Syllabus for LS 177:

 History of the Supreme Court

Spring 2019

Professor Ben Brown

Office hours: Tuesday, Thursday 11:00 – 12:00, Room 212, Legal Studies Building, 2240 Piedmont.


The readings for the course are either from Urofsky’s Supreme Decisions or from materials on my website:


Supreme Court Cases, underlined below, are on a separate tab on my website and are arranged alphabetically. Other materials are on the LS 177 tab and arranged in the order that we will address them.  State court cases are bolded but not underlined and can be found under the LS 177 tab.


Week of January 21 - Introduction.  Colonial law and Road to Revolution.


Readings – John Winthrop, “Little Speech on Liberty;” Case of Thomas Granger; Pynchon Court Records; Maryland Servants and Pigs; Pope Aluey Trials; Virginia Statutes on Slavery; General Laws of Massachusetts; Declaration of Independence.


Jan. 22 - Introduction to American Law; Colonial Law.


Jan. 24 - Events leading to Revolution.


Week of January 28 - State building and Republican Ideology.


Readings – Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776; Articles of Confederation; United States Constitution, 1787; Thomas Jefferson to James Madison on the Constitution; Federalist Papers: 10, 78; Virginia Ratification Message; New York’s Ratification Message; Bill of Rights.


Jan. 29 - Classical Republicanism and creating American states.


Jan. 31 – The 1787 constitution; Liberalism and Bill of Rights


Week of February 4 - Local Law and Creative Destruction.


ReadingsCalder v. Bull; Fitch v. Hamlin; Sands v. Taylor; Ogden v. Saunders;  Merrit v. Parker; Martin v. Bigelow; Snow v. Parsons;  Charles River Bridge v. Warren Bridge; Jackson Veto message; Fifty Associates v. Tudor; Hellen v. Noe.


Urofsky: Chapter 1 – Marbury v. Madison; Chap. 2 – M’Culloch v. Maryland; Chap. 3 – Gibbons v. Odgen.


Feb. 5 - From Local Law to Centralized Law.


Feb. 7 - Rejection of Blackstone's Common Law; Law and Creative Destruction.




Week of February 11 - Creating Rights, Creating Oppression.


Readings – John Belton ONeall “Negro Law of South Carolina” chapter 2 pp. 17 -28; Somerset v. Stewart; State v. Mann; State v. Boyce; Married Women’s Property Act. Tecumseh Speech to Governor Harrison; Johnson v. McIntosh; Fugitive Slave Act of 1850; Dred Scott v. Sandford; Ableman v. Booth.


Urofsky: Chapter 4 – Worcester v. Georgia; Chap. 5 – Prigg v. Pennsyvania; Chap. 6 – Dred Scott v. Sandford.


Feb. 12 - Creating Rights; Creating Oppression - White Male Rights and the Exploitation of African-American Labor.


Feb. 14 - Control of Women and the Displacing of Native Americans; Slave expansion in the territories as a flashpoint for conflict. The Supreme Court steps in - Dred Scott.


Week of February 18 - The election of Lincoln, the Civil War and the Expansion of Federal Power.


Readings – South Carolina Secession Resolution; Abraham Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address; Abraham Lincoln, “Gettysburg Address”; Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address; Freedman’s Bureau Act; Mississippi Black Codes; 1866 Civil Rights Act; 1875 Civil Rights Act.


Feb. 19 - Secession and War; Reconstruction.


Feb. 21 - White Southern Response to Reconstruction.


Week of February 25 - Abandoning the Freed-people.


ReadingsSlaughterhouse Cases; Bradwell v. Illinois; Civil Rights Cases; Plessy v. Ferguson; Bailey v. Alabama.


Urofsky: Chapter 8 – The Slaughterhouse Cases; Chap. 9 – Bradwell v. Illinois; Chap. 12 – Plessy v. Ferguson.


Feb. 26 - Supreme Court Reacts to the Civil War Amendments.


Feb. 28 – Using Law to Create Jim Crow; Supreme Court Ratifies Jim Crow.


Week of March 4 - Midterm; Organizing Capital, Disorganizing Labor.


ReadingsIn re Debs; Mugler v. Kansas; Chicago, Milwaukee Railway v. Minnesota; Loewe v. Lawlor.


Urofsky: Chapter 11 – In re Debs.


March 5 - Midterm Examination.


March 7 - Organizing Capital; Disorganizing Labor.


Week of March 11 - Triumph of Liberty of Contract Liberalism, Progressive Reaction, Speech Rights; Eugenics.


ReadingsLochner v. New York; Comstock Law; Schenck v. U.S.; Abrams v. U.S.; Eugenics Statistics; Buck v. Bell.


Urofsky: Chapter 13 – Lochner v. New York; Chap. 14 – Abrams v. United States.


March 12 – Lochnerism. The Progressive Response to Lochnerism.


March 14 – Speech rights and Reproductive Rights.


Week of March 18 - The Coming of the Great Depression and the New Deal.  The Court Abandons Economic Rights.


Readings – Roosevelt’s First Inaugural Address; Schechter v. U.S.; Carter v. Carter Coal; West Coast Hotel v. Parrish; Preamble to National Labor Relations Act; N.L.R.B. v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp.; U.S. v. Carolene Products.


Urofsky: Chapter 16 – The New Deal Cases.


March 19 - Liberty of Contract in the 1920’s. Coming of the Great Depression.


March 21 - The New Deal. Court’s reaction to the New Deal.


Week of March 25 - Have a great spring break!!!


Week of April 1 - Search for Values and Brown v. Board.


ReadingsMinersville School District v. Gobitis; West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette; Korematsu v. U.S.; Michael Klarman, “Brown v. Board of Education: Law or Politics;” Brown v. Board of Education; Michael Klarman,”Why Massive Resistance;” Cooper v. Aaron; The Civil Rights Act of 1964; Voting Rights Act of 1965; Heart of Atlanta Motel v. U.S.; Reynolds v. Sims.


Urofsky: Chapter 17 – The Flag-Salute Cases; Chapter 18 – Brown v. Board of Education.


April 2 - The Roosevelt Court searches for a new way. Road to Brown.


Analytical Essay Assigned


April 4 - Implementing Brown, Civil Rights, Voting Rights.



Week of April 8The Supreme Court and Criminal Defendant Rights; Reproductive Rights and Women’s Rights.


ReadingsGideon v. Wainwright; Miranda v. Arizona; Dennis v. United States; Brandenburg v. Ohio; Letter from Birmingham Jail; LBJ’s address to Howard University; Heart of Atlanta Hotel, Inc. v. United States; Reynolds v. Sims; Griswold v. Connecticut; Sarah Weddington’s argument to Court in Roe; Roe v. Wade; Serena Mayeri, “When the Trouble Started: The Story of Frontiero v. Richardson.”


Urofsky: Chapter 19 – New York Times v. Sullivan; Chapter 20 – Miranda v. Arizona; Chapter 21 – Roe v. Wade.


April 9 - Criminal Defendant Rights and Incorporating the Bill of Rights.


April 11 - Reproductive Rights; Women’s Equality.


Week of April 15 - Retreat from Brown and Roe.


ReadingsMilliken v. Bradley; Washington v. Davis; Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (Bakke); Ronald Reagan’s First Inaugural Address; Planned Parenthood v. Casey (Casey).


April 16 - Retreat from Brown. Affirmative Action.  


April 18 –Retreat from Roe.


Week of April 22 - Subverting Criminal Defendant’s Rights. The unlikely victory of Gay Marriage.


Readings: Michelle Alexander on the New Jim Crow – interview on Fresh Air; United States v. Whren; Michael H. v. Gerald D.; Bowers v. Hardwick; Defense of Marriage Act; Lawrence v. Texas; Perry v. Schwartzenegger; United States v. Windsor (Windsor on website).


 Urofsky: Chapter 22 – The Gay Rights Cases.


April 23 - The new Jim Crow.

Analytical Essay Due


April 25 – Struggle for Gay Rights. Explaining the Gay Rights victory.


Week of April 29The Roberts Court conservative activism.


Readings: Parents Involved v. Seattle School District; Gonzales v. Carhart; Lisa McElroy, “Citizen’s United History;” Reva Siegel, “Dead or Alive: Originalism as Popular Constitutionalism in Heller.” (Siegel on Heller).


April 30 – Roberts overturns Brown. Attack on voting rights.


May 2 – Heller -The Last Incorporation and Originalism as a rhetorical device to facilitate activism. Citizen’s United.



Final Examination Thursday, May 16 – 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.