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365. Constitutional Law
The American System

December 2013

Dr. Craig W. Allin, Instructor
Meghan Yamanishi, Consulting Librarian
Shawn Doyle & Laura Farmer, Writing Consultants


November 25, 2013

The following Supplements to this Course Description can be found on the Web:

Calendar & Assignments


Appellate Brief & Oral Argument

Intellectual Integrity

Good Advice

Model Appellate Brief

Legal Resources of Russell Cole Library

Briefing Supreme Court Cases

Supreme Court

Internet Research Links

Accommodating Disabilities

Documenting Sources


Knowledge: Students will integrate and apply knowledge from disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives in the humanities (history and jurisprudence) and social and behavioral sciences to questions of Consitutional law, judicial behavior and public policy.

Inquiry: Students will respond to the complexities of contemporary and enduring Constitutional questions using information literacy tools, research skills, creative thinking, and analysis.

Reasoning: Students will evaluate legal evidence, interpret data, and use multiple legal paradigms to resolve Constitutional questions.

Communication: Students will speak and write clearly, listen and read actively, and engage with others in productive dialogue. Students will construct constitutional arguments in an adversarial setting and present them in an appelleate brief and an oral argument.

Intercultural Literacy: Students will connect with diverse ideas and with people whose experiences differ from their own and that may be separated from them by time, space, or culture. Students will examine historical and contemporary cases from multiple vantage points of history, geography, ideology, race and class.

Ethical Behavior: Students will recognize personal, academic, and professional standards and act with integrity.

Vocation: Students will explore the role of the Constitution in shaping the American experience and prepare for the legal opportunities and challenges that await them beyond their college experience, as well as for possible future careers as legal professionals.


Complete Syllabus: The definitive version of this syllabus can be found on line at

Instructor: Craig W. Allin, Room 113, College Hall.
Telephone: Office, (895-) 4278; Home, Cell: 319-431-1100. E-mail:

Office Hours: If I'm not in class with you, you can probably find me in my office. Feel free to make an appointment or just show up.

Class Meetings: In South 300. Consult Calendar & Assignments.

Class Hours: Class meets afternoons from 12:30 -3:00 and some mornings. For details refer to the Calendar & Assignments page. It is possible that this class may fall short of the 50 hours of classroom contact normally associated with a four credit-hour course on the OCAAT calendar. It will, nevertheless, more than meet the Department of Education's credit hour requirements, which specify "an amount of student work for a credit hour that reasonably approximates not less than one hour of class and two hours of out-of-class student work per week over a semester." In addition to the Appellate Brief and Oral Argument outlined below, this course will require approximately 800 pages of technical reading and careful notetaking. In addition to class meetings, students should expect to spend approximately 8 hours per day preparing for classes and completing the written and oral assignments described in this syllabus. 


The following is available at the bookstore:

  • Lee Epstein & Thomas G. Walker. Constitutional Law for a Changing America: Institutional Powers and Constraints, 8th ed. Washington: CQ Press, 2014. ISBN 978-1-4522-7039-5

The following are on reserve [or in the reference collection] at Cole Library:

  • Good, Mightier Than the Sword: Powerful Writing in the Legal Profession (1989) 808.066 G592m
  • Irons: May It Please the Court (1993) [live recordings of oral arguments before the Supreme Court] 347.73 M451
  • Melone: Researching Constitutional Law (2004) [Reference Desk] 342.73 M492r 2004
  • Shapo, Walter & Fajans: Writing and Analysis in the Law (1991) 808.066 Sh22wr 1991
  • UCLA Moot Court Honors Program: Handbook of Appellate Advocacy (1993) 808.066 H191 1993

Synopsis: Refer to the Calendar & Assignments which outline also contains your primary reading assignments from the case book. All reading must be completed by class time on the day for which it is assigned. Please allow yourself plenty of time to read and take notes. You will discover that casual reading of court cases is not terribly productive.

Requirements: Your grade for this course will be based upon the following factors:

    Exams and Quizzes [40%] – There will be three quizzes in the course of the term. They may or may not be announced in advance. The quizzes will preview most of the kinds of questions you will confront on the final exam. Your quiz grades will each account for 5% of the final course grade. A comprehensive final examination will count for an additional 25%. For the purposes of exams and quizzes you may bring and use unlimited notes and briefs so long as they are composed by you and written in your own hand. Exams and quizzes–-and preparation for exams and quizzes–-are conducted on an honor system. In each instance, you will be required to certify that you have not accepted aid from another student, given aid to another student, or used notes or materials except those composed by you. Study groups and group preparation for exams and quizzes are encouraged, but "group notes" or "group briefs" may not be used in exams and quizzes.

    Briefs [20%] – You will submit two briefs in the course of the term. See Briefing Supreme Court Cases. Each brief will count for 10% of the final grade. This is your best chance to pad your grade and the only assignment that may be repeated in an effort to improve your grade. In this instance "repeated" means completing the assignment a second time and briefing a different case. Repeats are averaged with the original grade to determine the final grade for the assignment.

    Appellate Brief and Oral Argument [30%] – You will prepare an appellate brief and argue a constitutional case before the class. See Appellate Brief & Oral Argument.

    Class Participation [10%] – The final 10% of the course grade will reflect my subjective evaluation of your contribution to the class. I will reward thoughtful leadership in class discussion and effectiveness in the role of justice when others are arguing cases.

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