Political Science 410

Constitutional Law I

Spring 2010

Monday/ Wednesday 3:30-4:45, DU. 246                                                         

Bertrand J Simpson, Jr, Esq.,                         and office: Zulauf 107 bsimpson@niu.edu Contact me by E-Mail using your NIU account only

Hours: M/ Zulauf/107, 2:30- 3:30, & 4:45-5:30 W/ 4:45-5:30, and by appointment

 Text: Lee Epstein, and Thomas Walker. Constitutional Law for a Changing America:Instutional Powers and Constraints, 6th Ed.

         POLS 410 begins and ends with what the U.S. Constution means But how does one find a point of reference from which to infer meaning? Do we look to the so-called founders? Struggle through the documents that come from the Constitutional Convention? Resort to the “ Federalist papers”? Or should our search quickly lead us to the understanding that the most salient points of reference comes as a result of the United States Supreme Court’s assumption of the power of judicial review and the intuitional constraints on the exercise of judicial power

           This course will cover the historical foundations of our countries constitution, which is the oldest written constitution in the world. We will examine the concept of judicial review and the relationships that resulted between the Federal courts and the two other coordinate branches of government. Is the constitution the fundamental source of what the laws are? Are we bound by the dead hand of our so-called founders intentions? Is the constitution a living document? Does judicial review somehow diminish the power of the Congress and the President, and thereby diminish the power of the peoples? Our political development is sometimes viewed as though it were the result of a series of conflicts, some which increased access to power others, which restricted it. Our goal is to conduct an inquiry, which will lead to discussion and subsequently to a greater understanding of the give and take between state and national power, that is the legacy of our constitutional development.

                                            Course Calendar

Week 1 Course Introduction & Judicial review

M Jan 11Introduction, syllabus, case briefing, introductory material from Epstein &Walker

W Jan 13 Marbury v. Madison (1803), Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee (1816), Eakin v. Raub (1825)

Week 2 The Judiciary & The Legislature

M Jan 18 Constraints: Ex parte McCardle (1869), Hamden v. Rumsfeld (2006)

W Jan 20 The Legislature’s power over internal affairs: Powell v. McCormack (1969), U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton (1995)

Week 3 The Legislature

M Jan 25 Sources & scope of Legislative Power: McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), McGrain v. Daugherty (1927)

W Jan 27 Watkins v. United States (1957), South Carolina v. Katzenbach (1966)

Week 4 The Executive

M Feb 1 Watergate: In Re Neagle  (1890) United States v. Nixon (1974)

W Feb 3 Clinton v. City of New York (1998) Mississippi v. Johnson (1867)

Week 5 Separation of Powers

M Feb 8 The Prize Cases (1863) Ex parte Milligan (1866)

W Feb 10 Ex parte Quirin (1942)

Week 6 Separation of Powers

M Feb 15 Korematsu v. United States (1944), Youngstown Sheet & Tube v. Sawyer (1952)

W Feb 17 Hamdi v. Rumsfield (2004) Hamdi v. Rumsfield (2006)

Week 7 Federalism

M Feb 22     McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857)

W Feb 24 Hammer v. Dagenhart (1918), National League of Cities v. Usery (1976)

Week 8 Federalism

M Mar 1 State of Missouri v. Holland (1920)

W Mar 3 Pennsylvania v. Nelson (1956)

Week 9 Spring Break

Week 10 The Commerce Power

M Mar 15 Gibbons v. Ogden (1824), United States v. E.C. Knight (1895)

W Mar 17 Schechter Poultry v. United States (1935) Carter v. Carter Coal (1936)

Week 11 The Commerce Power

M Mar 22 Wickard v. Filburn (1942) United States v. Lopez (1995)

W Mar 24 Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States (1964), United States v. Morrison (2000)

Week 12 The Contract Clause

M Mar 29 Fletcher v. Peck (1810), Dartmouth College v. Woodward (1819)

W Mar 31 Charles River Bridge v. Warren Bridge (1837) Stone v. Mississippi (1880)

Week 13 The Taking Clause

M Apr 5 United States v. Causby (1946), Penn Central Transportation Company v. City of New York (1978)

W Apr 7Berman v. Parker (1954) Hawaii Housing Authority v. Midkiff (1984)

Week 14 Economic Substantive Due Process

M Apr 12 The Slaughterhouse Cases (1873) Munn v. Illinois (1877)

W Apr14 Lochner v. New York  (1905)

Week 15 Catch up

M Apr 19

W Apr 21

Week 16 Catch up, review, teacher evaluation

M Apr 26

W Apr 28

FINAL EXAM MONDAY MAY 3, 2010, FROM 4:00- 5:50PM


1.      Classroom behavior.  Courtesy and regard for one another should guide classroom behavior.  Students are expected to be in class when class begins.  Please do not come late to class.  Lateness is inconsiderate and disruptive.  The instructor will be on time.  Please pay him the same courtesy.  If it becomes necessary, students who come late may be barred from class.  Occasional lapses can happen to anyone and will be overlooked presuming an explanation and apology presented after class.  Please consult with him if a schedule problem affects your ability to meet this requirement.  In general, if you get to class late, it is more considerate and less disruptive if you do not enter the room.

Students are expected to be attentive to the lectures and discussions.  Students, who sleep, read the newspaper, persistently talk with other students or are otherwise inattentive to the lectures and discussion will be asked to leave the class and will be subject to being administratively dismissed from the course at the instructor’s request. TURN OFF ALL CELL PHONES!!!!

2.      Attendance.  Attendance at each class is both expected and required.  Attendance will be taken at most classes after the first few days.  Being in attendance is operationally defined as being present when attendance is taken at the beginning of class and remaining until class is dismissed.  Students, who come to class after attendance has been taken, that is after they have been marked absent, will be considered absent.  No distinction is made between excused and unexcused absences.  However, absences should be explained in writing on the first class you return.  A record of such explanations will be kept and that record could be beneficial at final grading time.  Students who have extended absences due to illness should notify the instructor as promptly as possible during the absence and produce a doctor’s note indicating the nature and duration of the illness.  This note should be presented at the first class upon returning.  Extended absences are regarded as not fulfilling course requirements and, unless justified with appropriate documentation, will adversely affect the final grade.  (See section 7 below.)

3.      TEXTS.  Since reading and discussing passages from the assigned readings usually conduct classes, it is required that you bring the appropriate readings to each class.  To that end, it is required that each student has his or her own copy of each text.

4.      Class Preparation.  The best way to prepare for each class is to do the readings at least once (some require more than one reading) prior to the first day we begin each unit.  You will be much better able to participate in and to grasp the class discussions if you have done so.

5.      Good note taking is important to your success in this class.  Learn to listen carefully to the arguments made and write them down as best you can.  Review your notes after class to see if they make sense.  By reviewing them soon after they are taken, sometimes you can remember things that will make sense out of what is confusing.  Get together with other students periodically to go over each other’s notes.  If you got 50% of the lecture and your study partners got 50%, perhaps between you will have 75%?  What remains unclear can be discussed with the instructor.  One of the important suggestions I can make is to be sure to write down the questions asked by other students and my answers meaningless.  I frequently use student’s questions as a vehicle to make important points so if you write down their questions, as well as my answers, you will benefit.

6.      Class Participation.  The proper kind of participation in the class is expected, required and rewarded.  Participation means that students demonstrate that they are trying to understand the arguments being made both in the readings and in the lectures, by asking questions or making comments that show problems with the arguments and by responding to questions which the instructor raises.  Some classes will be mainly lecture and discussion.  Others will involve reading and discussing passages from the readings.  It is important that you understand the sort of participation expected because some students think that merely talking fulfills this expectation.  It does not.  The kind of talking that does is that which fulfills the purposes of participation which are threefold: 1) to enable students to raise questions concerning the meaning of the lectures which shows that they are following the arguments being made enough to see the difficulties; 2) to show that they have read the texts before coming to class and seen enough to identify things that they do not understand or that seem not to “make sense”; 3) to relate different arguments, passages and insights from both texts and lectures to each other.  The kind of participation expected is one which shows that you are trying to understand what the whole picture looks like, what each part looks like, and how the parts fit into that whole.

7.      Grading.  Final course grades are based on all of the required written work, the regularity and quality of class participation and, to a lesser extent, on attendance.   All issues regarding how many exams, tests or quizzes there will be, their format, and how each will be executed, will be left up to the discretion of the instructor; you will be informed regarding any exam, test, or quiz one class period before it will be given. Also, there will be a final exam, at the scheduled time and place.  In order to earn an “A” a student will need, at a minimum, to earn 90% of all of the points that are available, on all of the exams, tests, or quizzes. THERE ARE NO MAKE UP EXAMS, QUIZZES OR TESTS, AND THERE IS NO EXTRA CREDIT.

In determining the final course grade, students with 5 or more absences may have their final grade lowered.  Aside from grading consequences, which might follow from students being administratively dismissed from the course, the instructor does not give a formal grade or assign a specific percentage of the final grade for class participation.  However, he reserves the right to raise a student’s final grade, if he judges a particular student’s participation to have been exceptionally good.  Grades are not lowered merely for lack of active class participation.


1.      Make-up exams.  NO MAKE-UP EXAMS WILL BE ALLOWED.   

2.      Appointments.  The instructor will make every reasonable effort to be available to you.  If you cannot come during his scheduled office hours, please call to schedule a mutually convenient appointment.  (Both his office number and phone number are at the beginning of the syllabus).  Please feel free to stop by his office without an appointment.  If you cannot reach him by phone, leave a message for him to call you on his voice mail or his e-mail.  The message should include times when you are likely to be reachable.  Please do not call his home.