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Constitution 101

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In this lecture, OU political science professor Justin Wert explains some seemingly arcane terms in the Constitution: letters of mark and reprisal, bills of attainder, and titles of nobility. He argues that these forgotten parts of the Constitution reveal important features of American constitutional structure.

The great constitutional guarantees — equal protection, free speech, necessary and proper — have a storied history in American legal thought. But what of the parts of the constitution rarely or never used? The Third Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment's Privileges or Immunities clause, for instance, serve to remind us of the fundamental principles of American constitutionalism.

Why is there a Bill of Rights? The first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution – probably the best known, and perhaps the most important part of the Constitution – were not the product of the Philadelphia convention. The Bill of Rights are the great contribution of the faction who opposed the formation of the new federal government, the Anti-Federalists. Professor Paul Gilje explains how the legacy of American Revolution quickly became contested and how the Bill of Rights is a product of conflict.

Sovereign Immunity:  the legal concept that the state cannot be sued. In this lecture, professor Lindsay Robertson explores the fascinating story of how this concept, derived from the British crown, was adapted to the structures of the U.S. constitutional system.

We take for granted that candidates must be a certain age and fulfill requirements of citizenship and residency to run for national office. Dr. Lindsay Robertson explains how requirements for office before the Constitution in the states and Great Britain differed and how the founders designed our qualifications for office to be more radically democratic than any other at the time.

Why don't presidential candidates visit North Dakota?  Dr. Justin Wert explores that quirky American institution, the Electoral College. By exploring its origins and its mechanics, he argues that the institution is more than a historical curiosity. It is a product of distinctive ideas about executive power in the American constitutional system.

The First Amendment begins with "Congress shall make no law," yet today we routinely see its protections and others in the Bill of Rights applied not only to acts of Congress but also state laws. In this lecture, Dr. Lindsay Robertson explains how the Bill of Rights has been gradually incorporated to extend its protections to individuals against state governments.

Since the Supreme Court's assumption of the power of judicial review in Marbury v. Madison, legal theorists have tried to construct theories for how the Court should interpret the Constitution. Dr. Lindsay Robertson outlines two of the most prominent modern theories of constitutional interpretation: Originalism and the Living Constitution. He argues that both models of constitutional interpretation have strengths and limitations.

In this lecture, OU political science professor Justin Wert explores both the theoretical and practical dimensions of originalism as a mode of constitutional interpretation, with a particular focus on "the countermajoritarian difficulty" and the "passive virtues."

In the 225 years since the drafting of the Constitution, it has only been amended 27 times – only 17 times besides the Bill of Rights. There is an exceedingly high bar set for constitutional amendments which has prevented frequent use of the amendment process. Dr. Justin Wert explains the historical events which have at times led to the use of constitutional amendment.

The Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause is one of the iconic clauses of the Constitution. It has been the centerpiece of Supreme Court jurisprudence in desegregation, affirmative action, and voting rights. In this lecture, Dr. Lindsay Robertson outlines the levels of scrutiny used by the Supreme Court in evaluating Equal Protection cases.

The Constitution uses the word "person" 21 times. Today, the concept of personhood is at the center of disputes over abortion and corporate speech. Dr. Lindsay Robertson explains how the idea of a "person" in America has been interpreted from the ratification of the Constitution to the modern legal meaning under Roe v. Wade (1973) and Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010).