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POLS 620 Constitutional Law, Wendy Rohleder-Sook: Home

How to use this guide

Welcome to the Forsyth Library Constitutional Law guide. This guide will introduce you to a variety of resources to enhance your class experience. On this guide, you'll find resources to help you locate case summaries, law review articles, and public policy information.

If you have any questions about the resources you find here, or need any assistance with research in this class, be sure to Ask a Librarian! 

Constitutional Law Resources

POLS 620 - Constitutional Law (Fall 2018)

Guidelines for Research Project

Points Possible: 100

Percentage of course grade:  25%

The coursework for POLS 620 – Constitutional Law includes a research project that examines a Supreme Court decision that affects a public policy issue. Some possible issues and suggested cases are criminal justice procedures (Miranda vs Arizona), education policy (Forest Grove School District vs T.A.), health care policy (Independent Business v. Sebelius), the environment (Michigan v. EPA), gun ownership (Heller v. D.C.), or election finance (Citizens United v FEC).  You are not limited to these suggestions.  Select a case/issue that you are passionate about!

Below are the deadlines and descriptions of the various assignments related to the research project:

Topic/Case:                        September 10, 2018, 11:59 p.m.

Points possible: 5

Identify and briefly summarize the selected case, describing the public policy at issue.

Outline:                                October 22, 2018, 11:59 p.m.

Points possible: 10

Outline the answers to the following questions, including several sources.

Final Paper:                        November 19, 2018, 11:59 p.m.

Points possible: 75

Final papers should be double-spaced, size 12 point font, and 1-inch margins.  For undergraduate credit, the final paper should be 6-9 pages long.  For graduate credit, the final paper should be 9-12 pages.  Sources are to be properly cited, using either the APA (American Psychological Association) or MLA (Modern Language Association) style.

Class Presentation:         December 3-7, 2018

Points possible: 10

You are required to make a presentation of your work to the class, and the possibilities may include a PowerPoint or video.  Your presentation should be in a format that can be documented and uploaded to Blackboard.  Be creative!

Analysis of the court decision should address the following questions:

  1. What was the public policy issue involved in the legal case? What existing laws were in force, and were there previous court decisions regarding similar disputes? Did a new technological development or changing social values generate a new issue or put new twist on an old issue? (10 points)
  2. What were the facts of the case? How did the dispute develop, and what events transpired? (10 points)
  3. What was the legal question the court addressed, and how did it relate to the U.S. Constitution? Appellate Courts, of which the Supreme Court is the highest for the US, address questions of law as the questions of fact were decided in the trial court. One possible question is whether existing laws were followed properly. Were legal procedures, such as only allowing admissible evidence, followed? (15 points)
  4. What was the decision? How many and which justices voted in the majority, and how many dissented? What was the rationale of the majority decision, and what counterarguments were offered in dissent? (20 points)
  5. What has been the impact of the decision? What observable affect did the court’s ruling have on the individuals, organizations, and society in general? Have there been unintended consequences from the decision? (10 points)
  6. Your evaluation of the decision. Have subsequent events indicated that the majority decided the case on sound reasoning, have developments indicated a flawed rationale, or have changing circumstances shown the rationale to be outdated? (10 points)

Submitting Assignments through Blackboard:

All assignments should be submitted electronically as a Microsoft Word (.doc or .docx) or Rich-Text Format (.rtf) file through the Blackboard assignment.  Assignments will be run through SafeAssign as applicable.  Work submitted on alternative word processing programs such as Microsoft Works or Word Perfect will be converted to Microsoft Word at the student’s risk of unintended changes.

Important Note: The same paper CANNOT be turned in for more than one class without the express permission of both instructors. Self-Plagiarism is still plagiarism!!! It is acceptable to build on material from a previous paper submitted to another class, but the earlier work must be properly cited.

Useful definitions

Appellate ReviewExamination of a lower court's decision by a higher court, which can affirm, reverse, modify, or vacate the decision.

Executive BranchThe branch of government charged with administering and carrying out the law.

FederalismThe legal relationship and distribution of power between the national and regional governments within a federal system of government.

Judicial BranchThe branch of government consisting of the courts, whose function is to ensure justice by interpreting, applying, and generally administering the laws.

Judicial ReviewA court's power to review the actions of other branches or levels of government; especially the courts' power to invalidate legislative and executive actions as being unconstitutional.

Legislative BranchThe branch of government responsible for enacting laws.

Separation of PowersThe division of governmental authority into three branches of government — legislative, executive, and judicial — each with specified duties on which neither of the other branches can encroach; a constitutional doctrine of checks and balances designed to protect the people against tyranny.

Stare DecisisThe doctrine of precedent, under which a court must follow earlier judicial decisions when the same points arise again in litigation.

All definitions come from Black’s Law Dictionary

Coordinator, Government Documents & Special Collections

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Brian Gribben
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