Weekly Round-Up #11: The End, Once Again

We have, once again, come to the end of the semester, and the end of yet another academic year. This certainly has been a, let’s say, interesting, semester for studying the institutions and powers side of constitutional law. Current events have certainly given us a lot to talk about in class, and the students a lot to write about in their blogs. So, let’s wrap up this semester, as the student bloggers have done, on a high note, with another round of top-notch blog posts. Many of these posts either reflect on the blog or the course, or provide a nice close to the semester-long blogging project on their chosen topic.

Kelly F. reflects on the process of blogging this semester, and what she has learned about the Constitution in the process.

Tim and Brad talk about the history, and contemporary, place of marijuana in American laws and politics. Tim’s final post provides an overview for the history of marijuana use, and regulation, in the U.S., bringing us up to where we are today. Brad discusses recent developments regarding the continuing battle over the legalization of marijuana, including Trump’s seeming vacillation on his stance, as well as Senator Schumer’s efforts to shift the federal legal categorization of marijuana.

Tyena and Ryan both examine the costs, and impacts, of immigration on the U.S. Tyena discusses the various impacts of decisions related to immigration, for the individuals involved and for the country. Ryan provides evidence documenting the social and economic costs of those who enter and/or stay in the U.S. illegally.

Kei and Dan touch on other aspects of immigration policy (and not just immigration itself), related to the course and their specific blog topics. Kei explains how George W. Bush’s border fence, and now Trump’s border wall (and other policies) have negatively impacted the various Indian nations, including the Tohono O’odham Nation, whose lands cross the U.S.-Mexico border and what these policies mean for tribal sovereignty. Dan’s final post discusses how questions of immigration and presidential power fit, overall, into a course about constitutional law that looks at institutions and powers.

Just in time for oral arguments in the case (Sung wrote this post before oral arguments last week), and our moot court (that’s this week!) on the same case, Sung explores the legal issues in Trump v. Hawaii.

Hermina, Chelsea, and Kelly S. all look at different aspects of federal and state power, and how these relate back to our current political understanding and practices. Hermina analyzes the recent oral arguments in the Supreme Court case South Dakota v. Wayfair, pertaining to states’ ability to collect sales tax on online sales. Chelsea wraps up her blog by discussing perceptions and practices around judicial review today, which are rather contentious. Kelly S. discusses the case U.S. v. Alvarez and what this case can show us about how the various branches interact on a given issue.

Finally, rounding out this post, and the semester, Annelis writes about the current state of politics involving talks with North Korea, DACA, and gun control, all of which have had recent developments.


This has been another great semester. I want to end here by commending these students for all of their hard work across the semester. This includes, but is not limited to, their stellar work on their blogs. It has been a pleasure to work with this fantastic group of students this semester.

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Winnie the Pooh…and college professors right now

Weekly Round-Up #10: War Powers, Immigration, and Marijuana (and More!)

Hello again, and welcome back. The students have one last blog post, and are now working on their take-home exams and (possibly) getting started on the appellate brief portion of their moot court for this course. On top of that, they produced another round of stellar blog posts, including a great discussion regarding the Constitutionality of many recent events. War powers and immigration factor heavily into this week’s posts, with a nice dash of marijuana and federalism thrown in as well.

Annellis, Kelly F., Hermina, and Sung all discuss the recent U.S. military actions in Syria. Annelis takes a general approach to the discussion, while Kelly F., Hermina, and Sung all discuss the constitutionality of the President’s actions, and they do not all agree. Taken together, these posts create a mini-debate over the extent of presidential war powers. Annelis updates us on further developments in Syria regarding a “mystery” bombing, and the eventual U.S. (and allies) response.

Kelly F. explores the questionable constitutionality (or not) of the President’s recent decision to bomb Syria in retaliation for the alleged chemical weapons attack Assad released on Syrians. Hermina also discusses the not-clearly-constitutional decision for the President to unilaterally decide to bomb Syria. Sung addresses the Constitutionality of the president’s actions in Syria, albeit with a different argument from the other students addressing this topic.

Ryan and Dan continue to cover the developments involving California and the national government over immigration issues, while Tyena looks at the Court’s recent foray into deportations. Ryan writes about the increasing divisions between various localities and the state government in California over immigration and various attempts to make the state a sanctuary state. Dan’s discusses the importance of immigrant labor to California farms, and how Americans have long been moving away from farm labor, even at higher wages. Tyena discusses the very-recently-decided Supreme Court case Sessions v. Dimaya, and what the Court’s ruling means for deportations in the U.S.

After war powers and immigration, why not some light reading on federalism and current battles over marijuana? Jordyn and Brad take the issue straight on, while Tim looks at the related issue of drug courts. Jordyn discusses the federalism issues at play in the tensions between the national and state governments over the question of legalized marijuana, as well as the President’s seeming change of mind regarding his stance on legalization. Brad writes more in-depth about the president’s recent suggestion, in contrast to his attorney general’s position, that he is in favor of marijuana legalization, and what this might mean for federalism in the United States. Tim explains what drug courts are, their use in the U.S., and how they could offer a possible way to address the drug problem in the U.S.

Given that many of these posts touch on presidential power, Kelly S.’s post this week provides a nice review for what ties these all together. Kelly S. explores the various aspects of the presidency in our system of separation of powers across the three branches.

As if these posts weren’t informative enough, Kei, Chelsea, and Troy all provide a retrospective look at topics from the not-too-distant past that touch on key aspects of federal power and law. Kei writes about Elouise Cobell (Yellow Bird Woman) who spent 15 years fighting for a settlement over the Department of the Interior’s mismanagement of Native American land, a fight that ended when then-President Obama finally fulfilled the government’s obligations. Chelsea continues her historical review of the Court and judicial review by looking at several major cases coming out of the Burger Court. Troy discusses the federal minimum wage, questions of economic stagnation, and how these issues could have played out in the 2016 presidential election.

Weekly Round-Up #9: Almost There

We are sprinting towards the end of the semester, and I’m limping along, trying to keep up, which is why this review is about last week’s posts. We’re almost there! As always, the posts are thoughtful and engaging, and I encourage everyone to go check out the originals and give them a read (and maybe a comment?).

Jordyn and Kelly S. both take a retrospective look at the 2016 presidential election. Jordyn explains what we now know about some of the FBI’s involvement in and around the 2016 presidential election. Kelly S. reflects on the last presidential election and what it means for the U.S., the government, and for immigrants current in the U.S.

Hermina and Kelly F. both look at aspects of the current national discussion around gun control. Hermina informs us about recent attempts to limit assault weapons and high-capacity magazines coming out of Maryland and Massachusetts, and the court cases that have upheld these legislative efforts. Kelly F. evaluates the potential, and possible need, to amend or otherwise update aspects of the Constitution, including the Second Amendment, as well as the overall feasibility of any of these changes.

Annelis provides another overview of recent events that touch on constitutional issues, including recent military actions in Syria and the FBI’s raid on President Trump’s fixer lawyer, Michael Cohen.

Brad and Dan both continue to explore California’s position on issues of immigration and documentation. Brad explains California’s practice of allowing undocumented migrants to legally obtain driver’s licenses within the state, while exploring how this works and the limitations of the program. Dan writes about the reasoning behind California’s decisions to declare itself a sanctuary state.

Tyena and Ryan focus on additional aspects of the current immigration debate and policy. Tyena explores the economic impact of immigration and immigrants on the U.S., and discusses what their removal might mean for the economy. Ryan explains the President’s call for the National Guard to deploy to the U.S./Mexico border and the various state responses, including California’s non-compliance with the President’s orders.

Tim tackles the opioid crisis in the U.S., explaining what opioids are, various attempts to regulate them, and the current abuse of these substances we are seeing now.

Sung discusses Zuckerberg’s recent testimony before Congress, the state of digital privacy legislation, and how out-of-touch Congress is on the issue.

We round out this week’s posts with two great posts that take a more historical view of their separate topics, covering similar time periods. Chelsea explains the Court’s use of judicial review through the Civil Rights Era in her post from last week. Kei writes about the rise of the American Indian Movement (AIM), and their activism and protests in the 1960s and 1970s, including another showdown with federal officials at Wounded Knee.


By way of checking in with where the class is overall, the students are getting ready for their moot court. They chose to cover the cases Gundy v. U.S. and Trump v. Hawaii, so we are gearing up for a great exploration of delegation of Congressional authority and questions over presidential power on immigration. I can’t speak for the students, but I know I’m excited to see how this turns out!


Weekly Round-Up #8: Reverse Early Edition

Hi there, everyone, and welcome to Reverse Early Edition. The blog where a tired professor summarizes fantastic student blog posts about Constitutional law not from this week, not from next week, but from last week because he’s a little behind due to grading in other courses. On with the show!

Annelis starts us off with a hodgepodge, or perhaps an amuse bouche, of what is going on with and around the President, covering DACA and other recent topics. This is a nice lead in to the various other topics covered in the other students’ posts.

We again have a significant number of posts about recent developments in immigration. Brad and Dan both discuss the ongoing developments in California regarding immigration. Brad further explores the persistent fights between the president and California over immigration, this time covering Governor Brown’s recent decision to pardon five ex-convicts facing potential deportation. Dan writes more about California and immigration, and the increasing tensions between the state’s position and that taken by some cities within the state.

Tyena, Ryan, and Sung continue the immigration discussion, all looking at different aspects of current law and policy around immigration. Tyena explains various laws and policies related to crossing over one of the U.S.’s boarders as well as the related Supreme Court case United States v. Martinez- Fuerte (1976).: Ryan writes about how the President spent a portion of the Easter weekend angrily tweeting about DACA and various aspects of immigration. Sung addresses immigration courts and the lack of a right to representation for those accused of immigration violations that find themselves in these (non-Article III) courts.

Troy and Kelly F. shift the conversation from immigration to one of the other persistent current topics, gun control. Troy writes about the current state of gun control in the U.S., and gun-related tragedies. Kelly F. discusses the recent comments from retired Justice John Paul Stevens calling for the repeal of the Second Amendment, as well as about how hard it is to actually amend the Constitution.

Continuing this last point on potential changes to the Constitution, Hermina informs us about recent calls for a constitutional convention, and the myriad of ways in which these calls could backfire.

Tim explores the President’s recent calls for the death penalty for drug dealers, discussing the problem, as well as the likely effect of such a policy.

Kei continues her explanation of Native American history, this time covering the Ghost Dance, the U.S. resistance to Native American religion, and the ultimate tragedy at Wounded Knee.

Rounding out this set of posts, we have two different looks at institutional governmental power. Chelsea discusses the Court’s use of judicial review around World War I and the Great Depression, including challenges over the New Deal. Kelly S. provides a familial metaphor for understanding the separation of powers between the president and Congress, and how these branches relate to each other.

Weekly Round-Up #7: (Mostly) Contemporary Conflicts

Welcome back to another week’s worth of great posts on issues of constitutional law. Many of the students this week, quite understandably, chose to write about many contemporary that are getting a lot of attention right now.

Kelly F. and Sung both write about different aspects of the March for Our Lives held on March 24, and issues related to gun control. Kelly, in her post, writes about the recent March for Our Lives and the state of gun control, and the debate over the state of gun control, in the U.S. now. Sung discusses the current state of children’s rights in the United States in light of the March for Our Lives, in addition to calling for some Constitutional changes to better address and protect these rights.

Dan and Brad both write about the current fights between the Trump administration and California over immigration law. Dan writes about California’s efforts to resist federal immigration policies, the divisions within California, and how these conflicts emphasize the role of the 10th Amendment in fights over federal vs. state power. Brad explains the growing tensions between the federal government and California over immigration law, including the Department of Justice going so far as to sue the State of California over its alleged violation of federal immigration law.

Tyena and Ryan both also talk about immigration, with Tyena providing more historical background and Ryan focusing on additionally contemporary developments, with both focusing on aspects of U.S.-Mexico relations. Tyena explains the complex relationship the U.S. has had with Mexico and Mexican immigrants, going as far back as when some of those “immigrants” where deemed such by virtue of their already living on land that the U.S. obtained through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. Ryan writes about the many ways in which President Trump has changed immigration law and enforcement, as well as the current status of his proposed border wall.

Annelis and Hermina also address current political developments. Annelis discusses many recent developments in American politics, and the often slow or partial responses that the government is currently taking (or not) in response to these events. Hermina explains various proposals, including some lawsuits, that are trying to change how the Electoral College picks the president, as well as some of the problems with the various proposals.

Kei elucidates the history and current state of Indian gaming in the U.S., as well as oversight of the operations and impacts for the tribes engaged in gaming.

In his post, Tim writes about representation of drugs, both legal and illegal ones, in popular media, including movies, television, music, and advertisements.

Finally, Chelsea takes a different approach and looks more historically. Chelsea, in her post, looks at cases involving the Court’s use of judicial review during and pertaining to issues involving the Civil War.

Weekly Round-Up #6: Blog Audit Week

Last week the bloggers in this course wrote their “blog audit” posts. This is an assignment that I do, shamelessly modifying it from other professors who also have students blog in class, where I ask the students to reflect on their posts. I usually have this come about halfway through their blogging experience in the class. The thought is it is helpful to stop, reread old posts, and think about what they have discussed and the process they have made. In addition, I ask them to think about the growth they have made, as well as what they see as the arc for the rest of their blog posts.

As is typically the case, the students have done a great job of being introspective and honest regarding their work. If you want to see quality reflection from thoughtful people, I highly encourage you to go check out their posts (you can find the links to all of the student blogs here). Now, normally, I summarize the reflections as if they were any post in this round-up. It is always a bit stilted and awkward as it is hard to briefly summarize the reflections of others and create some sort of coherence in this space. Instead, I’ll briefly talk about some of the themes in their posts, and then provide some of my own reflections here.

In reading through the blog audits, I saw a substantial number of the students explain that they feel the process of blogging about constitutional law has allowed them to gain a better understanding of the topics about which they are writing. More importantly, they feel that they are able to explain and relay that knowledge better from looking at their more recent posts compared to where they started. As an educator, I consider this a huge victory. Many of the students expressed that their writing is getting better with the more posts they do, which is also good to hear. Finally, I was pleased to see how many said they enjoy being able to express their opinions in their blogs regarding the topics they are covering, and, more importantly, support it. Many even suggested they don’t hate the process! So, yeah, I’m feeling pretty good about the assignment and class right now.

This job is awesome!

As for my own reflections, I, too feel the course is going well. I’ve paired it back from previous years to cover fewer cases and fewer topics and instead try to go more in-depth into the remaining topics. This is always a challenge for me. I’m interested in a lot, and I find so many topics in the “institutions and powers” section of constitutional law to be truly fascinating. But, I fought those urges and have slowed the course down. I think this has greatly increased student learning, and it certainly has led to better discussions so far. I’d like to cut a little more, but, honestly, I’m not sure I can bring myself to drop anything else right now.

None of this is to say that we haven’t fallen behind a few times. In fact we are behind right now. This is, in part, because we spent the day after the lockdown discussing what happened, how we were all doing, and decompressing. It was a much needed conversation, at least for me. The students seemed to appreciate it as well. It’s been a rough semester on all of us. As someone who, in addition to constitutional law, studies human rights, I often find myself stressing the importance of self-care to students. These conversations were a part of that self-care.

Regardless, the class is going well, we are moving on, and I’m currently ignoring the exams I need to grade while trying to meet other deadlines. That’s right, folks, professors do the same sorts of things we try to help students be better about. Time is always in short supply, and I am no Mick Jagger. We try to do our best, to reflect, and not lose sight of ourselves along the way.

As for a final bit of reflection, let me share something I wrote recently. As part of the assessment blog at UC, I wrote about the use of simulations and blogs to work towards teaching global perspectives. We often talk about the need to teach “global perspectives,” or claim to do so, but do not necessary spend time thinking about what this means or how to achieve it. I believe that the blog assignment the students do in this class, and several others as well, along with the simulations I conduct help to get students to think through other perspectives and arguments. After all, a good part of legal reasoning is engaging in similar practices.

Until next time, remember…

Weekly Round-Up #5: Delayed Edition

Writing to you all from a very snowy Spring Break in upstate New York, I am back with a brief summary of the posts from last week. As always, my discussion of the posts is the super short version of far more substantial posts. I encourage you to check out the originals to find out more and to support these engaged student bloggers. Now, on to the posts so I can get back to shoveling snow. Spring Break, wooooo!

Basically, this, but with more snow

Ryan and Brad both wrote about recent immigration developments in California. Ryan explains recent events in North California where ICE conducted raids, and where the mayor of Oakland tweeted out a message in advance that ICE would be conducted operations in the area, linking these back to questions of federalism and immigration. Brad also writes about the recent ICE raids in Northern California, focusing on the federalism issues that arise in situations like this where state and local authorities do not support federal policies.

Tyena, Dan, and Annelis also touch on questions of immigration and governmental power. Tyena describes immigration law in the U.S., and takes a look at the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1952 as well as the Supreme Court case INS v. Chadha to discuss the challenges associated with making immigration decisions in the U.S. Dan’s post takes a look at the current status of DACA, a critical approach to the border wall, and the dispute between California and the federal administration over immigration policy. Annelis writes about how Congress is currently facing gridlock over steel tariffs, immigration, and guns, effectively not addressing any one of these pressing issues as they allow partisan politics to determine what they focus on—and how deeply they focus—at any given time.

Kei discusses how American Indians lost more and more land across the 18th and 19th centuries, largely through treaties that on paper looked good, but where not enforced, culminating with the House of Representatives in 1871 ending the process of treaty making with any of the domestic tribes.

Tim presents a great overview of the War on Drugs, talking about its introduction and goals, as well as looking at whether it is achieving these goals, and reasons people continue to support and criticize the War on Drugs.

Troy, in his post, looks at capital punishment as it relates to the Constitution, current debates, and questions of federal and state law where states and the federal government differ on the question of the death penalty.

Kelly S. discusses the system of checks and balances and separation of powers that exists in the U.S., and how we saw this in action with regards to former President Obama’s efforts to address terrorism in Iraq and Syria.

Chelsea addresses the place of judicial review in our constitutional system of checks and balances, and how it is odd that this power is not explicitly stated in the Constitution.

Hermina explores corporate personhood, how it is involved in recent and current Supreme Court cases, and what this means for the daily lives of countless Americans.

When we get back from break next week the student will be reflecting on their blogging experience so far this semester, and then back to more constitutional-law-rich posts.