2012 Inquiry Seminars

Politics of American Law

Max Richardson

This course explores the role of the American judiciary, and especially the U. S. Supreme Court, in the formulation of public policy in the United States. The American judiciary was the first in history to play such a policy-making role. Through its power to declare laws "unconstitutional," the American judiciary must be seen as a political branch of our government.

To accomplish this exploration, students will read major Supreme Court opinions, and learn to write legal briefs that summarize the facts, issues, and rationale of those decisions. Since the scope of constitutional law is vast, we will focus on the 1st and 14th Amendments. Students will learn how the courts have been instrumental in promoting (and denying) the civil rights and civil liberties of Americans. Students will also learn that, in exercising its political power, the American judiciary has always been a source of both celebration and controversy in American history. OC