Syllabus for 

POLS 412

Constitutional Law III

Civil Liberties:

The First Amendment and the Right to Privacy

            This course focuses on three areas of constitutional interpretation. Through a review of various U.S. Supreme Court cases and related material, we will examine the concepts of religious liberty, freedom of speech, and privacy. In each area, we will also study the Court as a political institution, paying particular attention to the voting behavior of the justices. Can Supreme Court justices be classified as “liberal” or “conservative?”  If so, how does this affect their interpretation of the constitution?

T TH 2:00 - 3:15  DU 459

Instructor: Artemus Ward
Office: 410 Zulauf Hall
Office Phone: 815-753-7041
Office Hours: T TH 11:00am-2:00pm & by appointment

Learning Objectives

1. To think critically about the American form of government, the role of the constitution, and the U.S. Supreme Court.
2. To gain experience and knowledge by thinking critically about and participating in supreme court decision-making exercises.
3. To gain knowledge of the process and politics of constitutional decision-making.

Required Text

Lee Epstein and Thomas Walker. Constitutional Law for a Changing America: Rights, Liberties & Justice, 5th ed. (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Press, 2004).

Course Requirements

Attendance and Participation -- all students are required to attend each class and participate when called on. Therefore, you must come to each class and be prepared to discuss that day's assigned cases. I will randomly call on students so that everyone has an equal chance to participate. Your participation grade is primarily based on those instances in which you are called on. Being unprepared or absent on those days will severely hurt this part of your grade. Though it is no substitute for being absent or unprepared on the days you are called on, you can help your participation grade by volunteering as often as you wish.

Also, each student is required to go on-line each week through Blackboard. You are required to read each message posted to the discussion board, and post at least one (and not more than two) messages of your own about that week’s course material and/or current events that relate to the course such as developments in the U.S. Supreme Court. Toward that end, you may want to regularly consult the leading Supreme Court blog at

Participation in the Supreme Court decision-making exercise and paper - all students are required to participate in the exercise acting as a Supreme Court Justice. Failure to attend a conference day will result in a reduction of one full grade on your overall course participation grade. No exceptions. Each student is required to write one 5-6 pp. paper written in the form of an opinion (either majority, concurring, or dissenting) on one moot court case. You may write additional opinions for extra credit. One quality 2-3 page paper that covers 1/3 of the required opinions is worth 1/3 a grade boost on your main paper grade. A quality 4 page paper that covers 2/3 of the required opinions is worth 2/3 a grade boost on your main paper grade. A quality 5-6 page paper that covers all of the required opinions is worth 1 full grade boost on your main paper grade. The maximum amount of extra credit you can gain is one full grade boost—that means one 5-6 page paper, or one 2-3 page paper and one 4 page paper, or three 2-3 page papers. All required opinions are due on the dates listed on the syllabus. All extra credit papers are due at the end of the semester as specified on the syllabus. See the course documents section for further details.

Final Exam -- the exam is comprehensive and you may use your notes and briefs on the final. You may not use the book or any other material that is not your own work with the exception of a copy of the syllabus and the U.S. Constitution.

Graduate Students -- students taking the course for graduate credit must complete a 15-20pp. research paper in addition to the course requirements. There are several options. You may expand the required paper using additional cases, law review and other journal articles, and books. If you choose this option, this is the only paper you need to hand in. You may also do another type of research paper that is related to the course material such as an annotated bibliography, research proposal for a Master’s Thesis or Doctoral Dissertation, or another type of original research. If you choose any of these options, you will hand in this paper in addition to the required 5-6 page paper. See me as early in the semester as possible to discuss your choice.

Grading System:

Final grades will be determined by the following scale:

90-100 = A

80-89 = B

70-79 = C

60-69 = D

0-59 = F


% of Total Grade

On-Line Participation




In-Class Participation


5-6 Page Moot Court Paper


Final Exam




Course Policies

1. Extracurricular Activities - It is your responsibility to notify me in advance of any activities that will disrupt your attendance. If your activities make it impossible for you to attend classes each week, you should consider withdrawing from the course. Material is covered in class that cannot be found in the course readings.

2. Late Work - Anything turned in late will be marked down one-third grade for every day it is overdue. Exceptions are made only in the most extraordinary circumstances and I will require some sort of documentation to make any accommodation.

3. Cheating and Plagiarism - Students cheating and plagiarizing will fail the assignment on which they have committed the infraction and will be referred to the appropriate judicial board for disciplinary action. The submission of any work by a student is taken as guarantee that the thoughts and expressions in it are the student's own except when properly credited to another. Violations of this principle include giving or receiving aid in an exam or where otherwise prohibited, fraud, plagiarism, or any other deceptive act in connection with academic work. Plagiarism is the representation of another's words, ideas, opinions, or other products of work as one's own, either overtly or by failing to attribute them to their true source.

4. Undergraduate Writing Awards - The Department of Political Science will recognize, on an annual basis, outstanding undergraduate papers written in conjunction with 300-400 level political science courses or directed studies. Authors do not have to be political science majors or have a particular class standing. Winners are expected to attend the Department's spring graduation ceremony where they will receive a certificate and $50.00. Papers, which can be submitted by students or faculty, must be supplied in triplicate to a department secretary by the end of February. All copies should have two cover pages - one with the student's name and one without the student's name. Only papers written in the previous calendar can be considered for the award. However, papers completed in the current spring semester are eligible for the following year's competition even if the student has graduated.

5. Statement Concerning Students with Disabilities - Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, NIU is committed to making reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities. Those students with disabilities that may have some effect on their coursework and for which they may require accommodations should notify the Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR) on the fourth floor of the Health Services Building. CAAR will assist students in making appropriate accommodations with course instructors. It is important that CAAR and instructors be informed of any disability-related needs during the first two weeks of the semester.

6. Department of Political Science Web Site - Undergraduates are strongly encouraged to consult the Department of Political Science web site on a regular basis. This up-to-date, central source of information will assist students in contacting faculty and staff, reviewing course requirements and syllabi, exploring graduate study, researching career options, tracking department events, and accessing important details related to undergraduate programs and activities. To reach the site, go to

Course Calendar


Week 1 Course Introduction & Free Exercise I
T Aug 23 Introduction, syllabus review, how to brief a case, using Blackboard: see
TH Aug 25 Foundations: Cantwell v. Connecticut (1940) and Sherbert v. Verner (1963) (Optional Background Information – Epstein & Walker introductory material; The U.S. Constitution located in the back of the book).

Week 2 Free Exercise II
T Aug 29 Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972) and Employment Division v. Smith “The Peyote Case” (1990)
TH Sep 1 No Class

Week 3 Free Exercise III and Establishment
T Sep 6 Church of the Lukumi v. Hialeah (1993) (on-line only: abridged; full) and City of Boerne v. Flores (1997)
TH Sep 8 Locke v. Davey (2004) (on-line only: abridged; full—Rehnquist & Scalia only) and Everson v. Board of Education (1947)

Week 4 Establishment: Aid to Religious Schools
T Sep 13 Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971) Edwards v. Aguillard (1987)
TH Sep 15 Aguilar v. Felton (1985) (on-line only: abridged; full) and Agostini v. Felton (1997)

Week 5 Establishment: Aid to Religious Schools & School Prayer
T Sep 20 Aid to Religious Schools: Mitchell v. Helms (2000) (on-line only: abridged, full) and Zelman v. Simmons-Harris (2002)
TH Sep 22 School Prayer—The Warren Court: Engel v. Vitale (1962) (on-line only: abridged, full) and School District of Abington Township v. Schempp (1963)

Week 6 Establishment: School Prayer
T Sep 27 The Burger Court: Marsh v. Chambers (1983) (on-line only: full) and Wallace v. Jaffree (1985) (on-line only: abridged; full).
TH Sep 29 The Rehnquist Court: Lee v. Weisman (1992) and Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe (2000) (on-line only: abridged; full).

Week 7 Establishment: School Prayer and Government Endorsement of Religion
T Oct 4 The Pledge: Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow (2004) (on-line only: full). Government Endorsement: Lynch v. Donnelly (1984) (on-line only: abridged, full).
TH Oct 6
County of Allegheny v. ACLU (1989) (on-line only: abridged, full—Blackmun & Kennedy only) and Capitol Square Review Board v. Pinette (1995) (on-line only: full—Scalia & Stevens only).

Week 8 Establishment: Government Endorsement of Religion
T Oct 11 The Ten Commandments Cases:
Van Orden v. Perry (2005) (on-line only; abridged, full) and McCreary County v. ACLU (2005) (on-line only; abridged, full).
TH Oct 13
CONFERENCE DAY I - Justices meet to deliberate and vote on cases.



Week 9 Reproductive Freedom
T Oct 18
Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) and Roe v. Wade (1973).
TH Oct 20
Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) and Stenberg v. Carhart (2000) (on-line only: abridged, full—Breyer,
Scalia, & O’Connor only) everyone must read O’Connor’s concurrence (on-line only).


Week 10 Intimacy & The Right to Die
T Oct 25 Intimacy:
Bowers v. Hardwick (1986) and Lawrence v. Texas (2003).

TH Oct 27 The Right to Die: Cruzan v. Missouri Dept. of Health (1990) and Washington v. Glucksberg (1997) (on-line only: abridged, full).

Week 11 Conference II & Speech in Times of Crisis
T Nov 1
CONFERENCE DAY II - Justices meet to deliberate and vote on cases. Final opinions from Conference I due today.
TH Nov 3 Speech in Times of Crisis:
Schenck v. United States (1919), Abrams v. United States (1919), and Gitlow v. New York (1925). Optional: Listen to remarks by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. on his 90th birthday.

Week 12 Speech in Times of Crisis
T Nov 8
Dennis v. United States (1951), Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969). Symbolic Speech: United States v. O'Brien (1968). 
TH Nov 10 Symbolic Speech:
Tinker v. Des Moines (1969), Texas v. Johnson (1989).

Week 13 Regulating Expression
T Nov 15 Fighting Words: Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire (1942) and Cohen v. California (1971).
TH Nov 17 Hill v. Colorado (2000) and Virginia v. Black (2003) (on-line only: abridged, full—O’Connor, Thomas, and Souter only).

Week 14 Money as Political Speech
T Nov 22 Money as Political Speech: Buckley v. Valeo (1976) and McConnell v. FEC (2003) (on-line only: abridged, full—Stevens/O’Connor opinion, Rehnquist dissent, Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy only). Go to to find out who gives what to whom. Final opinions from Conference II and all extra credit papers due.
TH Nov 24 No Class

Week 15 Obscenity
T Nov 29 Roth v. United States (1957) and Miller v. California (1973).
TH Dec 1 New York v. Ferber (1982) and Ashcroft v. ACLU II (2004) (on-line only: fullKennedy and Breyer only).

Week 16 Final Exam