Spring 2020 Course Schedule

Presidential Strategies on Rights *CANCELLED* (LAW-983-001)
Robert Tsai


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Most constitutional law is made outside of the courts. Presidents are especially well placed to make constitutional law within their sphere of action, as well as to influence the development of rights in others' spheres of influence. Students will examine the opportunities available to modern presidents to advance or erode constitutional and statutory rights. They also will explore the social conditions-within bureaucracies and society as a whole-that must prevail for an administration to make the transformation of existing rights a priority. Finally, assuming the perspective of an executive branch actor, they will assess the tactics available when a president is committed to altering dominant conceptions of rights: when each strategy is most tempting, what the historical or legal precedents are for each tactic, how effective it is, and how we make such judgments. Students will read a broad range of presidential biographies, social science treatments of presidential power, and evaluate legal documents authored by executive branch lawyers in considering how rights are shaped by presidential actors. Case studies include: Lincoln’s emancipation of slaves, LBJ’s efforts to pass historic civil rights legislation, Bush’s war on terror, Clinton’s failed efforts to enact healthcare reform, and Obama’s actions to expand the rights of gay citizens and soldiers. Performance will be evaluated according to classroom discussion and an exam, though there is an option to write a research paper with the instructor’s approval.

Textbooks and Other Materials

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First Class Readings

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