – Court-Packing Plan, and Commerce Clause 1937 - ? – EW 428-438, 441-444 and The Rehnquist Court and the Commerce Clause – EW 444-464
Thursday 10/20 – DOJ’s recent policy change on medical marijuana; the Commerce Clause as Civil Rights Enforcement Authority – EW 467-470; Substantive Due Process – EW 602-608, 623-627, and 634-640; and possible mid-term examination review. (Please note that I will be in my office from 9:40-10:10 after class to answer questions about the Mid-Term.)
Thursday 10/27 –MID-TERM EXAMINATION (35% of Grade) (80 minutes) and The Dormant Commerce Clause – EW 477-481 and 484-488
Thursday 11/4 - The Commerce Clause and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (articles and cases to be provided by instructor via electronic reserve); Begin Unit IV – Introduction to the Presidency and the Election of 2000 – EW 180-194; and group work to prepare for in-class discussion regarding both constitutionality of health-care bill and Bush v. Gore (2000). (Please allow additional time for preparation of the reading assignments and your notes for this class meeting.)
Unit IV – Article II of the U.S. Constitution and Executive Power
Thursday 11/11 – Inherent Executive Power – EW 194 – 201; Domestic Powers of the President including Appointment and Removal – EW 201-220; and Executive Privilege – EW 223-229
Thursday 11/18 – Presidential Immunity – EW 231-236; Power to Pardon – EW 236-242; and Begin Unit V – The Legislative Veto and Legislative Appointment – EW 261-273
Unit V – Separation of Powers and Disputes Including National Security Issues
Thursday 12/1 - War-making Powers and Interbranch Disputes – EW 273-290 and 297-307, including a discussion of the separation of powers analysis and framework (to be provided by the instructor on the electronic reserve)
Tuesday 12/6 – Supplement to National Security Reading (available on electronic reserve); War on Terrorism – EW 307-320; and Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (2004) (available on electronic reserve). Please note that, if there is sufficient time, I may assign an additional reading for this class pertaining to the recent military action in Libya.
Date TBD – Final Examination Review Session
If there is interest, I can hold a final exam review session. We shall discuss this possibility in November or early December.
Other Information
I support the GW Code of Academic Integrity. It states: “Academic dishonesty is defined as cheating of any kind, including misrepresenting one’s own work, taking credit for the work of others without crediting them and without appropriate authorization, and the fabrication of information.” The remainder of the Code is available through GWU’s website.
Any student who may need an accommodation based on the potential impact of a disability should contact the Disability Support Services office at 202-994-8250 to establish eligibility and to coordinate reasonable accommodations.
Directory: sites -> politicalscience.columbian.gwu.edu -> files -> downloads
sites -> 9. 5 Political Powers and Achievements Tom Burns- beacon High School
sites -> Indiana Academic Standards Resource Guide World History and Civilization Standards Approved March 2014
sites -> Penn State Harrisburg American Studies/Women Studies 104: Women and the American Experience Spring 2015 Instructor: Kathryn Holmes
sites -> Penn State Harrisburg am st/wmnst 104: Women and the American Experience Spring 2015 Instructor: Kathryn Holmes
sites -> Abolition and Women’s Rights Chap. 14 Se
sites -> In the years between the Seneca Falls Convention and the Civil War, powerful links existed between antislavery and women’s rights advocates. Virtually all women’s rights advocates supported abolition
downloads -> Course Description

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