Information Sheet for History 142:

 History of the Supreme Court

Spring 2015

Professor Ben Brown


Office hours: Wednesday – 8:30 – 9:00 or by appointment.           

            e-mail -



            Grades will be based on four factors:

Take home essays - 20% each

Case reports and presentation - 15%

Class Participation and Discussion - 10%

Final exam - 35%


            The cases and other readings assigned on the syllabus are all available on my web-page:


            I will assign two take home essays, as shown on the syllabus. The essays will be due in class on the following Monday. Your case reports will consist of an in-class presentation of one of the major Supreme Court cases that we will be discussing the semester.  I will give you a list of cases from which to choose.  In preparation for your in-class presentation you will prepare a two page summary and analysis of the case following a form that I will provide. For some cases, I will also provide a specific list of questions for you to address.  Your class participation and discussion grade will be based upon attendance, class preparation and active participation in class discussions.


            Reference materials - Peter Irons has written a very accessible history of the Supreme Court - Peter Irons, A People’s History of the Supreme Court. For an overall narrative of United States legal history, see: Kermit Hall, A Magic Mirror.  Kermit Hall has also edited two good encyclopedias of the Supreme Court and American Law.  Kermit Hall, The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States and the The Oxford Companion to American Law.  For an overview of constitutional history see: Melvin Urofsky and Paul Finkleman, A March of Liberty: A Constitutional History of the United States.  A fun-to-read journalistic account of the Court in the 1990’s and early 2000’s is Jeffrey Toobin’s The Nine or his latest book on the Robert’s Court, The Oath. To see transcripts of U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments and to hear audio of some of these oral arguments, go to:


            To find complete copies of the edited cases that I have provided go to or search the Lexis database in the library’s database collection.  For a good online glossary of legal terms, go to:
Syllabus for History 142 - History of the Supreme Court

Spring, 2015


The readings for the course are either from Urofsky’s Supreme Decisions, vol. 2 or from materials on my website:


Supreme Court Cases on my website are arranged alphabetically; other materials are arranged chronologically.


Week of January 19 - Introduction to the Supreme Court: Institution and Ideology.



Week of January 26 - Interpreting the Civil War amendments. The Supreme Court and the Establishment of Jim Crow.


Readings:  Freedman’s Bureau Act; Mississippi Black Codes; 1866 Civil Rights Act; 1875 Civil Rights Act; Slaughterhouse Cases; Bradwell v. Illinois; The Civil Rights Cases; Plessy v. Ferguson; UrofskyPlessy v. Ferguson.


Week of February 2 - The Supreme Court and Labor.


Readings: Bailey v. Alabama; In re Debs; Loewe v. Lawlor; Coppage v. Kansas.


Sample case brief due on February 5


Week of February 9 - The Supreme Court and Freedom of Contract Liberalism.


Readings: Mugler v. Kansas; Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway Co. v. Minnesota; Lochner v. New York; Urofsky - Lochner v. New York.


Week of February 16  - The Supreme Court and Progressivism.


Readings: Muller v. Oregon; Adkins v. Children’s Hospital; Buck v. Bell;  Comstock Law; Schenk v. United States; Abrams v. United States; UrofskyAbrams v. United States.


Take-home essay: Distributed February 16, due February 23.


Week of February 23  -  The Supreme Court and the New Deal.


Readings: Roosevelt’s First Inaugural Address; Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States; Carter v. Carter Coal Co.; West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish; National Labor Relations Board v. Jones and Laughlin Steel Corp; UrofskyThe New Deal Cases.




Week of March 2  -  The Supreme Court and the Quest for Values.


Readings: United States v. Carolene Products; Korematsu v. United States; Minersville School District v. Gobitis; West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette; UrofskyThe Flag Salute Cases.


Week of March 9 - The Supreme Court and The NAACP’s attack on Jim Crow.


Readings: Powell v. Alabama; Smith v. Allwright; Sweatt v. Painter; Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka; Michael Klarman, “Brown v. Board of Education: Law or Politics;” UrofskyBrown v. Board of Education.


Week of March 16  - Enforcing Brown; The Supreme Court and the Incorporation of the Bill of Rights into the 14th Amendment.


Readings: Michael Klarman, “Why Massive Resistance;” Cooper v. Aaron; Mapp v. Ohio.


Week of March 23 – Have a great spring break!


Week of March 30 – Incorporation, continued; The Supreme Court and Political Rights.


Readings: Gideon 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; UrofskyNew York Times v. Sullivan; Miranda v. Arizona.


Take home essay: Distributed March 30, due April 6



Week of April 6 - The Supreme Court and Sex.


Readings: 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;” UrofskyRoe v. Wade.


Week of April 13 - The Supreme Court and the Attack on Equality Liberalism.


Readings: Proposition 13; Ronald Reagan’s First Inaugural Address; Milliken v. Bradley; Washington v. Davis; Regents of the University of California v. Bakke; Grutter v. Bollinger.


Week of April 20 - Saving Roe; The Supreme Court and Traditional Values.


Readings: Planned Parenthood v. Casey; Michael H. v. Gerald D.; Bowers v. Hardwick; Lawrence v. Texas; UrofskyThe Gay Rights Cases.



Week of April 27 – The Supreme Court turns to the Right.


Readings: Parents Involved v. Seattle School District; Gonzales v. Carhart; Lisa McElroy, “Citizen’s United History.”


Week of May 4 – The Role of the Supreme Court in the 21st Century.


Readings: Justices on Precedents



Final Examination Saturday, May 9 – 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.