American National Government and Politics
Introduction to Law and Legal Reasoning
Free Speech Theory and Law
Can you falsely shout "FIRE!" in a crowded theater or kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality? Is "hate speech” protected by the First Amendment? Is Twitter allowed to ban it? Can a city government stop a "Straight Pride Parade” from taking place? This course will address these questions and more while drawing attention to the legal complexity of free expression disputes. In doing so, students will be exposed to common justifications for free and robust speech in a society and how the courts have addressed the topic both in the present day and historically. As such, students will walk away from the class with a firm understanding of the legal doctrine and theory necessary to analyze the range of free speech disputes that emerge on a near-daily basis in today’s society.
Summer 2020 - Free Speech Theory and Law (Syracuse University)
Winter 2021 - Free Speech Theory and Law (Syracuse University)
Spring 2023 - Free Speech Theory and Law (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)
The framers of the U.S. Constitution tried to design a government that would be vigorous enough to serve the people’s needs but would prevent office holders from using these powers to promote their own interests. Likewise, they sought to design a government that would be responsive to the demands of popular majorities, but that would also respect the rights of minorities. They came up with a Constitution that has survived for more than 200 years, so they must have been doing something right. Still, their design included a number of features that were controversial at the beginning and a number of others (or sometimes the same ones!) that are controversial today. For example, the Constitution’s severely fragmented system of government authority has sometimes prevented the federal government from responding rashly to the demands of the moment, but at other times, it has prevented the government from addressing important national problems. In similar fashion, the complex set of indirect elections and appointments that the framers designed for choosing our nation’s lawmakers has sometimes succeeded in “filtering” and improving the public will, but at other times, it has prevented the public’s voice from being heard at all. And our life-tenured federal judges have sometimes stood as valiant defenders of individual liberty and minority rights, but at other times, they have served as shields of privilege, power, and the status quo.
This course evaluates the performance of our constitutional system by examining its evolution over time with a particular focus on civil liberties. Moving chronologically from the founding era to the present, we will examine a wide range of legal and political conflicts—involving religious freedom, voting rights, the right to bear arms, free speech, abortion, gender equality, affirmative action, police violence, immigrants’ rights, and more. The course addresses controversial topics that raise difficult questions about our personal experiences and political beliefs, and it is therefore essential that students make every effort to tolerate competing views and to treat each other with concern and respect.
Fall 2023 - Civil Liberties (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)
American Constitutional Development (8-weeks)
In this course, we will explore the development of the American constitutional order over time. Much of the time, we will adopt an American political development perspective on the U.S. constitutional system, which means that our analytical focus will often be on questions of ideational and institutional continuity and change. In doing so, we will examine questions like the following: Does the current American republic have a meaningful relationship to the one envisioned by the framers? To what extent, and in what ways, have our governing institutions changed since 1789? How have those changes been brought about, and by whom? Transformative judicial opinions? Reconstructive presidential actions? Popular demands? What is left of the authority of the Constitution if our understanding of it keeps changing as society changes? What role have constitutional ideas and institutions played in broader patterns of political development? Conversely, what role have such broader political developments played in shaping the Constitution? The course addresses controversial topics that raise difficult questions about the very fabric of our system of government: the U.S. Constitution. Our discussions will undoubtedly involve personal experiences and political beliefs, and it is therefore essential that students make every effort to tolerate competing views and to treat each other with concern and respect.