Syllabus for 

POLS 410
Constitutional Law I

Foundations, Institutions and Powers

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.”

T TH 9:30 - 10:45 DU 246

Instructor: Artemus Ward
Office: 410 Zulauf Hall
Office Phone: 815-753-7041
Office Hours: T TH 10:45-12:00 noon & T 2:30-3pm & by appointment

Learning Objectives:

1. 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.

Required Text:

Lee Epstein and Thomas Walker. Constitutional Law for a Changing America: Institutional Powers & Constraints, 4th ed. (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Press, 2001).

Course Requirements:

·        Attendance and Participation -- all students are required to attend each class and be prepared to discuss that day's assigned cases. To ensure that each students has an equal chance to participate, I will randomly call on students to discuss specific aspects of the cases. Also, each student is required to go on-line through Blackboard and post one message to the discussion board each week about that week’s course material.

·        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 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. For example, one 2-3 page paper is worth 1/3 a grade boost on your main paper grade. 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.

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 (weekly post)


In Class Attendance & 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 activites 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 February 29, 2004. 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 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 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
T Jan 13 Introduction, syllabus review, how to brief a case, using Blackboard: see
TH Jan 15 Judicial Review: pp. 66-88 including Marbury v. Madison (1803), Martin v. Hunter's Lessee (1816), and Eakin v. Raub (1825). (Optional Background Information -- Constitutional Interpretation: The Central Questions Epstein & Walker pp. 3-60; The Constitution p. 633)

Institutional Authority

Week 2 The Judiciary & The Legislature

T Jan 20 pp. 91-93 and 105-114 including: Ex parte McCardle (1869), Nixon v. United States (1993) and Flast v. Cohen (1968).
TH Jan 22 Independence and Internal Affairs: pp. 128-141 including Powell v. McCormack (1969), U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton (1995).

Week 3 The Legislature
T Jan 27 pp. 142-156 including Gravel v. United States (1972) and McCulloch v. Maryland (1819).
TH Jan 29 Sources and Scope of Power: pp. 157-166 including McGrain v. Daugherty (1927), Watkins v. United States (1957).

Week 4 The Legislature & The Executive
T Feb 3 Other Legislative Powers: pp. 159-182 including Barenblatt v. United States (1959), United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp. (1936) and South Carolina v. Katzenbach (1966).
TH Feb 5 pp. 194-205 including In re Neagle (1890) and Clinton v. New York (1998).

Week 5 The Executive
T Feb 10 Watergate: pp. 206-213 and 224-229 including: Morrison v. Olson (1988) and United States v. Nixon (1974). Listen to 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 Feb 12 pp.229-233 including Mississippi v. Johnson (1867) and Nixon v. Fitzgerald (1982).

Week 6 The Executive & Separation of Powers
T Feb 17 pp. 237-242 and 245-247 including Clinton v. Jones (1997) and Murphy v. Ford (1975).
TH Feb 19 pp. 271-282 including The Prize Cases (1863), Ex parte Milligan (1866).

Week 7 Separation of Powers: War
T Feb 24 pp. 282-293 including: Korematsu v. United States (1944) and Youngstown Sheet & Tube v. Sawyer (1952). Listen to interview with Justice Hugo Black (1968) RA legal reasoning 10:20, conference procedure 17:18.
TH Feb 26 Conference Day I -- Justices meet to deliberate and vote on cases.

Nation-State Relations

Week 8 Federalism
T Mar 2 The Doctrinal Cycle: pp. 305-321 including McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857).

TH Mar 4 pp. 321- 333 including: Hammer v. Dagenhart (1918), United States v. Darby Lumber (1941), National League of Cites v. Usery (1976).

Week 9 Spring Break

Week 10 Federalism
T Mar 16 pp. 333-343 including: Garcia v. San Antonio (1985), New York v. United States (1992).
TH Mar 18 pp. 344-359 including: Printz v. United States (1997) and Alden v. Maine (1999). Draft opinions from Conference I due today.

Week 11 Commerce
T Mar 23 Commerce - Foundations: pp. 385-399 including Gibbons v. Ogden (1824), United States v. E.C. Knight (1895), Stafford v. Wallace (1922).
TH Mar 25 The New Deal: pp. 399-411 including Schechter Poultry v. United States (1935), Carter v. Carter Coal (1936).

Week 12 Commerce II
T Mar 30 pp. 411-425 including the Court-Packing Plan, N.L.R.B. v. Jones & Laughlin (1937) and Wickard v. Filburn (1942).
TH Apr 1 Modern Limits: pp. 425-436 including United States v. Lopez (1995) and United States v. Morrison (2000).

Week 13 Conference II and Contract Clause
T Apr 6 Conference Day II - Justices meet to deliberate and vote on cases. Final opinions from Conference I due.
TH Apr 8 Contract Clause -- Foundations: pp. 521-533 including Fletcher v. Peck (1810) and Dartmouth College v. Woodward (1819).

Week 14 Contract Clause
T Apr 13 Contract Clause -- Decline: pp. 533-541 including Charles River Bridge v. Warren Bridge (1837) and Stone v. Mississippi (1880).
TH Apr 15 Contract Clause -- Revitalization: pp. 541-549 Home Building & Loan Assn. v. Blaidsdell (1934), United States Trust Co. v. New Jersey (1977).
Draft opinions due from Conference II.

Week 15 Economic Substantive Due Process
T Apr 20 Foundations: pp. 554-572: including The Slaughterhouse Cases (1873), Munn v. Illinois (1877), and Allgeyer v. Louisiana (1897).
TH Apr 22 Rise and Fall: pp. 573-599 including: Lochner v. New York (1905), Nebbia v. New York (1934), and West Coast Hotel v. Parrish (1937).

Week 16 The Disputed Election of 2000
T Apr 27 pp. 647-654 including Bush v. Gore (2000). Read Majority and Concurring Opinions only.
TH Apr 29 Bush v. Gore continued. Read all dissenting opinions. . Final opinions from Conference II due.

Final TH May 6, 10am-11:50am