Constitutional Law II

B668 is taught by D. Conkle, D. Johnsen, S. Williams


This course will focus on the First Amendment. We will spend the first 75-80% of the semester examining freedom of speech, including issues that arise from attempts to prohibit or regulate incitement to violence, "fighting words," defamation, racist speech, obscenity, pornography, offensive expression, and commercial speech. We also will discuss special problems that are posed by prior restraints on expression, by the regulation of symbolic acts of communication (such as flag burning), and by limitations on the use of such public areas as parks and streets. The remainder of the course will focus on the religion clauses of the First Amendment. Among other cases, we will consider the Supreme Court's decisions concerning school prayer, the teaching of evolution, public sponsorship of Christmas nativity scenes and Ten Commandments displays, governmental funding programs that include private religious schools, and the application of drug laws to the sacramental use of peyote by Native Americans.

We will be using Kathleen M. Sullivan and Noah Feldman, Constitutional Law, 19th Edition (Foundation Press, 2016), supplemented by the authors# supplement and/or a small packet of additional course materials. The course will include both lecture and discussion. Constitutional Law I (first-year Constitutional Law) is a prerequisite, although there is no direct connection between this course and any particular section of Constitutional Law I, and it does not matter who you had as your professor for that course.

This course covers issues that are important for any lawyer. Indeed, the First Amendment is a required subject at many law schools.


This course on the First Amendment explores issues of freedom of expression and religion. Enrollment is limited to twenty students. In addition to the substantive study of First Amendment issues, this course offers an opportunity to improve writing skills and engage in extensive class discussion. Several writing assignments will be due throughout the semester based on assigned reading (no independent research). The first graded assignment will involve rewriting the paper after extensive feedback provided in an individual meeting with the professor. The class also involves extensive class discussion of a range of consequential, often controversial, speech and religion issues. Approximately three quarters of the semester will be devoted to freedom of expression including: speech that advocates unlawful or subversive activity including regarding war and terrorism, threats, defamation, #fighting words,# offensive expression, pornography, obscenity, hate speech, commercial speech, the regulation of campaign contributions and expenditures by individuals and corporations, restrictions on violent video games and depictions of animal cruelty, symbolic expression such as flag burning and cross burning, and special issues posed by limitations on the use of public areas (such as parks and streets), public funds, and the Internet. Approximately the last quarter of the semester focuses on the religion clauses: the Establishment Clause (including school prayer and other religious expression in public schools, the public funding of religious entities, and religious displays on public property) and the Free Exercise Clause (including religious claims for exemptions from civil rights and health care laws). The course satisfies the advanced writing requirement for graduation. No exam.