Civil Rights and Liberties
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Civil Rights and Liberties

October 27, 2019

[music plays]>>Dr. Wert: There are few TV
shows in America as iconic as Law & Order. We know the arch. In the first half of the
show, the police get their man, the district attorney charges him, and then celebrates
with a scotch. But then a knock at the door, and over the next half hour a legal motion
recasts a seemingly easy case as implicating some of the most important rights
guaranteed by the Constitution: freedom of speech, free exercise of religion, or an improper
search or seizure. In this class we’ll not only read, analyze, and explain the cases that
make Law & Order such a compelling drama, we’ll also try to make sense of the political
as well as legal changes that made those cases possible. This course examines Supreme Court
decisions concerning the development of the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th and 14th Amendments
to the United States Constitution. We will look specifically at the Establishment and
Free Exercise Clause; free speech, including obscene speech and pornography; the 4th Amendment’s guarantees against unreasonable searches and seizures; the 5th Amendment right against
self-incrimination; the 8th Amendment prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment, as well
as related cases that have recognized rights of historically marginalized groups
in United States history, including African-Americans, women, and sexual minorities. We’ll pay
particular attention to how the Supreme Court has developed arguments which have both expanded
and contracted rights and liberties. We’ll also pay attention to larger political context
apart from court decisions that contribute to the overall development of what we understand
to be civil rights and civil liberties in the United States. But understanding the content
and development of the legal and political foundations of those rights will pay dividends
for anyone who values them. So join me as we delve into the Bill of Rights, and discover
the fascinating world of civil rights and civil liberties. I’m Justin Wert, Associate
Second Century Presidential Professor of Political Science at the University of Oklahoma; I’ll
be your professor for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

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