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Course Descriptions

Course Descriptions

Civil Rights Law (Fall 2019)

  • Course Number: LAW-686
  • Class Number: 03349
  • Instructor: Clare Pastore

Course Description

This course is about the ways in which the Constitution and federal civil rights laws are enforced and implemented. It is an overview of various areas of civil rights law, with particular attention to litigation under 42 USC '1983, a Reconstruction-era law that remains the primary statutory tool for redress of constitutional violations by state actors. By looking at a variety of Section 1983 cases, especially in the areas of police misconduct and unconstitutional state laws, we will examine how these cases are litigated and defended. We will investigate the history of section 1983 and its treatment by the Supreme Court as well as the nuts and bolts of how to use the statute: proper defendants, venue, claims, remedies, defenses, immunities, and other procedural hurdles plaintiffs must clear.

We will also survey certain important civil rights statutes, in particular the Voting Rights Act, Title VII (employment discrimination) and Title VI (discrimination in federally funded programs) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In addition to those with an interest in civil rights, the course will be especially useful to students who plan to seek judicial clerkships or federal government work, since Section 1983 and other civil rights cases make up a significant portion of all cases in the federal courts.  The course will also touch on important themes in understanding the American political and legal system, such as federalism, state and federal sovereign immunity, and the role of race in American law.

There will be at least one and possibly two short writing assignments as well as an in-class final exam. This course counts toward the Public Interest Certificate.

Course Details

  • Unit Value: 3
  • Grading Options: Numerical Only
  • Exam: In-class, open-book exam
  • Writing Requirement: No
  • Skills/Experiential Unit Requirement: no