Fall 2011
Fully Enrolled

SOCS 612
The Constitution

Finn,John E.

09/12/2011 - 12/09/2011
Tuesday 06:00 PM - 08:30 PM

Public Affairs Center 422

This course introduces students to the Constitution of the United States, as interpreted and understood by the Supreme Court of the United States. It begins with a simple premise: Understanding the Constitution is an integral part of a liberal arts education and a responsibility of citizenship. Our purpose is not so much to learn constitutional law, however, as it is to develop an understanding of what the Constitution is, what assumptions it makes about state, society, and human nature, and how we give it meaning.

Our textual materials consist primarily of decisions by the Supreme Court of the United States. Each week we will concentrate on a single decision. In the second week, for example, we will discuss Marbury v. Madison. In the ninth week, we will explore Dred Scott, and in the tenth week the flag salute cases. In addition to the case or cases accented every week, we will read and discuss additional cases and secondary materials.

My choice of cases is informed in part by their importance and complexity, and in part by their centrality to questions I consider essential to understanding the fundamentals of the Constitution. I make no claim that these twelve cases are the single most important cases in American constitutional law or essential for a complete doctrinal understanding of the Constitution. Consequently, I have not thought it necessary to cover every substantive area of constitutional law.

Enrollment is limited to 18 students.

This course is open to auditors.

The deadline to withdraw and receive a tuition refund for this course is Friday, September 16 at 5:00 pm. Please visit our website for a complete list of registration and withdrawal dates for this session.

A syllabus for this course is available at:

John Finn (B.A. Nasson College; J.D. Georgetown University; M.A., Ph.D Princeton University; Grande Diplome, French Culinary Institute) is professor of government. He is coauthor, with Kommers and Jacobsohn, of American Constitutional Law: Essays, Cases and Comparative Notes (Rowman, 2004); co-author with Donald P. Kommers of American Constitutional Law: Essays, Cases, and Comparative Notes (West/Wadsworth 1998), and is author of Constitutions in Crisis: Political Violence and the Rule of Law (Oxford University Press, 1991). Click here for more information about John Finn.


Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 18

Texts to purchase for this course:

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