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Ua Law Assignments

Alabama Civil Rights & Civil Liberties Law Review
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Welcome to Constitutional Law. This class meets in room A255 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 8:20-9:30 a.m. Our first class is on Monday, January 8. Our casebook is David S. Schwartz & Lori A. Ringhand, Constitutional Law: A Context and Practice Casebook, 2nd edition (Carolina Academic Press, 2017). This is a new edition and a new casebook for me, which means that unless you can find one elsewhere, there will not be used copies floating around. I apologize sincerely for this; I know that casebooks are absurdly expensive and dislike adding to your burdens.  For what it's worth, this book is somewhat less expensive than other constitutional law casebooks. The authors have a number of supplemental materials they have prepared for particular sections of the course, some of which I may assign and all of which will be distributed (free, of course) as PDF documents.  

A syllabus will be forthcoming. In the meantime, I wanted to get you started with the readings for the first two or three classes. There are a number of them, although the degree of time and attention you need to pay to each one varies, as you can see below. 

For the first class, we will use three opinions concerning the so-called "travel ban" or "Muslim ban" executive order(s) issued by President Trump as a way of previewing some of the issues that we will discuss this semester. Accordingly, please read the following opinions: 1) Washington v. Trump, 847 F.3d 1151 (9th Cir. 2017) ["Washington v. Trump I"]; 2) Washington v. Trump, 858 F.3d 1168 (9th Cir. 2017) ["Washington v. Trump II"] (especially the various dissents from the denial of en banc review); 3) Aziz v. Trump, 234 F.Supp.3d 724 (E.D. Va. 2017). To be clear, the issues raised in these decisions go far beyond what we will study substantively in this course, and I do not expect you to understand everything that is discussed. Unless I tell you otherwise, you will not be examined on these cases and the law they discuss, and even if that were to change I would discuss them again and make sure you know precisely what aspects to study. So for now, I encourage you just to read them and think about some of the issues they raise, such as: 1) who gets to sue in court for an alleged violation of the Constitution, when, and why; 2) the relationship between the executive branch and other branches of the federal government, including the judiciary; and 3) how much deference, if any, the courts should pay to the so-called "political branches" of government; and 4) whether and how much this level of deference should change if individual rights are involved. 

Also for the first class--indeed, for before the first class--please read the PDF document entitled "Introduction to Constitutional Litigation and Analysis," which was written by the co-authors of the casebook as a supplemental reading that may help students at the beginning of the constitutional law course. Again, you should read this document seriously and studiously, but its purpose is as background material, so it will not demand the same level of attention you will bring to the cases and such that we read through much of the course. Some of the material in this document will be familiar to you either from your prior educations or from your Introduction to the Study of Law course.  

For the second, or second and third, classes, please read the United States Constitution: carefully, from beginning to end, and preferably more than once. As you will discover, in the constitutional law course one thing we rarely read or discuss is the, you know, actual United States Constitution. Instead, we read cases interpreting it. In my course, at least, I insist that all of us get a very good grounding in the constitutional text before we proceed to abandon it for most of the semester. We certainly do not abandon it entirely, and the constitutional text will play at least a recurring role in our discussion for much of the course, although not always a starring role. I have provided a PDF copy, but it is also available in the casebook itself, among many other places. 

One last note, if I may: Please be warned that I teach this class under what I call a "modified no-laptop rule." I will of course discuss that rule in class, on the second day probably, and in the syllabus. In short, it means that except for those who sign up to take notes on particular days and share those notes with the class, there will be no laptops allowed. If you require an accommodation, it will certainly be allowed, but requests for accommodation should go to the Assistant Dean for Students. I raise this for three reasons: 1) To ease the shock; 2) to let you know that it will not be in effect until the second week of classes, so you're welcome to bring laptops for the first week; and 3) because you might want to make sure you do have hard copies of the materials above, not just virtual copies. If you decide to rent or purchase an electronic version of the casebook, please be sure it is accessible via something other than a laptop, like a keyboard-less tablet, and be aware that that is all you should use the tablet for in class. 

Those notes and warnings aside, I think you will enjoy the class, and I know that I will very much enjoy getting to know you--those I have met already and those I haven't--and to work with you as we all (I no less than you) try to understand constitutional law. In the meantime, I wish you the very best for the holiday season and hope you get a chance to rest and recharge. Don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. I look forward to seeing you in person in January.

Yours very truly,

Prof. Paul Horwitz

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