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LAW 106 — Constitutional Crises from the Founding to the Present

Quarter: Winter
Day(s): Tuesdays
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Jan 11—Mar 15
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Jan 13
Units: 2
Grade Restriction: No letter grade
Tuition: $485
Instructor(s): William H. Simon
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Registration opens Nov 29, 8:30 am (PT)
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Live Online(About Formats)
7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Jan 11—Mar 15
10 weeks
Refund Date
Jan 13
2 Units
Grade Restriction
No letter grade
William H. Simon
Registration opens Nov 29, 8:30 am (PT)
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
This course focuses on episodes of heightened political conflict that have been framed in constitutional terms. Each of these episodes has raised anxieties about the capacity of the constitutional order to resolve severe conflict. In each, the Constitution has survived, though sometimes at great social cost and with considerable revision. Much current constitutional doctrine emerged from these crises.

The course will consider how the Constitution’s provisions on the structure of government shape conflict and create vulnerabilities. We will begin by studying the adoption of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the crisis-ridden Andrew Jackson administration, and the Civil War. Then we will take up the struggle over Reconstruction, the election of 1876 (with some attention to the election of 2000), and Franklin Roosevelt’s court-packing plan. We will proceed to address confrontations among the branches and levels of government triggered and shaped by the civil rights movement; Watergate (with some attention to the Clinton impeachment); and a series of controversies over the modern war powers (Roosevelt's internment of Japanese-Americans, Iran-Contra, the Bush administration's use of torture against "enemy combatants"). We will conclude with consideration of various episodes from the Trump administration, especially the Mueller investigation and the 2020 election (with some attention to the 2024 election).

William W. and Gertrude H. Saunders Professor Emeritus of Law, Stanford; Arthur Levitt Professor Emeritus of Law, Columbia

William H. Simon has taught at Stanford since 1981 and at Columbia since 2001, and also at Harvard and UC Berkeley.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Michael Les Benedict, The Blessings of Liberty: A Concise History of the Constitution of the United States, 3rd ed. (ISBN 978-1442259928)