STATE CONSTITUTIONAL LAW
(LAWC-4027) - 4 UNITS
This course surveys state constitutional law, with a particular focus on recent cases on important topics, including litigation concerning school funding, gerrymandering, property takings, criminal procedure, reproductive rights, capital punishment, and the free exercise of religion. With a federal constitution that assigns limited powers to the federal government, leaves some powers to the states, and allows some overlapping authority for state and federal governments, American Constitutional Law has always been a mix of federal and state constitutional law. Although state constitutional law has long lived in the shadow of federal constitutional law, state constitutional has become increasingly relevant in recent years.
The most important constitutional debates of our times are being litigated in state courts under their own constitutions. In turn, these cases inform debates over constitutional rights under other state constitutions and under the U.S. Constitution. State constitutional law can blaze a trail. Without the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts finding a state constitutional right to marry, it's unlikely that the U.S. Supreme Court would have later recognized a national right to marriage equality. State constitutional law must also react to the U.S. Supreme Courtss decisions on federal constitutional rights. In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Courtss recent decision in Dobbs to overrule Roe and Casey, some state supreme courts have recognized abortion rights under their state constitution's due process and right to privacy provisions, while other courts have rejected similar claims.
This course covers state constitutions' protections of individual rights and rules for structuring government. In both settings, the course take a comparative approach: examining similarities and differences between the federal and various state models. The course also examines the nature, scope, and significance of state constitutional law itself. State constitutions have been long overlooked as laboratories for democracy, and they are a bountiful resource for developing constitutional insights to be shared, considered, and debated among our different sovereigns.