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LAW 106 — Constitutional Crises from the Founding to the Present

Quarter: Fall
Day(s): Tuesdays
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Sep 26—Dec 5
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Sep 28
Units: 2
Grade Restriction: No letter grade
Tuition: $470
Instructor(s): William H. Simon
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Open
Please Note: No class on November 21
ACCESS THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Live Online(About Formats)
7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Sep 26—Dec 5
10 weeks
Refund Date
Sep 28
2 Units
Grade Restriction
No letter grade
William H. Simon
Please Note: No class on November 21
ACCESS THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
This course will focus 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).

Stanford Continuing Studies has lowered the tuition for this course as part of our mission to increase access to education around democracy and citizenship.

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

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

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Michael Les Benedict, The Blessings of Liberty, Fourth Edition (ISBN 978-1538165546)