Program Description

Faculty: José Gómez, J.D.
Enrollment: 25
Prerequisites: Sophomore standing, transfer students welcome.
Faculty Signature: No
Special Expenses: No
Internship Possibilities: No
Travel Component: No

Equality is an ancient ideal, yet at best the United States has embraced it ambiguously and ambivalently throughout its history. At worst, it has rejected the ideal altogether by selectively applying it, an oxymoronic result that effectively nullifies the ideal in favor of the opposite rule of inequality. Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that "all mean are created equal," yet he owned slaves. The framers claimed to cherish equality, yet they chose not to enshrine it in the Constitution. It wasn't until the Fourteenth Amendment's adoption in 1868 that this ideal was represented as an enforceable constitutional guarantee. However, this did not prevent the states from passing Jim Crow laws to maintain white dominion or the Supreme Court from ruling that the Amendment did not mean what it said. Women were denied the right to vote until the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, and the struggle to secure and maintain equal rights for many classes of persons continues to this very day.

In this program, we will study this long and continuing struggle to secure equality for all Americans. We will do this primarily by studying the long chain of Supreme Court cases that arose before and after the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments, as well as the Civil Rights Acts of 1866, 1870, 1875 and 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. We will begin by taking a critical look at the early cases in which the Supreme Court effectively circumvented these amendments and statutes and, instead, eviscerated the ideal of equality in such opinions as Slaughterhouse Cases (1873), Cruikshank v. United States ( 1876), Civil Rights Cases (1883) and Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). We will then study the many cases in the 20th Century and in the new millennium that have chipped away at Jim Crow and inequality. These involve struggles for equal rights in education, employment, public accommodations, housing, voting, and university admissions. We will also look at the modern equal protection cases that have gone beyond race to fight discrimination based on sex, age, disability, indigence, alienage, wealth, and sexual orientation.

In addition to court opinions, reading for the program will include Internet resources and various books and journal articles that explore equality, inequality and Fourteenth Amendment theory. Working in legal teams, students will develop appellate briefs on real equal protection cases decided recently by the U.S. Court of Appeals and will present oral arguments before the "Evergreen Supreme Court." Students will also rotate as justices to read their peers’ appellate briefs, hear arguments and render decisions.

Credit awarded in Fourteenth Amendment Law: Equal Protection, critical legal reasoning, legal research and writing, and oral advocacy.

Total:16 quarter hours

Program is preparatory for careers and future study in social science, constitutional law, education, public policy, political theory, history, and political science.

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