Why impose a course on constitutional law on our students?
mpollack at ajsl.us
Mon Jul 9 13:14:06 PDT 2007
My thanks to Prof Levinson for his fine article and his willingness to
support a new law school and review.
While I use (and love) Prof. Levinson's case book, I am not now teaching in
a school where the students overwhelmingly agree that bar prep per se is not
To keep student interest, and make the course useful, I assign both the
case book and a short book on legal arguments, Wilson Huhn, The Five Types
of Legal Argument (paperback Carolina Acad Press). This allows me to use
the cases to teach students how to dissect and counter argument types -- a
skill which every lawyer needs.
Meanwhile, I slide in the core citizenship issues Prof. Levinson suggests.
Professor, American Justice School of Law
mpollack at ajsl.us
270-744-3300 x 28
From: conlawprof-bounces at lists.ucla.edu
[mailto:conlawprof-bounces at lists.ucla.edu] On Behalf Of Sanford Levinson
Sent: Monday, July 09, 2007 2:56 PM
To: Con Law Prof list
Subject: RE: Why impose a course on constitutional law on our students?
This comes under the category of shameless self-promotion. Our
colleague Malla Pollack has founded a new (online) law review, the
American Justice L. Rev., and the first issue includes a piece of mine,
"REFLECTIONS ON THE ROLE OF CONSTITUTIONAL LAW IN THE LAW SCHOOL
CURRICULUM." It can be found at
To make a longish story short, I argue that there's no good reason to
require constitutional law (as is done at most law schools, save for the
University of Chicago) in terms, e.g., of preparing students for the
bar--we don't teach lots of subjects that are covered on the bar--or
preparing students to practice law--most of our students will never have
a constitutional law case in their entire careers, though they are
likely to have lots of cases in subjects that we don't require, e.g.,
family law. So, if there is a justification for requiring
constitutional law, as I think there is, it is to prepare them to be
good citizens and civic leaders. But it should be obvious that
preparation for that role does not require that our students learn the
latest three- and four-part tests or most other contemporary doctrine.
Not surprisingly, I argue that it does require an historical overview of
American constitutional development (which can be taught, normatively,
as a story either of decline or progress, or neutrally as the way that
the Constitution, for better or worse, has actually developed over the
past 220 years) and paying far more attention that we now pay to what I
have come to call the "hard-wired Constitution." Indeed, not to put too
fine a point on it, I think that the legal academy is criminally
negligent in failing to teach our students about what are in fact the
most important parts of the Constitution (which, of course, are never
litigated and most of which raise few questions of "interpretation" the
way legal academics define such questions).
Obviously, I would be delighted to read any responses, on- or off-line,
to my arguments, which are, just as obviously, meant to stir up a debate
(and not only to promote sales of my book and adoption of our casebook
To post, send message to Conlawprof at lists.ucla.edu
To subscribe, unsubscribe, change options, or get password, see
Please note that messages sent to this large list cannot be viewed as
private. Anyone can subscribe to the list and read messages that are
posted; people can read the Web archives; and list members can (rightly or
wrongly) forward the messages to others.
No virus found in this incoming message.
Checked by AVG Free Edition.
Version: 7.5.476 / Virus Database: 269.10.2/891 - Release Date: 7/8/2007
More information about the Conlawprof