Tue, May 26 at 7:30 p.m. | 90 minutes on May 19, 26, & June 2, 9, 16, 23
| $150 for all 6 sessions.
Courses: Participants will be able to engage on their own time with the pre-recorded lectures and curated materials (readings, podcast links, interviews, and film). These will be used as the fuel for the live Zoom discussions with the professor.
This six-part series offers a highly accessible primer to some of the most popular and controversial issues in US constitutional law. Topics include free speech law, gun control, the rights of the accused, reproductive rights, the right to privacy, and whether or not corporations are people. Just like in law school participants will explore these subjects by studying the great cases of US legal history – those key trials, arguments, and decisions that have shaped our modern-day rights. All attendees will learn to speak intelligently about the facts, nuances, and competing viewpoints that surround these crucial legal debates. Issues which, unfortunately, are becoming increasingly distorted by the hyper-partisanship of our times.
Our legal system is not infallible. The law has protected the institution of slavery. It has inhibited equal rights. It has perpetuated ignorance, intolerance, and wrongful imprisonment. Justice, despite the popular cliché, is far from blind.
But the law has also been a powerful ally to the forces of liberty and equality. It cast off the shackles of the slave. It helped pave the way for equal rights. It has protected vulnerable citizens from ignorance, intolerance, and wrongful imprisonment. Most importantly, it keeps us safe from physical harm.
This series offers a practical and accessible primer to the basics (and many contradictions) of US constitutional law.
Week One – Free Speech Law
The First Amendment protects speech, but not all speech. We’ll explore what constitutional law has to say about subversive speech (like advocating the overthrow of the government), slander and libel (laws against lying), symbolic speech (flag burning or kneeling during the national anthem), and cancel culture (being fired because of a Tweet).
Week Two – The Second Amendment
So a guy in Texas can bring an assault rifle to a playground but I can’t carry a knife on the E train? The Constitution says our “right to keep and bear arms” can’t be infringed upon but grenade launchers are still illegal everywhere, right? Where are the lines drawn? Have those lines changed over time? Isn’t there something in there about being in a militia?
Week Three – The Rights of the Accused
You have the right to remain silent. When the cuffs are on, you have a lot of other rights too. The rights afforded to those accused of crimes reveals a lot about our civilization. The rights presently enjoyed by American defendants were the product of legal battles fought over decades, are deeply rooted in the struggle over civil rights, and continue to be fiercely debated in the face of mass incarceration.
Week Four – Regulating Business in a Capitalist Society
Despite what you might have heard, the United States is not a free-market economy. Minimum wage laws, maximum hours laws, workers compensation, medical leave, wrongful termination lawsuits, sexual harassment protections, “hostile work environment” liability -- all of these things force American businesses to play by a set of hard won rules established over generations by workers and activists and their allies. We’ll also talk about whether or not corporations are people now.
Week Five – Reproductive Rights and Morality Law
An exploration reproductive rights in America beyond just Roe v. Wade. Topics will include the origins of Planned Parenthood, the abortion debates of the twentieth century, the early birth-control movement, and the role of the Supreme Court on this issue. Front-and-center will be a retelling of the three most important reproductive rights cases, including Roe, to gain a better grasp of exactly how reproductive rights are positioned and protected in our laws and the current landscape of the reproductive rights debate.
Week Six – The Right to Privacy
Police totally need a warrant before they can search your house, but what if they hear screaming coming from inside? What if they lie about hearing screams just so they don’t have to get one? Are the rules different if they think you’re a terrorist? Is a warrant necessary before searching your emails or your phone or your browser history? What about when I get pulled over – do I have to get out of my car… open my trunk… my glove box? How was stop-and-frisk even a thing?
Lawrence Cappello is a Professor of Constitutional History at the University of Alabama and the author of None of Your Damn Business: Privacy in the United States from the Gilded Age to the Digital Age. His essays have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, and The Nation. He was recently profiled by The Economist.
Zoom link will be sent upon signup.
$150 for all 6 sessions.