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LAW 02 — The US Constitution: Principles and Politics

Quarter: Winter
Day(s): Tuesdays
Course Format: On-campus (About Formats)
Duration: 9 weeks
Date(s): Jan 23—Mar 19
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Jan 25
Unit: 1
Grade Restriction: No letter grade
Tuition: $505
Instructor(s): William H. Simon
Class Recording Available: No
Status: Open
ACCESS THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Jan 23—Mar 19
9 weeks
Refund Date
Jan 25
1 Unit
Grade Restriction
No letter grade
William H. Simon
ACCESS THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Much political conflict in America is rooted in constitutional issues. Constitutional rights to abortion and guns have been central for decades. Problems posed by the threats of terrorism and pandemics have raised questions about the adequacy of our largely 18th-century Constitution to address our current realities. And controversies over executive discretion in recent presidential administrations (not only Trump’s) have been framed extensively in constitutional terms. This course will provide an introduction to fundamental ideas and techniques related to constitutional doctrine and consider how they play out in contemporary debates or disputes. These concepts include the structure of government, notably federalism, the separation of powers, and the operation of the electoral process. Others concern individual rights in such areas as racial and gender equality, sexual and reproductive autonomy, healthcare, immigration, and national security. We will also consider debates over the manner in which the Constitution should be interpreted and elaborated. In particular, we will explore the positions of originalists, who insist that the Constitution should be understood as it was by those who enacted it, and evolutionists, who favor a “living Constitution” that adapts to take into account of current understandings and circumstances. Students will leave the course able to navigate the complex terrain of contemporary debates with a deeper understanding of the enduring impact of constitutional principles on the American political landscape.

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 also at Harvard and UC Berkeley.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Richard H Fallon Jr, The Dynamic Constitution: An Introduction to American Constitutional Law and Practice: 2nd Edition (ISBN 978-1107642577 )