Weekly Round-Up #1: Two-by-Two, Constitutional Review

Hi, everybody! Welcome to another round of “Professor Tagliarina’s students write amazing blog posts about constitutional law while he writes mildly amusing (at best) summaries of these posts.” After all, they are doing all the hard work, while I’m merely providing the impetus (read: grade requirement) for these students to publically engage in conversations about laws, cases, and the US Constitution. New semester, new institution, new students, same basic idea. So, rather than prattle on more, on with the show! We’ve got so few blogs to review and so much time. Strike that; reverse it. On to the blogs!

Image result for we the people

Starting us off we have a pair of blogs that look broadly at the system that we have. Tom’s first post discusses checks and balances within our federal system, while Grace looks at the origins of the separation of powers expressed in our Constitution. Tom’s post looks at the question of: “why have checks and balances” in our American constitutional system? Tom examines how we got to our constitution, what the underlying ideals are, and how the system of checks and balances builds on these experiences to support these ideals. Grace’s post is a lovely exploration of the separation of powers inherent in the US’s constitutional system. She begins with Montesquieu’s theory, explaining his argument for separating governmental power into three branches. From here she relates Montesquieu’s theory to the actual US Constitution, with a spin through some of Madison’s own thoughts on separation of powers. Grace’s post is thoughtful in how it explores the Constitution and the ideas underling it.

Next we have another pair of posts, with each one looking at a specific recent Supreme Court case, while also asking much more expansive questions about what these cases mean for governmental power and how the government relates with the American people. For this pair Erin focuses on affirmative action and equal protection while Ben explores the Establishment Clause. Erin considers the place of equal opportunity in American law, using Fisher v. The University of Texas at Austin II as an entry into this broader discussion of equality. Erin presents a clear explanation of Fisher I and Fisher II, while offering her own insight into the place these cases hold within the broader American framework of equal opportunity. Ben’s post looks at the 2014 Supreme Court case Town of Greece v. Galloway. The case involves Establishment Clause challenges to prayer at a town hall meeting. Ben explains why the case is problematic, but more importantly, why the ruling is more respective of minority faiths when compared to past Establishment Clause rulings. He explains what the case got right, and why this is a good step for Establishment Clause ruling, all while being skeptical of similar governmental actions.

I’ll wrap up this first review with another pairing of posts. This pairing does not necessarily tie together quite so nicely as the other pairings. Rather, what unites these last two posts is a wider concern for rights, representation, and how, unfortunately, the government can use its power to exclude others from the political process and civil society (and how courts can, occasionally, step in and fix things). To get at these concerns Selma O. delves into voting rights, while Taylor discusses homeless populations and governmental efforts to displace these individuals. Selma’s blog post discusses voting rights in the United States. She focuses on the Court’s non-intervention in a 6th Circuit case involving Ohio’s recent action to limit its early voting period. Selma does a great job of explaining the changes, the legal challenge, what the courts did, and why this matters for American politics. Her post is thorough and addresses a hot topic that is even more important in an election year. Taylor’s post is about homeless populations, their struggles, and their rights. She addresses lawsuits filed on behalf of homeless populations that have had their makeshift camps and living spaces seized and cleared by various municipalities. But her post is so much more than just discussing some lawsuits and questioning American policies and priorities.

If this first round of posts is any indication of what is to come this semester, we are all in for some great reads. As always, I highly encourage anyone reading this to go check out the students’ posts. They are all terrific, and these students deserve to know that you are reading. Feel free to leave them comments or ask questions. Until next time, do justice.

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