Constitutional Theory

Is the separation of powers theory capable of meeting its stated purposes? How do race, sex, and class inform our understanding of liberty and equality? Can the Constitution be amended outside of the precepts set forth in Article V, its amending clause? Should courts interpret the Constitution in accord with its original public meaning or treat it as a living document? Or, better yet, should we take the Constitution back from the courts and, if so, give it to whom? This course will examine the theoretical underpinnings of a range of issues in constitutional law, ultimately trying to determine how we should think about the role of the U.S. Constitution in American law, politics, and society. Classes will focus on a different theme each week, as well as a specific contemporary controversy, to explore the lively debates about the legitimacy of our national charter and its purpose, the methods of constitutional interpretation and their merits, the functions and efficacy of the Constitution's rights and structural provisions, the nature of constitutional change, and more. The course readings, which will be fairly extensive, will consist mostly of law review articles and other scholarly writings that will present the diverse views and opinions in past and contemporary constitutional debates. Given that the class will be student-driven, regular attendance is required. Final grades will be based on a series of response papers (or, with permission from the professor, a more substantial research paper), in-class presentation on one of the weekly topics, and class participation.