In its first year, the Trump Administration faced an unprecedented number of legal challenges to the constitutionality of its actions. These cases raised many important questions about the strategy, mechanics, and complexities of litigating and defending constitutional claims against the President. They also shed light on the extent to which constitutional litigation under the current administration is unique.
In this seminar, we will study major challenges to the Trump Administration as a vehicle for exploring the fundamentals of constitutional litigation. We will place special emphasis on the key strategic judgments made by parties, and courts, over the course of each case. In addition, we will seek to identify common themes in the filings and opinions that we study, and will aim to appreciate ways in which constitutional litigation against the Trump Administration has been similar to (and different from) cases against prior administrations. Students will acquire an understanding of key players in constitutional cases as we study their goals and tactics. They will also develop an informed and critical perspective on major cases against President Trump, drawing on insights from diverse viewpoints.
The seminar will begin with a thematic overview of constitutional litigation against the Trump Administration. We will then explore, at length, litigation over President Trump's series of travel bans. Building from that foundation, we will address a broad array of cases. In Spring 2018, we covered: (1) military service by transgender individuals; (2) presidential compliance with the Emoluments Clauses; (3) the rescission of DACA; (4) President Trump's decision to block certain individuals on Twitter; (5) abortion rights of undocumented migrant juveniles; (6) sanctuary cities; and (7) changes to the 2020 Census. Along the way, we touched on many other cases against Trump. While we likely will cover many of these topics in Spring 2019, we will update the syllabus as appropriate in light of ongoing developments.
Each week, students will study relevant court pleadings and opinions, from district courts all the way to the Supreme Court. They will also read contemporaneous legal commentary that offers varied perspectives on key issues and themes.
- Introduce students to the fundamentals of constitutional litigation, from its inception through appeal.
- Understand the ways in which claims and defenses may evolve throughout the course of litigation and proceed as a conversation between lower courts, courts of appeals, the Executive Branch, and Congress.
- Learn to analyze and critique actual pleadings, with an eye towards the parties’ litigation strategy, goals, and hurdles.
- Learn to analyze and critique judicial opinions on constitutional claims over the course of an entire litigation (rather than just reading the Supreme Court ruling), linking this skill to a refined appreciation of the judicial role and the rule of law.
- Understand the aspects of modern constitutional challenges that have been common to earlier constitutional litigation against the federal government, as well as the features of the present landscape that are remarkable or unique.
- Draw upon cutting-edge legal scholarship to analyze trends in constitutional litigation under the Trump Administration.