UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN, Summer 2007
POLITICS OF CONSTITUTIONAL MEANING
Professor Benjamin Gregg
Time: M-F 11:30-1
Place: Welch Hall 2.122
Office: Mezes Hall 3.138
Justin Dyer, BAT 1.118, W/Th 10-11:30, email@example.com
Office Hours: M-F 1-1:40
Jonghoon Eun, BAT 1.118, W 2-5, firstname.lastname@example.org
Unique Number: 86125
We examine constitutional law, American political culture, and the sociology of rules by
focusing on a problem central to our legal regime: the indeterminacy of some legal rules.
indeterminacy refers to the lack of determinate knowledge: knowledge of what a legal rule
means and of how judges and others should apply it.
Where law is indeterminate, no theory,
rule, or principle constrains a judge to interpret or apply a law in a particular way.
a case could have several different answers, yet all of them equally valid.
While few scholars or
judges today view law itself as something static, the notion that judges make rather than find law
implies to many observers consequences such as unequal or arbitrary treatment of individuals.
Where law is determinate, however, it may have an exclusively “correct” meaning and “proper”
application, in short, one “right” answer.
If justice through law is predicated on such qualities as
consistency and even objectivity, then determinacy, in one form or another, might seem to be a
prerequisite for justice.
And yet, as this course will demonstrate, much law at the constitutional
level is indeterminate.
This course explores how the Supreme Court and other branches of the
American government have coped with this phenomenon -- presenting both problems and
opportunities -- over two centuries in six major areas: property, privacy, equal protection,
expression, religion, and (briefly) the separation of powers.
Your grade is the average of four short in-class essays, weighted equally and adjusted for the
quality of class-participation (see “briefing” below).
You will choose from several tightly
You must write the fifth essay and any three of the remaining four essays; you
may not write more than four essays.
► Class participation includes “briefing” cases; this is an extremely important element of the
course and students should maximize this opportunity for immediate critical feedback on case
Each student must brief at least once, and the quality of his or her brief will constitute
10% of the final grade.
The final grade of a student who fails to brief the case or cases which he
or she has been assigned will be
lowered two full grades
for each such failure.
The TAs will