Hours Requirement

Four-Credit Course (with three hours of class-time per week)

Success in this 4 credit hour course is based on the expectation that students will spend a minimum of 9 hours of study time per week in preparation for class (readings, papers, discussion sections, preparation for exams, etc.). Academic credit is based on time spent in the classroom, as well as time spent studying for class. Students who are spending three hours per week in a class should be spending nine hours per week in preparation for class. Four-credit classes which meet for more (or less) than three hours per week require 12 hours of classroom and preparation time.

Attendance Required. A mid-term (1/3)and three hour Final (2/3) in class exams will determine your grade. Politics 115a Class Assignments Constitutional Law Brandeis University Professor Woll

Professor Peter Woll's

Politics 115a, Constitutional Law

Fall 2016


Class Assignments

Class Assignments Part II

Thurs. Aug. 25, Opening Day

Importance of Constitutional Text

Methods of constitutional interpretation

Sept. 1-8

Assigned Cases


Analysis of Marbury v. Madison (1803)

McCulloch v. Maryland (1819)

Sept. 22-29

Gibbons v. Ogden (1824)

Lochner v. New York (1905)

Griswold v. Connecticut (1965)

Roe v. Wade (1973)

To be Assigned

  • New Cases

    Oct 2-Oct.16

  • New Cases: The Slaughterhouse Cases (1873) Oct. 16 Oct. 21-30


    The Political Question Doctrine

    Other Standing Cases:

    Notes on the Incoherence of Modern Standing Doctrine

    Thurs., Aug. 29

    Begin reading the selections listed for week one on your syllabus.

    Today I will give an overview of the course.

    I will briefly review the Constitution, constitutional law, and the Supreme Court's role in constitutional interpretation.

    Importance of Constitutional Text
    From the outset students should familiarize themselves with the text of the Constitution. Micro analysis is necessary and I expect students to know each of the Constitution's important clauses that became to subject of political and constitutional debate.

    Read Article III and understand the nature of constitutional courts. What features distinguish them? Note the case and controversy requirement, the guaranteed tenure and compensation of judges unless impeached, Congress's authority to create courts inferior to the Supeme Court. What is the original and appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court?

    Next read Article I and note its purpose. It lists Congressional authority, includiing the power to regulate commerce among the states. The commerce power is a critical part of the Constitution for in many ways how it is interpreted determines the balance of national and state power.

    The Constitution is our Higher Law but that law also includes unenumerated rights and liberties such as the right to privacy (Griswold v. Connecticut, 1965).

    Methods of Constitutional Interpretation
    Read pp. 119-152 now. How does/should the Supreme Court interpret the Constitution?

    The Consitution is an outline, not a blueprint of governmental structures, processes, powers, and limits. The commerce power, for example, can be interpreted narrowly or broadly, strictly or loosely in constitutional parlance.

    Political debate raged over the meaning of the commerce authority from the early 19th century (Gibbons v. Ogden, 1824) until 1941 (Wickard v. Filburn) and even beyond ( U.S. v. Lopez, 1995). That debate was political, and was not based on abstract theory.

    The Court interprets the Constitution by using:

    1. Textual analysis;

    2. original intent of the framers;

    3. common law and Higher Law derivatives;

    4. normative derivatives, as in finding a "liberty" to contract in the 14th Amendment's due process clause. (Lochner v. New York, 1908);

    5. derivatives from a reading of the nature of the macro constitutional process of government . The value of representation reinforcement is an example of a constitutional /democratic process derivative.

    Sept. 1-8

    First, reread pp. 119-152 on methods of judicial review. Be prepared to explain textual, original intent, and normative judicial review in the following cases as we go along. Start with the first three cases .

    Sept. 1-8

    McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), p. 822.

    Gibbons v. Ogden (1824), p. 841.

    Sept. 13

    Lochner v. New York (1908)

    Sept. 15-20

    Grisworld v. Connecticut (1965)

    Roe v. Wade (1973)

    We are jumping around in the text but not in our focus. For this reason it is essential that you tune into this site before going to each class throughout the semester.

    For now continue with the cases assigned for last week on your web assignment page. We will start Monday with a detailed analysis of Marbury then on to the remaining cases.

    By wednesday complete Brown v. Board and the Swann case. We're not going to spend a lot of time on Brown but simply use it as an example of normative judicial review. Why is it normative? Note Warren's admission that he and the Court were not following the original purpose of the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause. How then can the opinion be justified on constitutional grounds?

    Marbury v. Madison (1803)

    Marshall decided the case at a time of high political drama. President Adams had just stacked the Federalist expanded judiciary with his party members. The Jeffersonian Republicans responded by repealing the law that had created new circuit courts and threatening impeachment if the Court overturned the repeal statute.

    The Marbury case was one of the first to represent politics by other means as the Federalist plaintiff sought a writ of mandamus to compel Jefferson's Secretary of State to deliver his justiceship of the peace commission that had been signed and sealed by John Marshall when he was Secretary of State.

    Chief Justice Marshall accomplished two of his political objectives in his Marbury opinion. First, he read the Riot Act to Jefferson and told him to do his duty and order the commission delivered. Second, he wrote some obiter dictum that stated what almost everyone thought was obvious, that the Supreme had the authority to review congressional acts to decide their constitutionality.

    The Marbury opinion became the most cited case for the Court's power of judicial review. The opinion makes little sense but don't worry about that. Marshall held that the Court had no jurisdiction over the case but at the same time of course accepted jurisdication so he could attack Jefferson.

    The writ of mandamus that Congress authorized the Court to issue in its original jurisdiction was a prerogative writ of common law courts dating to the 16th century. Several centuries of judicial custom clearly gave the Court the authority to issue the writ in original jurisdiction. And whether or not the Court could issue the writ was not a jurisdictional question anyway.

    Are you getting confused? Not to worry. Just remember the macro points of the case which are: