America’s 51 Constitutions

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Fall 2012 Reading Group
Meets: T 5:00pm - 7:00pm in Hauser Hall Room 103
1 classroom credit

The point of this reading course will be to explore some of the (possibly) important differences between the United States Constitution on the one hand, and America’s 50 state constitutions on the other—49 of the 50, for example, include some aspects of direct democracy, as against the national constitution’s exclusive emphasis on representative democracy—and, in turn, among the 50 state constitutions themselves, given their often very interesting differences with one another. Among the latter, for example, are the organization of the executive branch—48 of the 50 states reject the unitary executive, but the details often differ; modes of selecting the judiciary; and methods of constitutional amendment. One purpose of the reading course is to try to overcome the assumption that there is only one “real” constitution in the United States and that “American constitutionalism” is therefore identical with the history of only the United States constitutionalism instead of the often very different state constitutions. The readings will be drawn from Levinson, Framed: America’s 51 Constitutions and the Crisis of Governance and John Dinan, The American State Constitutional Tradition. Students will be responsible for the readings, preparation of one response paper during the semester, in order to help establish an agenda for discussion that particular week, and attentiveness to the details of the constitution for which whichever state the student might come from.

Subject Areas: Constitutional Law & Civil Rights .