Department of Political Science
Constitutional Law I
Separation of Powers, Federalism, and Economic
The course begins and ends
with the U.S. Constitution. What does it mean? Can the founders—former British
subjects—help us? Maybe so, maybe not. One thing,
however, is abundantly clear: the idea that the founding fathers had a unified
This course covers the
foundations of American constitutional law. We examine the concept of judicial
review and the relationship between the Supreme Court and the elected branches
of government: Congress and Presidency. We explore the issues of war and
emergency power, the commerce clause, the power to tax and spend, and most
importantly, the concept of federalism. Through a discussion of a number of
Supreme Court cases on these topics, we will determine whether American
political and constitutional development is best understood as a series of
battles and resultant regime changes from more nationalist-oriented cooperative
federalists to more states-rights oriented dual federalists, or whether
something else is at work. Is
T TH 3:30 - 4:45 DU 459
Office: 405 Zulauf Hall
Office Phone: 815-753-7041
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://polisci.niu.edu/polisci/faculty/ward/
Office Hours: T 2:00pm-3:30pm; 5pm-6:30pm & by appointment
To think critically about the American form of government.
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.
Lee Epstein and Thomas Walker. Constitutional Law for a
The mid-term will be an on-line, objective test consisting of both true-false and multiple choice questions. The material covered will be the cases listed on the syllabus up to the mid-term exam date. The test will be available on Blackboard for a 24-hour period. You may take the test at any time during that window. Once you begin the exam, you will have 30 minutes to answer 25 questions. Each question is worth 4 points each for a total of 100 points.
Moot Court and Paper
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 paper 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. IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT YOU FOLLOW THE SUGGESTIONS ON THE “PAPER TIPS” DOCUMENT located in the “course documents” section of Blackboard.
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. See the course documents section for further details.
The final exam is the same format as the midterm but will only include the course material covered AFTER the midterm exam.
Students taking the course for graduate credit ONLY have to complete a 15-20pp. research paper. Graduate students have no other course requirements. Of course it is understood that at the graduate level you will do all of the assigned readings, attend every class, and consistently participate in class discussions and the moot courts. There are several options for the required paper. You may expand the required undergraduate paper using additional cases, law review and other journal articles, and books. 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 other type of original research. See me as early in the semester as possible to discuss your choice. Graduate students do not need to write the 5-6 pp. paper required of all undergraduates nor take the final exam, unless of course you want to for fun! Your grade will be based 70% on your paper and 30% on participation.
% of Total Grade
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 - PLAGIARISM, SIMPLY DEFINED, IS TAKING SOMEONE ELSE'S WORDS OR IDEAS AND REPRESENTING THEM AS BEING YOUR OWN. It is specifically prohibited by University regulations, which state:
Good academic work must be based on honesty. The attempt of any student to present as his or her own work that which he or she has not produced is regarded by the faculty and administration as a serious offense. Students are considered to have cheated if they copy the work of another during an examination or turn in a paper or an assignment written, in whole or in part, by someone else. Students are guilty of plagiarism, intentional or not, if they copy material from books, magazines, or other sources without identifying and acknowledging those sources or if they paraphrase ideas from such sources without acknowledging them. Students guilty of, or assisting others in, either cheating or plagiarism on an assignment, quiz, or examination may receive a grade of F for the course involved and may be suspended or dismissed from the university. (Undergraduate Catalog)
4. 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 impact 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
5. 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.
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 http://polisci.niu.edu
1 Course Introduction & the Judiciary
T Aug 25 Introduction, syllabus review, how to brief a case. Optional Background Information – Epstein & Walker introductory material, the U.S. Constitution in back of book, and Kerr’s “How to Read a Legal Opinion” in the course documents section of Blackboard.
TH Aug 27 Judicial Review: Marbury v. Madison (1803), Martin v. Hunter's Lessee (1816).
Week 3 The Legislature
T Sep 8 Constraints-Internal Affairs: Powell v. McCormack (1969), U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton (1995).
TH Sep 10 Sources & Scope of Legislative Power: McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), McGrain v. Daugherty (1927), Watkins v. United States (1957), Barenblatt v. United States (1959).
Week 4 No Class
Week 5 The Executive
T Sep 22 Watergate: United States v. Nixon (1974), Nixon v. Fitzgerald (1982). In class we will listen to the Nixon Oval Office Tapes: "Smoking Gun" Haldeman and Nixon, RA 6:27. "Cancer on the Presidency" & Blackmail Dean and Nixon, RA 3:33; 29:30.
TH Sep 24 Morrison v. Olson (1988), Clinton v. Jones (1997).
Week 6 Separation of
Powers: War I
T Sep 29 Civil War: The Prize Cases (1863), Ex parte Milligan (1866); WWII: Ex parte Quirin (1942).
TH Oct 1 WWII: Korematsu v. United States (1944), Youngstown Sheet & Tube v. Sawyer (1952).
Week 7 Separation of
Powers: War II
T Oct 6 Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (2004), Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (2006).
TH Oct 8 Conference Day I -- Justices meet to deliberate and vote on cases. Midterm Exam will be available on-line for a 24-hour period beginning at the end of class.
Week 8 Federalism:
The Doctrinal Cycle I
T Oct 13 McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857).
TH Oct 15 Lochner v.
Week 9 Federalism:
The Doctrinal Cycle II
T Oct 20 West Coast Hotel v. Parrish (1937), United States v. Darby Lumber (1941).
TH Oct 22 New York v. United States (1992), Printz v. United States (1997).
Week 10 Commerce I
T Oct 27 Foundations: Gibbons v. Ogden (1824), United States v. E.C. Knight (1895), Stafford v. Wallace (1922). Final opinions from Conference I due.
TH Oct 29 New Deal: Schechter Poultry v. United States (1935), Carter v. Carter Coal (1936), and N.L.R.B. v. Jones & Laughlin (1937).
Week 11 Commerce II
T Nov 3 Expansion: Wickard v. Filburn (1942). Retraction: United States v. Lopez (1995).
TH Nov 5 Modern Limits: United States v. Morrison (2000), Gonzales v. Raich (2005) (on-line only: abridged, full).
Week 12 Conference
Day II & The Contract Clause
T Nov 10 Conference Day II - Justices meet to deliberate and vote on cases.
TH Nov 12 Foundations: Fletcher v. Peck (1810) and Dartmouth College v. Woodward (1819).
Week 13 The Contract Clause &
T Nov 17 Decline: Charles River Bridge v. Warren Bridge (1837) and Stone v. Mississippi (1880). Revitalization: Home Building & Loan Assn. v. Blaisdell (1934).
TH Nov 19 Foundations: United States v. Causby (1946), Penn Central Transportation Company v. City of New York (1978). Public Use: Berman v. Parker (1954).
Week 14 No Class. Thanksgiving.
Week 15 The Takings
Clause and the Disputed Election of 2000
T Dec 1 Public Use: Hawaii Housing Authority v. Midkiff (1984) and Kelo v. City of New London (2005).
TH Dec 3 Bush v. Gore (2000) Read Read Per Curiam, Rehnquist, Stevens, Ginsburg, and Breyer opinions only.
Final opinions from Conference II and all extra credit opinions due.
Week 16 T Dec 8 Final Exam: Available on Blackboard for a 24-hour period.