Syllabus for 

POLS 411
Constitutional Law II

Civil Rights: Race, Sex, & Sexual Orientation Discrimination

Civil rights and civil liberties are distinct concepts. Civil rights emanate from the concept of equality. Unlike civil liberties which are personal freedoms protected by the Bill of Rights (such as religious freedom, free speech, privacy, etc.), civil rights issues involve the status of persons with shared characteristics who have been historically disadvantaged in some way. Therefore, issues of race, sex, and sexual orientation will be the primary focus of our discussion. We will read representative Supreme Court cases and other material in order to understand how civil rights have developed in American political history. In addition to our readings and in-class discussions, students will participate as justices in moot court decision-making exercises. In the end we will critically assess the role of the Supreme Court. Have the justices done too little or gone too far in the area of civil rights?

T TH 2:00 - 3:15 DU 246

Instructor: Artemus Ward
Office: 410 Zulauf Hall
Office Phone: 815-753-7041
Office Hours: T TH 1:00-2:00pm & by appointment

Learning Objectives:

1. To think critically about the American form of government, particularly the 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). THE RED BOOK

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 by Friday 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. IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT YOU FOLLOW THE SUGGESTIONS ON THE “PAPER TIPS” DOCUMENT located in the “course documents” section of Blackboard.


Extra Credit. 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.


Final Exam -- the exam is a comprehensive essay. You may use your notes, briefs, or anything that is your own work. 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. Can your notes/briefs be typed? Of course they can. The final will take the entire exam period. Bring a blue book or two and something to write with. Write legibly. If I can’t read it, I can’t grade it.


Graduate Students -- 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 discussion. 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.

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

Undergraduate Grade Breakdown:

% 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 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

Race Discrimination

Week 1 Introduction & Slavery
T Jan 17 Introduction, syllabus review, how to brief a case, using Blackboard: see
TH Jan 19 Slavery: Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857)
(on-line only: abridged; full: Taney only); The Slaughterhouse Cases (1873) (on-line only: abridged; full: all but Swayne); Optional Background Information: Introductory material in Epstein & Walker and the Constitution in the back of the book).

Week 2 19th Century Racial Discrimination
T Jan 24 United States v. Harris (1883) (on-line only: full); The Civil Rights Cases (1883) (on-line only: abridged; full);
TH Jan 26 Yick Wo v. Hopkins (1886) (on-line only: abridged; full);  Plessy v. Ferguson (1896).

Week 3 Early 20th Century Racial Discrimination
T Jan 31 Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada (1938) (on-line only: abridged; full); Shelley v. Kraemer (1948); Film: New York: Episode Six (1929-1941)—section on racial segregation in housing, “racial redlining” (10 minutes).
TH Feb 2 Sweatt v. Painter (1950); McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents (1950) (on-line only: abridged; full).

Week 4 Racial Discrimination and the Warren Court
T Feb 7 Brown v. Board of Education (I) (1954), Brown v. Board of Education (II) (1955), Bolling v. Sharpe (1954) (on-line only: abridged; full).
TH Feb 9  Burton v. Wilmington Parking Authority (1961); Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States (1964) (on-line only: full).

Week 5 Racial Discrimination from the Warren Court to the Rehnquist Court
T Feb 14 Loving v. Virginia (1967); Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg (1971).
TH Feb 16 Moose Lodge #107 v. Irvis (1972); Board of Education of Oklahoma City Public Schools v. Dowell (1991) (on-line only: abridged; full).

Week 6 Racial Discrimination in Contemporary Public Schools & Affirmative Action
T Feb 21 Freeman v. Pitts (1992) (on-line only: abridged; full); United States v. Fordice (1992) (on-line only: abridged; full, White only).
TH Feb 23 Affirmative Action: Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978); City of Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co. (1989).

Week 7 Racial Discrimination: Affirmative Action & Conference Day I
T Feb 28 Adarand Constructors v. Pena (1995); Grutter v. Bollinger (2003).
TH Mar 2 Conference Day I -- Justices meet to deliberate and vote on cases.

Sex Discrimination

Week 8 Sex Discrimination: Foundations
T Mar 7 Bradwell v. Illinois (1873) (on-line only: abridged; full); Minor v. Happersett (1875) (on-line only: full).
TH Mar 9 Muller v. Oregon (1908) (on-line only: full) [Optional: Read the famous “Brandeis Brief” from Muller]; Goesaert v. Cleary (1948) (on-line only: full).

Week 9 Spring Break

Week 10 Sex Discrimination from the Warren to Burger Courts
T Mar 21 Hoyt v. Florida (1961) (on-line only: full); Reed v. Reed (1971).
TH Mar 23 Frontiero v. Richardson (1973); Craig v. Boren (1976).

Week 11 Sex Discrimination & the Burger Court
T Mar 28 Orr v. Orr (1979) (on-line only: full); Michael M. v. Superior Court of Sonoma County (1981) (on-line only: abridged; full, Rehnquist & Brennan only).
TH Mar 30 Rostker v. Goldberg (1981); Mississippi University for Women v. Hogan (1982) (on-line only: abridged; full, O’Connor & Powell only). Final opinions from Conference I due.

Week 12 Sex Discrimination & the Rehnquist Court
T Apr 4 Johnson v. Transportation Agency of Santa Clara (1987) (on-line only: abridged; full, Brennan & Scalia only); J.E.B. v. Alabama ex rel. T.B. (1994) (on-line only: abridged; full, all but Rehnquist).
TH Apr 6 United States v. Virginia (1996); Tuan Anh Nguyen v. INS (2001) (on-line only: abridged; full, Kennedy & O’Connor only).

Other Forms of Discrimination

Week 13 Conference Day II & Other Forms of Discrimination
T Apr 11 Conference Day II - Justices meet to deliberate and vote on cases.
TH Apr 13 Genetics: Buck v. Bell (1927) (on-line only: full); Economics: San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez (1973).

Week 14 Other Froms of Discrimination
T Apr 18 National Origin: Plyler v. Doe (1982) (on-line only: abridged; full, Brennan, Marshall, & Burger only); Residency: Seanez v. Roe (1999).

Sexual Orientation Discrimination

TH Apr 20 The Burger Court: Moore v. East Cleveland (1977) (on-line only: full, Powell, Brennan, & Burger only); Bowers v. Hardwick (1986).

Week 15 Gay Rights and the Rehnquist Court I
T Apr 25
Michael H. v. Gerald D. (1989) (on-line only: full, Scalia & Brennan only); Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston (1995) (on-line only: abridged; full).
TH Apr 27 Romer v. Evans (1996);
Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services (1998) (on-line only: full).

Week 16 Gay Rights and the Rehnquist Court II
T May 2 Boy Scouts of America v. Dale (2000).
TH May 4
Lawrence v. Texas (2003). Final opinions due from Conference II.

FINAL EXAM Tues. May 9, 2-3:50 p.m.