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The Court & the First Amendment

Two of the Supreme Court's most historically influential justices, early 20th Century judges Oliver Wendell Holmes and Louis Brandeis, repeatedly advocated for free speech during their time on the bench. University of Oklahoma law professor Rick Tepker focuses on the pair's impact.

In the second installment of his free speech series, OU professor Rick Tepker discusses a regrettable period in Supreme Court history, analyzing Dennis v. United States and Red Monday along the way.

In the final installment of professor Rick Tepker's series on free speech in America, Tepker discusses Brandenburg v. Ohio, and the Supreme Court's decision to consider specific intent when ruling in the case.

A profane example of a protest of the draft in the Vietnam era led to an influential opinion by one of the unsung heroes of the Supreme Court’s long struggle to give definition and reality to the constitutional promise of the First Amendment. Justice John Harlan was the great conservative dissenter of the Warren Court, but professor Rick Tepker argues the nation owes him a great debt for his careful judicial craftsmanship.

"The liberty of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a free state, but this consists in laying no previous restraints upon publications, and not in freedom from censure for criminal matter when published": so wrote the great English jurist William Blackstone. In this lecture, professor Rick Tepker explores the history of freedom of expression, from its beginnings through its considerable expansion across the 20th century.

Media law professor Robert Kerr discusses the hotly debated Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, and argues that the Court could not have ruled in favor of Citizens United if not for the lesser-known Bellotti v. Baird case of 1979.

The Court & Civil Rights

Prior to and after the Civil War, abolitionists and women's activists worked together to pursue equal rights. However, with the passage of the reconstruction amendments, women were left to pursue equality under the law more gradually over the next century. In this lecture, Dr. Lindsay Robertson explains the history and current Supreme Court jurisprudence of women's rights in constitutional law.

Professor Kathryn Schumaker examines the case of Bradwell v. Illinois, an 1873 Supreme Court ruling that further restricted the rights of women in America.

University of Oklahoma professor Kathryn Schumaker highlights three gender-related Supreme Court cases that took place from 1971-1976, and the key role future Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg played in a pivotal decade for women's rights.

In a decision that extends the blessings of privacy and equal protection to gay and lesbian citizens, OU professor Rick Tepker says Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy offered a controversial and problematic explanation that is still questioned even by advocates of homosexual equality.

Cicero, the Roman philosopher and champion of Republicanism, defined a commonwealth as any group of people who agree on law and have relatively common interests. But what happens when a commonwealth doesn't agree on legality, as is often the case in the United States?

All Americans, and indeed people all around the world, know the four famous warnings that now proceed custodial police interrogation. But where did they come from, and why do we have them? Professor Stephen Henderson explains.

In the early American republic, the Supreme Court, under the leadership of John Marshall, would decide a series of three cases – known as the Marshall Trilogy – that would be foundational in defining the framework within which the U.S. government would operate when interacting with sovereign Indian nations in the United States. In the first of the lectures, professor Lindsay Robertson explores the landmark decision in Johnson v. M'Intosh.

In the early American republic, the Supreme Court, under the leadership of John Marshall, would decide a series of three cases – known as the Marshall Trilogy – that would be foundational in defining the framework within which the U.S. government would operate when interacting with sovereign Indian nations in the United States. Professor Lindsay Robertson explores the second case, Cherokee Nation v. Georgia.

In the early American republic, the Supreme Court, under the leadership of John Marshall, would decide a series of three cases — known as the Marshall Trilogy — that would be foundational in defining the framework within which the U.S. government would operate when interacting with sovereign Indian nations in the United States. Professor Lindsay Robertson explores the third case, Worcester v. Georgia.

Since ratification of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, the Supreme Court has ruled in numerous landmark cases respecting race and the law. Sweatt v. Painter (1950), for example, helped to undermine the Court's decision in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) – and pave the way to Brown v. Board of Education (1954). Since that time, the Court has had to evaluate laws that do not overtly discriminate on the basis of race, but nonetheless have a disparate impact upon racial groups.

Lincoln's dreams of "a new birth of freedom" and a national constitutional law defining and enforcing liberty and equality suffered a tragic fate in early decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court that endured until the 20th century.

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 reconstruction amendments (13th, 14th, and 15th) were ratified to extend the equal rights of citizenship to freed slaves and to protect minorities against discrimination. But what of discrimination in favor of minorities? Dr. Lindsay Robertson explains the recent history of the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause as it is applied to affirmative action.

The institution of slavery hung over constitutional development in the early American republic, driving sectional division and leading ultimately to Civil War. In this lecture, professor Rick Tepker explores two cases – Prigg v. Pennsylvania and the Dred Scott case – which shaped constitutional jurisprudence in the antebellum period. He discusses how both of these notorious decisions ironically galvanized abolition and contributed to the election of Abraham Lincoln.

Professor Kathryn Schumaker delivers a lecture on Brown v. Board of Education. While the civil rights victory did not overturn Plessy v. Ferguson, it is still considered one of the most impactful Supreme Court decisions in American history.

One of the clearest examples of "original understanding" of the Fourteenth Amendment is the widespread belief and insistence that "equal protection" would not disturb state laws banning interracial marriage. Chief Justice Earl Warren put an end to this legacy of racism in a case that haunts all arguments that the Supreme Court must respect original meaning.

In this lecture, professor Kathryn Schumaker reviews the Supreme Court case McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents, and inspects the NAACP's strategy of pragmatism over conscience.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, the federal government confronted anew the fundamental question: what is freedom? The abolition of slavery was only the most obvious transformation, but hardly the only one. In this lecture, professor Rick Tepker explores the fate of civil rights in the Reconstruction period and beyond, looking at the Supreme Court cases which in fact would undermine the enfranchisement of African Americans for generations.

In this lecture, post-doctoral fellow Josh Zingher reviews Holder v. Shelby County, observing many states have already enacted strict voter ID laws since the 2013 ruling.

In 2013, a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was struck down by the Supreme Court. Political science professor Ronald Keith Gaddie examines the reasons and the consequences, and discusses the prospects for restoration.

University of Oklahoma history professor David Chappell, in his first of a two-part lecture, discusses the idea of personhood in the Constitution, focusing on the Dred Scott decision and citizenship in post-Civil War America.

In the second installment of his two-part lecture on personhood, professor David Chappell shifts from slavery to corporations, explaining how corporate bodies became people in the eyes of the Court.

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).

The Gears of Justice

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."

The dispute between originalists and living constitutionalists is one of the central issues in modern constitutional interpretation. Is the meaning of the constitution's text unchanging or does it evolve over time? Justin Wert discusses the historical context of living constitutionalism from the Lochner Era to the present day.

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.

Marbury vs. Madison was a landmark case that is still the foundation of judicial review. In this lecture, professor Lindsay Robertson takes us through the fascinating history behind the case and overviews its importance in American constitutional development.

An independent judiciary has become a cornerstone of American liberty. In this lecture, OU law professor Rick Tepker explores the history behind the emergence of an independent judiciary in the U.S. through the story of the impeachment and acquittal of Justice Samuel Chase.