fullscreen background
Skip to main content

Fall Quarter

Fall Quarter Underway
Late-Start Classes
Still Available
shopping cart icon0


« Back to Liberal Arts & Sciences

LAW 02 — The United States Constitution: An Introduction

Quarter: Fall
Day(s): Tuesdays
Course Format: On-campus
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Sep 25—Dec 4
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm
Drop Deadline: Oct 8
Units: 2
Grade Restriction: No letter grade
Tuition: $480
Instructor(s): William H. Simon
Status: Closed
Please Note: No class on November 20
7:00—8:50 pm
Sep 25—Dec 4
10 weeks
Drop By
Oct 8
2 Units
Grade Restriction
No letter grade
William H. Simon
Please Note: No class on November 20
American democracy is extensively regulated by a brief document mostly written in the 18th century. This document and 230 years of interpretive gloss on it make up the US Constitution. The Constitution remains the most salient expression of the nation’s political aspirations and a powerful set of practical constraints on government. Although most Americans express deep respect for the Constitution, they disagree intensely about what it means. This course will study doctrinal issues concerning governmental structure and individual rights as they have arisen in recent controversies about such matters as immigration, abortion, affirmative action, gay marriage, government- provided healthcare, national security, campaign finance, and policing.

We will also consider general theoretical orientations toward the interpretation of the Constitution, focusing on three. One, especially associated with the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and other conservatives, sees the interpretive task as a matter of fidelity to the understanding of those who enacted the original Constitution and its amendments. A second, especially associated with the Warren Court and its defenders, sees the task as a matter of adapting text and precedent to the implicit substantive social norms of contemporary American society. And a third, originating during the New Deal but more recently revived, urges an interpretive practice focused on policing the institutional preconditions of the democratic process. We will consider the extent to which these approaches should be understood as complements or as competitors.

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

William H. Simon has taught at Stanford since 1981 and at Columbia since 2001, and more episodically, at Harvard and Berkeley. Some of his recent work has focused on the relevance of post-bureaucratic forms of organization to constitutional issues. He is the co-author of “The Duty of Responsible Administration and the Problem of Police Accountability,” Yale Journal on Regulation (2016).

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Richard Fallon, The Dynamic Constitution, Second Edition (ISBN 978-1-107-64257-7)