State Constitutional Law

Credit Hours: 2

This survey course explores the nature and significance of state constitutional law, specifically including examination of recent cases and hot topics in the field. It is a subject that has long lived in the shadow of federal constitutional law but that has become increasingly relevant in recent years. The course covers rights and structure, and in both settings it compares the federal model to the various state models. Of particular emphasis is the role of the state courts in protecting liberty and property rights under their own constitutions, and most notably whether they should construe these guarantees to offer protections that the federal courts have not provided in construing the federal constitution. This gives us the occasion to take up the most active debate in state constitutional law over the last several decades: the responsibilities of state courts when interpreting state constitutional provisions that live in the shadow of their counterparts in the federal constitution, especially the weight to be given to the U.S. Supreme Court's interpretations of the federal provisions. Particular attention will be given to a variety of current issues in state constitutional law, including litigation involving school funding, marriage, property takings, criminal procedure, and the free exercise of religion, among others. The course also will consider the amendment procedures of the state constitutions, the election of state court judges, the non-unitary executive under most state constitutions and other structural issues.