Syllabus ~ Constitutional Law, Spring 2021

HASS 485: Constitutional Law and Politics

Syllabus (Spring 2021)

Instructor: Prof. Richard A. Levine 

Location: Lecture Hall – Alderson Hall 330

Schedule: Spring 2021, 1/12/2021 – 5/14/2021: Tues Evenings, 6:00 PM to 8:45 PM.

Instructor Email:

Instructor Office Hours:  Tuesday, 5:15 PM (w/scheduled appointment).

Required Textbook: Required Textbook: The Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution, by Linda R. Monk, 2015 5th Edition required

Grade Composition:  

  • Attendance and Participation (20%);

  • Term Paper (25%);

  • Art and Essay (15%);

  • Quizzes (20%);

  • Final Exam (20%).

CSM Academic Calendar

The Colorado School of Mines is committed to ensuring the full participation of all students in its programs, including students with disabilities. If you are registered with Disability Support Services (DSS) and I have received your letter of accommodations, please contact me at your earliest convenience so we can discuss your needs in this course. For questions or other inquiries regarding disabilities, I encourage you to visit for more information. 


  • TERM PAPER: Author an essay (7 pages including one page for bibliography/sources, 1.5 space, 1″ margin, 12pt font, fully justified, Chicago style) in which you select one US Supreme Court case between 1950 to present, covered in class (including the textbook, website …) to evaluate in context of legal and historical ideas covered in class and within the case.  Your essay must include: (1) a brief summary of the case facts; (2) the legal issue involved; (3) brief summary of the legal outcome of the case (summarize basis of the majority opinion; (4) your analysis of the legal issue applying your Constitutionalist perspective to it.

In terms of your Constitutionalist perspective, you should state:

a.  your premises/principles (for example, which liberty interest(s) is at stake, which governmental power is being exercised, how the government’s power and the liberty at-stake should be balanced);

b.  how you are construing the text (for example, strictly and literally, or applying “modern standards”; are you applying historic materials (e.g.  Federalist Papers), international standards, and/or social science data …).

In addition to demonstrating mastery of the case you select and mastery of the content of the ideas in your essay, in order to earn full credit your paper must: satisfy all the criteria above, including content and format, and; have no spelling or grammatical errors.

  • TERM PROJECT:  Prepare an artistic expression (music, video, or graphic representation (painting, ink, pencil)) expressing your view of an aspect of what the Constitution represents (it can be a celebration, a critique, an expression of historic occurrence, an abstraction, a recognition of pain, or success … but it is not simply a literal expression). Before starting, review other artists efforts. This is an art project – it is not a chart, powerpoint slide.  You may not use stock images, unless you significantly modify them for artistic expression.  Your work will be evaluated for (i) effort; (ii) originality; (iii) connection between Constitutional ideas and your expression. Lack of artistic effort or lack of artistic thought will not receive full credit.

Your art piece must be accompanied by a one-page essay describing how the art connects to the Constitutional ideas you are expressing. 

Weekly Assignments/Topics:  Constitutional Law and Politics:  HASS 485

Class Week One (1/12/21):  Introduction and Expectations. Lecture covering themes in pre-Colonial period that shape aspects of US Constitutionalism (history; jurisprudence; worldview).

Background materials.  Read prior to lecture (Access via these links):

·       Declaration of Independence;

·       US Constitution; (Orient yourself to the Articles in terms of subject, for example, Article 1, legislative powers)

·       Jefferson on Liberty

·       What is meant by “politics”

Class Week Two (1/19/21): Yesterday was MLK Day!

Reading: The Words We Live By: PP 10-63; 121-124.  E-book “Part I: Preamble; Article I; Article VI)

In-Class materials (no need to pre-screen)

o   What The Constitution Says?

o   Media Resource  Liberty and the American Revolution (Part VI)

o   Media Resource (begin 7:34 – 37:40) Slavery and the Making of America

o   Racial aspects of National Anthem: National Anthem

o   Media Resource:  1619 Project (NY Times Special Event)(begin 18:00 and 1:32:00).  Commemorating 400 years (8/20/1419)

Class Week Three (1/26/21):

Reading: The Words We Live By: PP 64-107; 217-234.  E-book “Article II and Article III; Amendment XIV.  

In Class Resources:

o   Dred Scott (Minnesota History)

o   Dred Scott (S Ct centric)

o   Civil War and Slavery (Col Seidule, USMA West Point)

o   Ken Burns – Slavery is the Sleeping Serpent from 1776 to the Civil War

Class Week Four (2/2/21): Quiz 1 weeks 1-3

Reading: The Words We Live By:  pp 218-235.  Online resources as follows: 

1.    The Bill of Rights;  

2.    Incorporation of the 14th Amendment;

3.    Concepts of Liberty and Equal Protection;

4.    Liberty Rights (14th Amendment)

In Class Resources:

1.       Reconstruction Amendments

2.      14th Amendment (II)

Useful Vid – Homework:  Equal Protection

Class Week Five (2/9/21): Special Topic: Impeachment (Separation of Powers – Article 1 Court): Joe Neguse House Impeachment Manager Opening Statement. Mitch McConnell post Impeachment statement re jurisdiction

1.    Freedom of Speech;

2.    First Amendment (Creationism and Evolution through Scopes) Darrow (Scopes; Epperson; Leopold and Loeb);

3.    Freedom of Religion (Establishment and Exercise)

HOMEWORK: Watch RBG movie – rent on Amazon or similar platform (use “pause” and turn in notes re: Supreme Court cases noted)

Class Week Six (2/23/21): Rights of the Accused (4th, 5th, 6th Amendments).

1.    Fourth Amendment;

2.    Fifth Amendment;

3.    Right to Counsel (6th Amendment)

Class Week Seven (3/2/21): Quiz 2 weeks 4-6

1.    From Plessy to Loving (and beyond): Racial Separation is Unequal in Place and Rights; Unequal Socioeconomic Realities Remain Constitutional.

2.    Background: San Antonio v. Rodriquez; Unequal socio-economic status in education. Data – EdBuild. Comparing Standards (Intermediate Scrutiny). Case Briefs (applying a standard)

3.    Justice Spotlight: Thurgood Marshall

Class Week Eight (3/9/21):

Topics: Voting, the Electoral College (balancing “Federalism”/”States’ Rights” with Civil Rights), and Amending the Constitution: The Electoral College;Voting and Amending the Constitution; Film (One Woman, One Vote) Homework.

Class Week Nine (3/16/21): Who decides matters, matters.  

1.    Current Justices

2.    Fantasy SCOTUS and SCOTUSBlog

4.    Life Tenure

5.    Justice Spotlight:

o   Sonia Sotomayor

o   Stephen Breyer.


The National Economy framed by Constitutional Powers: See The Color of Money (see 2020 Presentation)

Class Week Eleven (4/6/21):   Quiz 3 weeks 7-10. 


Prof. led discussion and peer evaluation of Projects and Term Papers.

Class Week Twelve (4/13/21): Interpretation and Implications

1.    Marriage Equality/Obergefell:

(i) NYTimes Video Summary;

(ii) Oyez Summary (incl. Audio);

(iii) Opinion and dissents;

(iv) Quotes

2.    Death Penalty: Case Resources (Furman; Gregg v GA). 

Class Week Thirteen (4/20/21)

1.    Copyright and the Constitution:  Your Ideas Are Protected

2.    Engineers and the Constitution. (see Const. Day 2017)

Class Week Fourteen (4/27/21): Lecture Reserved:

Topic of Interest based on one or more of the following: (i) student input; (ii) a current case before the Supreme Court; (iii) a current event with constitutional implications.

Class Week Fifteen (5/4/21): Final Exam Review