Law School Course Areas and Related Classes
WHAT THIS AREA IS ABOUT. The area of civil liberties concerns legal protection for the fundamental rights of citizens. These include substantive rights such as freedom of expression and religion and freedom from unreasonable searches, cruel and unusual punishments, and hostile or irrational discrimination. They also include the procedural protections of the due process clauses and the criminal procedure provisions of the Bill of Rights. While many courses in this area focus on the Constitutional provisions on civil liberties, others consider statutory provisions in more depth.
Lawyers, whatever their specialties, are likely to have occasions to address these issues throughout their careers. Many believe that all lawyers have an ethical obligation to be minimally conversant with the basic constitutional and statutory principles governing civil liberties.
Students are required to take one Constitutional Law II course, but depending upon the subject it may or may not be a course in civil liberties. Criminal Procedure: Investigation and Criminal Procedure: Prosecution each fulfill the Con Law II requirement.
Con Law II courses form the basis for a civil liberties concentration, but there are equally important courses that do not fall under the Con Law II banner. Moreover, there are many versions of Constitutional Law II. Some focus on a particular area, while others are more wide ranging. Students may take multiple Constitutional Law II courses. For example, a student who had taken a first amendment course such as Con Law II: Freedom of Expression could also take a fourteenth amendment course such as Con Law II: Equality and the Constitution, or Con Law II: From Brown to Bakke and Hopwood. Versions of Con Law II that overlap in part may present more difficult choices. If you have taken one Con Law II course, be sure to consult the instructor before enrolling for a second.
PREREQUISITES. Constitutional Law I is a prerequisite to many upper level courses in civil liberties, including most Con Law II classes. Con Law I is supposed to emphasize constitutional history, basic approaches to constitutional interpretation, separation of powers, judicial review, federalism, and the commerce clause. But some professors cover much more than that; others cover much less. Consequently, the different versions of Con Law I vary almost as much as the different versions of Con Law II. When choosing a section of Con Law II, think about your section of Con Law I. For example, if your Con Law I course surveyed the whole constitution, you might take a specialized Con Law II rather than another survey. Similarly, if your Con Law I section was narrowly focused, you have more to gain from a broader course in Con Law II.
COURSE OFFERINGS. The civil liberties courses may be divided into several groups, some of which overlap. These groups are:
1. Freedom of expression. The basic course in this group is Con Law II: Freedom of Expression, though course titles may vary. More specialized courses are Communications Torts, Mass Communications Law, and Electronic Mass Media. There are seminars on Defamation and the Right to Privacy and on Mass Communication. Free speech issues are important to Educational Policy and Law, to Higher Education and the Law, and to Labor Law in the Public Sector.
2. Religious liberty. There is a Con Law II course on Religious Liberty and there are various seminars. Religious liberty issues are also important to Educational Policy and Law.
3. Equality and freedom from discrimination. Various Con Law II courses focus on these topics. Again, titles vary, but most are obvious. As examples, Con Law II: Equality and the Constitution is largely devoted to the equal protection clause. Con Law II: Due Process and Equality also devotes substantial attention to equal protection issues, and due process issues often involve protections against discrimination. Con Law II: Brown to Bakke is devoted to race discrimination, particularly school desegregation and affirmative action; as the name suggests, Con Law II: Race and Sex Discrimination considers these issues together with issues of sex discrimination. Outside of the Con Law courses, Employment Discrimination emphasizes the statutory protections against discrimination in employment. There are also courses or seminars focusing specifically on discrimination based on gender and other characteristics; these courses include Feminist Theory & Its Legal Application, Americans with Disabilities, and Sexuality and the Law. In addition, seminars on specific topics are varied and offered with some frequency.
4. Criminal Procedure. The rights and protections of the accused present core civil liberties issues. Offerings in this area are discussed in more detail in the Criminal Law section.
5. Enforcement. These courses deal more with the means of enforcing civil liberties--with problems of jurisdiction, procedure, and remedy--than with substantive rights. These courses include Federal Courts, Complex Litigation, and Remedies. There are also numerous clinics and internship programs that provide students with the opportunity to work directly on civil liberties issues. See the section on Clinics and Internships for more information.
6. Methods of constitutional decision making. Any well-taught constitutional law course will consider the legitimacy of various methods of constitutional interpretation. The courses listed in this subgroup are especially devoted to that question. Civil liberties issues will be used as important examples of constitutional decision making but not the only examples. These courses include Con Law II: Jurisprudence and Constitutional Law; the Supreme Court Seminar; and the seminar on Jurisprudence and Constitutional Law.
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