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Federalism Seminar

This seminar examines "the oldest question of constitutional law" in the United States: the allocation of authority between national and state governments. We will explore the historical underpinnings and normative theories of federalism, evaluate the Supreme Court's federalism doctrines, and consider the role of federalism in contemporary political/social issues. Specific topics include: What is the value of a federal system? Are states even necessary to securing the benefits attributed to our federal structure? What was the original understanding of the scope of federal power? To what extent should this original understanding inform judicial decision making today, given changes in our country (and in the international arena) over the past 200 years? Do the Supreme Court's federalism rulings actually limit federal power and protect states" rights? Do the Court's rulings comport with normative theories of federalism? To what extent do they track (or mask) the substantive policy preferences of the Justices? Who should be primarily responsible for safeguarding federalism? What is the relationship between federalism and individual rights? What role does federalism play in contemporary debates on issues such as same-sex marriage, medical marijuana, and immigration? Though the focus of the seminar is on American federalism, students will (briefly) consider federalism in comparative context. Enrollment limited.