Civil Liberties Syllabus (Click for WORD doc or see below.)
Here are some additional readings for your interest (NOT required)
313 CIVIL LIBERTIES
Donna K. Axel, Esq.
Tel (201) 200-3574
Office hours: M-W, by
appointment, Thursdays 3:30pm-5pm or by appointment.
Please be advised that this
course fulfills an upper division elective requirement for the Pre-Law Minor:
it is an advanced course. Although non-Pre-Law Minors are certainly welcome in
this class, please note that this course aims to prepare students for law
school. As such, it is reading and writing intensive with a focus on learning
traditional legal reasoning and analysis, as well as a critique of the
traditional categories and reasoning historically employed by lawyers.
HONOR STATEMENT AND PLAGIARISM
integrity is essential and non-negotiable. There is a 0 Tolerance Policy
regarding plagiarism. Citing your work is imperative. In this course, you must
follow either MLA, APA, or proper legal (“bluebook”) citation format. Diana
A Writer’s Reference, is an excellent guide to proper citation.
I also recommend the following websites:
A. Class Participation = 20%
It is crucial that you
participate in class discussion in order to maintain an exciting atmosphere.
You are required to contribute to the development of ideas in a positive
manner. This means that you must prepare for each class by doing the readings.
If you have not done the reading, please do not detract from class discussions.
Students who participate in negative ways will be marked down. We employ a
“modified Socratic” method to better prepare you for law school. This means
that you will be called on, but you may defer to a colleague if you are not
prepared to respond to the question. Please speak to me if you have any phobias
or anxieties about speaking in class so that we may make alternative
B. Written Assignments = 20%
every week there will be a 1-2 page writing assignment (11-12 point font/Times
New Roman) due at the end of each class and/or assigned to do during class.
Failure to hand in the assignment will result in a grade of zero. Late
not be accepted under any circumstances. Assignments
will not be accepted unless you are in class on the day the assignment is due
unless proper documentation (e.g., a doctor’s note) is provided. Writing
assignments are designed so that students think not only about the issue, but
about the legal assumptions that shape our thinking about the issue. Students
required to rewrite most of the writing assignments submitted
for this class. Rewrites are due at the beginning of the next class. The first
and second rewrite scores will be averaged together.
You must incorporate
the readings, films, class trips, and/or discussions into these assignments.
late assignments are accepted.
C. Quizzes = 20%
every week, there will be a short quiz based upon the readings for class and/or
the previous week’s discussion. Late or absent students who are not in class
not be given a make-up and it will count as a 0. (There will be
approximately 5-10 quizzes).
D. Presentations/Debates/Group Presentations = 20%
select class sessions, students will be assigned different readings and/or
sides of issue and be required to come to class prepared to speak about the
readings and/or on behalf of a specific “side.” Using the readings and relevant
legal case materials, you are expected to present your view, but you will not
receive credit unless you employ the readings.
Midterm/Final Exam = 20%
is a direct correlation between attendance and success in law school. As this
is a pre-law course, you are expected to attend and participate in every class.
Should you not be able to attend class, please be in touch with me by email and
provide me with documentation of any medical or family emergency, such as a
doctor’s note. There are no make-ups for in-class assignments.
Please bring to every class:
The Supreme Court Explained, (latest edition).
Court of the United States: About the Supreme Court:
Supreme Court Cases:
give you a better idea of my grading scale, the following applies to all
= Basic ideas and information
in the assignment are discussed, and the student also evaluates material,
discusses weaknesses and primary contributions of authors/approaches, and notes
exceptions to arguments or nuances of implications of the material. Assignment
is well written and well organized. NOTE: On case briefs: 5 out of 5 = A
= Main ideas are solidly
intact and assignment is well written and well organized. 4:5 = B
= Main ideas are fairly
well intact, the majority of the basic ideas of information is covered, with
fair organization of the material. 3:5 = C
= Many of the main ideas
are missing or vaguely stated, lacks a great deal of the basic information and
is not particularly well organized. 2:5 = D
= Main ideas are virtually
missing, work is sloppy and carelessly prepared, and there is poor effort at
organization. 1:5 = D
Less than 64%
Grades of incomplete will NOT be given under ANY
For quizzes, homework and in-class assignments (NOT case briefs):
PLUS = A/B
MINUS = D
NOTE: You are expected to print and bring every case and reading listed
below. Should you have any difficulty accessing a computer or finding a
case/reading, you must let me know by the Monday prior to class.
Class 1 Introductions
Distribute and review
Short writing assignment
Large group Questions &
Discussion re: The U.S. Constitution & the Amendments
What are “civil liberties”?
What are rights?
How to brief a case:
v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954).
In-Class Review re: Future Homework
The following is a sample of
your weekly readings and the way to find them.
Readings: Findlaw: (for the case, including the
In-Class Background Readings
on the case:
Brown v. Bd. Of Ed: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown_v._Board_of_Education
2. Landmark Cases: http://www.landmarkcases.org/brown/home.html
a. ALWAYS READ: Background
Summary and Questions;
b. Diagram of How The Case
Moved Through The Court System;
c. Biography (or one
2: Overview of the Constitutional Convention and the Amendments
The U.S. Constitution and
The Bill of Rights (Amendments 1-10);
distributed during Class 1.
Introduction to the Constitution. http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/conlaw/conlawintro.htm
The Constitutional Convention: http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/conlaw/convention1787.html
The Bill of Rights (Background):
The Constitution and the Amendments
a Case, Part II
is a Constitution? Identify U.S. Constitution Articles 1-3 with a few words.
What is the most confusing Constitutional Amendment?
Which Amendment interests you the most? Please explain.
Classes 3-4: The Right to be
Free from Discrimination
(14th and 5th
Amendments: Equal Protection & Due Process)
163 U.S. 537 (1896) and
Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483
Plessy v. Ferguson,
163 U.S. 537 (1896)
Reading on the case:
Landmark Cases: http://www.landmarkcases.org/plessy/home.html
Class Exercises and Quiz:
Who is “Brown” in
Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954)?
Why is the case named after this particular person?
Which amendments were at issue in
What is Chief Justice William Rehnquist’s opinion of the
Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954).
Scott v. Sanford
, 60 U.S. 393 (1856).
Classifying Arguments in the Case (Landmark)
Dred Scott v. Sanford, 60
U.S. 393 (1856)
NOTE: You are NOT required to read this entire case, but you may review it
and/or print any/all of it (at your discretion):
Landmark Supreme Court Cases: http://www.landmarkcases.org/dredscott/home.html
+ Classifying Arguments in the Case)
Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896).
Classes 5-6: Fundamental Rights: The Right to Marry & Intimacy
Loving v. Virginia, 388
U.S. 1 (1967).
Constitutional Conflicts: http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/conlaw/righttomarry.htm
Your Readings include learning about the
Loving line of cases (
Is it morally right or wrong for people of different ethnic/racial backgrounds
to marry (“inter-marry”)?
Should partners in same-sex unions be entitled to the all the benefits
that “opposite sex” couples receive from
their legal spouse?
Should men who are in arrears re: their child support (in other words, men who
have not paid) be permitted to marry (someone other than the mother of their
Should inmates be permitted to marry? Explain.
v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003).
Exploring the Constitution offers an edited (greatly
shortened version) of the case:
you like to view the case syllabus/summary/opinion, etc., go to:
Legal Information Institute (LII): http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/02-102.ZS.html
READ SYLLABUS AND AS MUCH OF CASE AS YOU WOULD LIKE, but esp’ly
syllabus; first few pages; and last page of majority opinion.
ALSO: READ Scalia’s Dissent AND Thomas’ Dissent (only as
much as you like).
Assignment Due: Case brief:
Loving v. Virginia,
388 U.S. 1 (1967).
Classes 7-8: Intimacy and the Freedom of Association
Rights: Freedom of Association?
to this cite. Choose ONE case and brief it. Be prepared to speak about it in
Scouts of America v. Dale
530 U.S. 640 (2000).
Exploring the Constitution: http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/conlaw/association.htm
FYI: See also: Cornell Legal Information Institute: http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/99-699.ZO.html
Read the majority opinion, but also the dissents (and the syllabus).
MARCH 15: SPRING BREAK—NO CLASS
(Also: “May It Please The
491 U.S. 397 (1989).
What is Symbolic Speech? When is it Protected? (Landmark)
“May It Please The Court” Tape/Book)
1pm-3:30pm: PRE-LAW EVENT: Please ask your professors to bring you
484 U.S. 260 (1988).
Hazelwood applies to Colleges &
TBA as per students’ interests
During Classes 11, 12, and 13, students will work
together to present specific civil liberties as interpreted by case law.
Additional readings: TBA and Assignments: TBA
Quiz: At Professor’s discretion.
Exam: In Class