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Robert G. Moser, Chair BAT 2.116, Mailcode A1800, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-5121

Fall 2007

GOV 357M • 5- Constitutional Interpretation

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
40055 TTh
9:30 AM-11:00 AM
GSB 2.126

Course Description

Politics is often defined as "the authoritative allocation of values." In the American political system, the Constitution is an important source of authority, and it gives preference to certain values. The Constitution is a document of law, politics, and political theory. Determining what the Constitution means, determining how to determine what it means, and determining who should determine what it means are fundamental tasks for participants in the American political process and for students of it. The course may be of interest to those thinking about attending law school, but it is equally valuable to those who have no such interest. Given the nature of our society, understanding the Constitution and Constitutional Law is part of a liberal arts education. For the most part, the course does not focus on the "civil liberties" provisions in the Constitution; those important subjects are left to other courses.

Constitutional interpretation lends itself to dialog between professor and student and among students. There are few lectures. I use a combination of the case and Socratic methods. This requires students to come to class prepared and to listen to one another. Students are expected to attend class and participate. I call on students and expect them to be well-prepared. Repeated absences will hurt one's grade. The method of teaching presumes that students heard prior discussions. If a student is not prepared, he or she must put a note on the lectern before class. Repeated lack of preparation will hurt ones grade. It is also in one's long-term interest to prepare thoroughly for each class because the material is cumulative, and the workload in this course increases dramatically as the semester proceeds.


Assignments will be given each class period. Most readings will be in the casebook. You must bring your casebook to class. The next day's assignment depends upon how far we get in any given day; therefore, it is impossible to know specific daily assignments in advance.


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