Recorded Summer 2022
Throughout America’s history, the Constitution has been a key foundation of the nation’s success, but also a source of intense controversy. This course, taught by UMKC law professor Allen Rostron, will explore some of the most fascinating and important moments in constitutional history. It will look at the historical background and impact of some of the Supreme Court’s biggest decisions, while also considering how they set the stage for issues still hotly debated today, including:
The origins of the U.S. Constitution. We’ll examine the creation of the Constitution, and the landmark early cases decided by the Supreme Court under the powerful influence of John Marshall, the Court’s first great Chief Justice. We’ll learn about how Marshall handled the treacherous clashes with Presidents like Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson. And we’ll see how issues about those disputes foreshadowed the battles still going on today about how much authority the Supreme Court should have.
The Civil War. We’ll consider the rich array of constitutional issues surrounding the Civil War, including how the Dred Scott case led the nation toward the war, as well as the many issues that President Lincoln faced, as he took actions such as suspending habeas corpus, imposing a navel blockade of the South and issuing the Emancipation Proclamation.
The Great Depression and the New Deal. We’ll talk about the clash between President Franklin Roosevelt and the Supreme Court during the Great Depression and how the Court would up radically changing constitutional law. We’ll consider how the decisions of that era continue to affect things today such as in the fight over the constitutionality of the Obamacare health care form law.
The Civil Rights era. We’ll trace the development of constitutional rights from the doctrine of “separate but equal” through desegregation cases like Brown v. Board of Education and the resistance to that decision at places like Little Rock high school in Arkansas. We’ll see how equal protection rights continue to the subject of debate in cases about modern issues like affirmative action, same-sex marriage, and gender discrimination.
Instructor: Allen Rostron is the William R. Jacques Constitutional Law Scholar and Professor of Law at the UMKC School of Law. Prior to becoming a law professor, he attended law school at Yale University, worked as a lawyer at a large firm in New York City and was a staff attorney at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence in Washington DC.