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Eric Snickars Instructor POLI LGST esnickar ucsc edu


									Eric Snickars, Instructor                                                          POLI/LGST 111A                                                                  Physical Sciences 130
Office Hours: Monday 2:00 – 4:00 PM and by appointment; Merrill 137

                           Constitutional Law: Civil Rights and Liberties
                                      Summer Session I 2011

This course provides an introduction to Constitutional Law, emphasizing the First Amendment,
privacy, and civil rights. Students are required to complete two papers and a take-home examination,
as well as take part in a Supreme Court simulation regarding privacy and reproductive rights. Each
written assignment counts as 30% of your final grade; class participation will constitute the final 10%.


Because U.S. Constitutional Law is made up exclusively of Supreme Court cases, one cannot possibly
understand this subject without reading such cases; this is why your assigned readings are almost
entirely case edits.

Understanding this subject is, at least partially, a socialization process. Learning how to read cases is
not self-evident; it is a skill which takes time to master. If you want to develop this skill to the
maximum degree possible over the next five weeks, you must read the assigned cases before – rather
than after – class. If you faithfully apply this method, by the end of this course, you will realize that
you do not need me (or anybody else) standing before you telling you what the law is – you will have
the skills to read cases and figure out the law for yourself (and you’ll realize how media outlets tend to
misconstrue these decisions).

I encourage class discussion, as such participation will greatly facilitate your understanding of course
concepts. My method is partially Socratic, a law-school “light” version without the intimidation or
pressure. We’ll discuss at least some of the cases assigned for each day, and volunteers for discussion

are always appreciated. With the exception of our “on call” exercise, I will not force anyone to speak;
however, the more interaction we have, the better I can ascertain the material students are not
understanding, thus making our time together more productive.

The required text, Constitutional Law for a Changing America: Rights, Liberties, and Justice, provides
quality edits of crucial cases. The text’s coverage is quite comprehensive; however, because this is a
summer course, I’ve taken the liberty of minimizing the number of cases assigned. Therefore, students
should come to class having done all the assigned readings for the day; such preparation will greatly
increase your understanding of course concepts in tandem with accompanying lectures and discussions.

Bring your textbook to class every day, as you will use it to complete classroom assignments.

                                              Class Structure

Because four hours is a long time to continuously tackle any subject matter, this class will employ a
variety of techniques to ensure that interested students achieve the desired understanding of course
concepts. Although subject to change in order to serve students' interests and needs, each class shall
generally consist of various elements: (1) lecture on the day's subject matter; (2) a Socratic discussion
of leading cases; (3) small group in-class assignments. Depending on the subject matter and class
dynamics, I might integrate discussions into lectures. Of course, we will have at least one break per

                                           Classroom Policies

Unless you have already taken several other case-driven law classes, I cannot imagine how any student
could understand this material on his or her own. Therefore, attendance is required. I will take
attendance every class. If for some reason you must miss class, please notify me via e-mail before

Please arrive to class on time, as I do not tolerate lateness. Late arrivals will count as absences. Also,
please turn in assignments on time, as I do not accept late work.

Whether during lecture or discussions, raise your hand and wait for me to call on you before you speak.
When I don't enforce this rule, discussions tend to devolve into chaos.

Turn off all cell phones and electronic devices before class begins. Laptop/notebook computers are
acceptable, but please don't let me catch you doing anything other than taking notes. Surfing the
internet for any reason is not permitted.

                                   Assignments and Reading Schedule

All readings are from Constitutional Law for a Changing America: Rights, Liberties, and Justice, by
Lee Epstein and Thomas Walker, available at the university's Bay Tree Bookstore.

All students will sign up for one day of being “on call” for participation. This is not meant to be an
intimidating exercise, but is meant to combine the best aspects of both law school and your
undergraduate liberal education. The goal here is to learn to understand how legal actors – primarily

judges and lawyers – are trained to frame legal issues. More details will be provided during the first
class session.

Date           Subject                                      Assignment

6/20           Introduction to Constitutional Law

6/22           Text of the U.S. Constitution                741-752
               Judicial Review                              47-65
               Incorporation                                61-87

6/27           The Religion Clauses                         95-102; 106-114; 116-122; 124-135;
                                                            139-143; 148-160; 165-174; 178-183:

6/29           Freedom of Expression I                      193-198; 219-221; 226-248; 251-274;
                                                            285-289; 291-302; 312-316


7/4            NO CLASS – academic and administrative holiday


               Freedom of Expression II                     319-373 (will be modified)


7/11           Privacy and Reproductive Rights              385-440


               Privacy – Supreme Court Exercise             Outline paper for group meetings,
                                                            presentation, and class discussion

7/18           Discrimination                               577-590; 594-600; 606-615; 624-648

7/20           Voting Rights                                690-737



                                      Assessing Your Performance

Your final course grade will consist of one take-home midterm examination (25%), one brief paper
(25%), one take-home final examination (30%), and participation (20%). Your participation grade will
consist of my assessment of your performance regarding: (1) your group Supreme Court assignment;
(2) your day “on call”; (3) general participation; (4) attendance.

                                          Academic Integrity

If you are caught plagiarizing or cheating in any other way, you will be subject to academic discipline.
Students are caught and prosecuted for academic dishonesty every quarter; this is an unpleasant process
for everyone involved. If you have any questions on what constitutes plagiarism and/or academic
dishonesty, please contact me or consult the rules on academic integrity:

                                      Disability Accommodations

If you require a disability accommodation, please notify me and bring me the required paperwork as
soon as possible, preferably by the second class period.

                                           Syllabus Changes

Although unlikely, this syllabus is subject to change at any time. I will note any changes during class.
Don't worry -- I do not intend to add reading to the syllabus.

                                           Useful Resources

The Supreme Court of the United States:
The Supreme Court Collection, Cornell University Law School:
Westlaw and Lexis, available via McHenry Library’s portal
Black’s Law Dictionary, available free via Westlaw
SCOTUSBlog, a commercial website run by practicing attorneys:


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