Constitutional Law

In this Assignment, you will choose a constitutional right that you have learned about. Then, you will choose an issue related to that right that you want to learn more about and develop a specific question that you would like to learn about and answer. The issue and question can be anything related to the constitutional rights that we have covered so far in the course, but it cannot be something that is answered in the assigned materials. For example, your question cannot be “Does the Second Amendment provide an individual with the right to possess a handgun in their home?” That question was answered by District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008). You would need to come up with some related issue that was not answered, like “Does the Second Amendment provide an individual with the right to possess a handgun outside of their home?”

Next, you will do some research using lower federal court decisions (meaning Federal Circuit Courts of Appeals, and Federal District Courts) to obtain the information you need to answer your question. You may find that you need to amend your question as you start researching to fit in with the information you find, and that is fine. You will need to ultimately have a question that you can answer directly by researching federal court cases. It is not acceptable to submit a response that says “Federal courts have not addressed this issue.”

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There are a wide range of examples that you can use. You could look into what weapons courts have determined to be “unusual and dangerous,” or how courts have applied equal protection to classifications that we did not expressly address like sexual orientation or transgender, or whether post-deprivation relief is sufficient for procedural due process in a particular situation, or if a particular type of governmental action is considered a takins or not, or what types of restrictions courts have determined to be an undue burden on obtaining an abortion, or what limitations on the right to refuse lifesaving treatment are constitutional, or the rights of parents in child custody matters, or whether some particular governmental action “shocks the conscience.”

The list is endless, and you should pick something that interests you to learn more about and then develop some specific question about it to answer. It does not have to be anything noted here. It can be something completely different. These are just some examples to give you some ideas. If you are unsure whether or not something you are interested in will work, email your professor.

Remember that lower court decisions only apply in the federal judicial district from which they issue, so you may well find some variations from one federal circuit to the next. You can address this by either explaining the variations in the different circuits, or just answering the question for one particular circuit and noting that in your answer.

For example, let’s say hypothetically that a federal district court in Illinois (the 7th Circuit) rules that a state law that requires a 48-hour waiting period before a woman can obtain an abortion is not an undue burden under Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, but then you find an 11th Circuit Court of Appeals decision that rules that a 48-hour waiting period is an undue burden. Recall that the Supreme Court in Casey determined that the 24-hour waiting period at issue in that case was not an undue burden. You could address these differing opinions by explaining how the decisions you found are different, and why the courts came to different conclusions. Did they interpret Casey’s undue burden requirements differently, or were there different facts that explained the different outcomes? Or, you could just pick one of these judicial circuits to focus on and answer your question based on the decision in that judicial circuit (the 7th or 11th in our hypothetical example), and explain how that court applied the undue burden standard. Then, just note that you are limiting your search to one judicial district in your answer.

Assignment

Your submission for this Assignment should:

1. Clearly state a question that is capable of a direct answer. The answer cannot be that federal courts have not answered the question or addressed the issue.

2. Provide an answer to the question that clearly explains the legal standards that courts have applied to the issue, and notes the Supreme Court decisions that the lower courts interpreted in doing so.

3. Analyze the legal standards by applying them in a way that answers your question, and provides an adequate explanation that allows the reader to understand the reasons behind the answer to the question, and the court decisions you relied upon.

4. States a clear and understandable conclusion that provides a direct and logical answer to the question.

5. Provides citations in appropriate places using an appropriate format. This must be in Blue Book Citation

The format and length of your submission is up to you and will depend on the question that you are answering. You should try to stay within 3 to 5 double spaced pages just to gauge the amount of time you spend on the Assignment, but it may be more or less than that.

Your answer will be assessed based upon the grading rubric and the school’s grading scale. Be sure to review the rubric before you start answering the Assignment.

Remember that the explanations are important. Just stating a question and a short answer won’t garner many points. For example, going back to our undue burden hypothetical, a question of “Does a 48-hour waiting period pose an undue burden on a women’s right to obtain an abortion?” is fine. But, your answer needs to say more than just, “In Jones v. State, the federal district court in Illinois said that a 48-hour waiting period did not pose an undue burden, so the answer is no in the Seventh Circuit.” That answer would not receive many points on the rubric. It does clearly state the question, and it has a conclusion that answers it, but it won’t receive any points for the explanations of the legal standards and analysis. Instead, the answer needs to go through the requirements of the undue burden standard, discuss the Casey decision and why it determined that 24 hours was not an undue burden, and discuss the district court decision and explain why it determined that 48 hours was also not an undue burden.

Must be your own work

The information you provide to answer your question needs to be your own original explanations of the legal standards from court decisions and how they apply to your question. The information should not be copied from some other source, including law reviews or internet sources. You can rely on other sources to help you find and understand the information, but your answer needs to be your interpretation and explanation of the cases and the legal standards that come from them, not someone else’s.

Be sure to cite to the cases that you rely upon in your answer.

Grading Rubric

Criteria 1

Level III Max Points

Points: 10

Level II Max Points

Points: 7

Level I Max Points

Points: 4

Not Present

0 Points

Framing of Question

States a clear and specific question that is capable of a direct answer.
Identifies all or nearly all of the relevant issues to address for the question posed in the answer.

States a question that is somewhat clear and capable of a direct answer.
Identifies most of the relevant issues to address for the question posed in the answer.

Does not clearly state a question that is capable of a direct answer.
Identifies few of the relevant issues to address.

Does not meet the requirements.

Criteria 2

Level III Max Points

Points: 20

Level II Max Points

Points: 14

Level I Max Points

Points: 8

Not Present

0 Points

Explains Legal Standards

Explains the legal standards that lower courts have applied to the question clearly and accurately.

Includes all or nearly all of the Supreme Court decisions that the lower courts have interpreted in developing the legal standards.

Explains the legal standards that lower courts have applied to the question. somewhat clearly and accurately.
Includes most of the Supreme Court decisions that the lower courts have interpreted in developing the legal standards.

Explains few of the relevant legal standards that lower courts have applied to the question.
Includes few of the Supreme Court decisions that the lower courts have interpreted in developing the legal standards.

Does not meet the requirements.

Criteria 3

Level III Max Points

Points: 50

Level II Max Points

Points:35

Level I Max Points

Points: 20

Not Present

0 Points

Analyzes Constitutional Principles

Objectively analyzes all or nearly all of the issues raised in the question posed in the answer.
Analyzes all or nearly all of the legal standards by applying them in a way that answers the question.
Provides an explanation that allows the reader to understand the reasons for the answer to the question.
Includes a clear conclusion that provides a direct and logical answer to the question.

Objectively analyzes most of the issues raised in the question posed in the answer.
Analyzes most of the legal standards by applying them in a way that answers the question.
Provides an explanation that somewhat allows the reader to understand the reasons for the answer to the question.
Includes a somewhat clear conclusion that provides a direct and logical answer to the question.

· Objectively analyzes few of the issues raised in the question posed in the answer.

· Analyzes few of the legal standards by applying them in a way that answers the question.

· Provides an explanation, but it does not allow the reader to understand the reasons for the answer to the question.

· · Includes a conclusion that does not provide a clear or logical answer to the question.

Does not meet the requirements.

Criteria 4

Level III Max Points

Points: 10

Level II Max Points

Points: 7

Level I Max Points

Points: 4

Not Present

0 Points

Writing Quality

Writes a memo that:

Is consistently clear and understandable.
Provides an original analysis or explanation and does not merely copy and paste information from another source.
Is consistently well organized and includes appropriate headings and subheadings to highlight issues and answers to questions throughout all or nearly all of the answer.
Is consistently well-written and uses an appropriate tone for professional writing.
Has no or almost no grammatical or spelling errors.

Writes a memo that:

Is generally clear and understandable.
Provides an original analysis or explanation and does not merely copy and paste information from another source.
Is somewhat organized and includes appropriate headings and subheadings to highlight issues and answers to questions throughout most of the answer.
Is mostly well-written and uses an appropriate tone for professional writing.
Has some grammatical or spelling errors.

Writes a memo that:

Has few parts that are clear and understandable.
Does not provide an original analysis or explanation and are mostly information copied and pasted from another source.
Is not well-organized and has few headings and subheadings to highlight issues and answers to questions.
Is generally not very well- written.
Has numerous grammatical or spelling errors

Does not meet the requirements.

Criteria 5

Level III Max Points

Points: 10

Level II Max Points

Points: 7

Level I Max Points

Points: 4

Not Present

0 Points

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