Introduction to US Constitutional Law

Course Description: 

This introductory course is intended to familiarize students in the Comparative Constitutional Law program with the precedent-based approach to constitutionalism though the experiences of the U.S. constitutional system. The course commences with a survey of structural issues (including federalism, horizontal separation of powers and constitutional adjudication / judicial review). This is then followed by select problems of fundamental rights protection using examples of equal protection (non-discrimination and affirmative action), liberty, and freedom of religion (‘free exercise’) jurisprudence. Key concepts of constitutional litigation such as justiciability and standing will be addressed alongside questions concerning the proper judicial role in constitutional cases (activism, deference). Constitutional problems will be discussed in their broader historical and societal context. Note that U.S. jurisprudence on other fundamental rights and liberties (such as free speech or freedom of religion will be covered in separate courses in detail during the academic year).

Learning Outcomes: 

1. Ability to think critically at a basic level.

2. Ability to demonstrate substantial knowledge of U.S. constitutional law – basic level.

3. Ability to use cases and precedents in legal reasoning – basic level.

4. Ability to use legal reasoning – basic level.

5. Ability to apply proper source of criticism -- basic level.

6. Ability to construct well-reasoned arguments -- basic level.

7. Ability to present and defend arguments on the basis of newly acquired knowledge – basic level.


Evaluation is based on in-class participation (not restricted to oral assignments) [10 per cent], written assignments [40 per cent], two (2) in-class group exercises [20 per cent, 10 per cent each] and an in-class written final exam [30 per cent].