Course Overview


An introduction to American constitutional law consisting of the study of material from Supreme Court opinions. Readings will cover such topics as federalism, separation of powers, interstate commerce, personal liberty, and civil rights.


Read and analyze excerpts from various Supreme Court cases and write a summary of the judge’s opinion determining what the key issues are in each case.

Discover more about the legal profession through interviews with practitioners.

Take a practice LSAT test.

Observe the American judicial system through non-classroom experiences.

Course Instructor

Mr. Daniel Ostendorff
Assistant Professor of History & Political Science

Phone: (903) 233-3394
Office Hours: Drop-by on Tuesday & Thursday afternoons, by appointment only on Mon, Wed, & Fri.



Stnaley I. Kutler, The Supreme Court and the Constitution, 3rd Edition.


All assignments must be submitted via the course Blackboard site.

Weekly Meetings

Students will meet with the instructor once every week to discuss that week's briefs and to provide updates on course assignments.

Grading Rubric

Participation (15%)

As an indipendent study, participation credit comes from the following: attending the weekly group meetings to discuss your work, coming to these meetings well prepared, the required visits to observe trials/court process, and the requisite meetings with local lawyers.

Case Briefs(50%)

Over the course of the semester, students will submit 54 one-page briefs on the most significant Supreme Court cases in US history. These single-spaced, one-page briefs must include the following:(1) An explanation of the background (facts) of the case, (2)A clear statement about the constitutional question which arises from the case, (3) A summary of the opinion of the court (this is usually the longest portion of the brief), (4) and the holding, which answers the question restating it in either the negative or the positive.

Briefs will be worth 10 points a piece and comprise the major portion of your grade for this course. Click here to view a sample brief.

LSAT Practice Exams (10%)

Over the course of the semester, students will take 2 practice LSAT exams (with an optional 3rd exam). These exams will be grading on participation only.

Court Visits (10%)

Students must attend 2 trials and write a 3-5 page paper on what they saw and observed. The Office of Academic Affairs will issue excused absenses for these visits. Students are expected to dress in business attire appropriate for a professional setting. .

Interviews (15%)

Students must interview 3 lawyers during the course of the semester about the legal profession, law school, and what it means to them to be a Christian practicing law. These lawyers should all be practicing different areas of law. Students are then required to write a 3-5 page paper reflecting on what they learned from these interviews.


Participation 15%
Case Briefs 50%
LSAT Exams 10%
Court Visits 10%
Interviews 15%
TOTAL: 100%

Policies & Expectations

Attendance & Participation

Students are expected to be present at all class related activities - weekly meetings, LSAT exams, etc. Students are expected to come prepared to engage. If a student is present, but unprepared to engage in discussion, their attendance will be treated as though they were absent. Students who are absent from weekly meetings will loose 1/2 a letter grade for every 2 absences.

Late Assignments

Late assignments are due upon the student’s return to class following a University approved absence. The late submission of papers, for non-excused absences, will receive a letter grade penalty for each day after the deadline. No work will be accepted after 1 week. Daily quizzes, tests, and exams cannot be made up, except for when missed due to a University approved absence. When at all possible, these should be taken prior to a planned University absence.

Integrity & Honesty

It is expected that each student will submit work and exams that reflect their own thinking and knowledge of the material. This is central to a life of Christ-like integrity and honesty. Collaborative work is encouraged, but the final product must be each individual student's work. Any work that is not original to the student must be properly cited (i.e. direct quotations, specific information, etc.). Work that is copied or not original to the student which does not include a clear and complete citation will be considered plagiarized and, in the case of an exam, cheating. Instances of plagiarism/cheating will be handled according to university policy, as well as receive a zero (0%) on the given assignment. God has equipped each of us with the ability to accomplish the tasks he sets before us - including the work required for this course.

LETU Email

Your LeTourneau University email account is an official avenue for communication. You should check your email daily for course updates and other helpful information.

LETU Ethics Statement

A foundation of mutual trust is essential to the learning community. That trust is broken when the standards of right and wrong that all students and faculty are expected to uphold are violated. Academic dishonesty is a serious breach of trust within the LeTourneau University community because it violates the regard for truth essential to genuine learning and Christian consistency. From a broader perspective, it hurts all students and their peers who try to do their work with integrity. Therefore, it cannot be tolerated by the University. Given the serious nature of academic dishonesty, a student experiencing particular difficulties in a course is encouraged to discuss the problem with the instructor rather than succumb to the pressure to commit academic dishonesty.

Academic dishonesty is not qualitatively different from other types of dishonesty. It consists of misrepresentation in an attempt to deceive. In an academic setting, this may take any number of forms: copying work, plagiarizing the work of others, use of work from a previous course, looking at another students exam answers, etc. If academic dishonesty is found, a student will receive a zero for the assignment in the first instance. If a second instance occurs, the student will receive a zero for the entire course.

Consult the LETU student handbook for detailed information on academic honesty and the appeals process.

LETU Disability Statement

Students enrolled in an institution of higher education are required to self- identify if they would like to request academic support services on the basis of a disability. LeTourneau University encourages a student with a disability to self-identify after admission and to provide required documentation to the Office of Student Support Services. The office may be reached by calling (903) 233-4400 or emailing

LETU Grievance Policy

If you feel that you have been treated unfairly or if you have any questions or concerns, please talk to me. I will do everything in my power to resolve any disagreements or misunderstandings. If you still feel that your rights as a student have been violated, please visit Complaints for full university policy and procedure on the filing of a grievance.


Week 1 (Jan 11-15) - Introduction

Week 2 (Jan 18-22) - The Marshall Era (Prof. O)

Briefs due: (1) Marbury vs. Madison, (2) Martin v. Hunter's Lessee, (3) McCulloch v. Maryland, (4) Dartmouth College v. Woodward

Week 3 (Jan 25-29) - LSAT TEST

First LSAT prep test will be taken this week.

Week 4 (Feb 1-5) - The Taney Era (Prof. O)

Briefs due: (1) Luther v. Borden, (2) The Passenger Cases, (3) Prigg v. Pennsylvania, (4) Dred Scott v. Sandford

Week 5 (Feb 8-12) - The Civil War & Reconstruction (Ms. Randow)

Briefs due: (1) Ex Parte Milligan, (2) Cummings v. Missouri, (3) Civil Rights Cases, (4) Plessy v. Ferguson
Due: Your Schedule for Court Visits

Week 6 (Feb 15-19) - 1873-1917

Briefs due: (1) Slaughter-House Cases, (2) Houston, East and West Texas Ry. Co. v. United States, (3) Lochner v. New York, (4) Muller v. Oregon

Week 7 (Feb 22-26) - 1917-1933

Briefs due: (1) Schenck v. United States, (2) Gitlow v. New York, (3) Hammer v. Dagenhart, (4) Wolff Packing Co. v. Court of Industrial Relations

Week 8 (Feb 29-Mar 4) - LSAT TEST

Second LSAT prep test will be taken this week.


Week 10 (MAR 14-18) - Judicial Power & Constitutional Change, Pt. 1

Briefs due: (1) Nebbia v. New York, (2) Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States, (3) Carter v. Carter Coal Co. (4) United States v. Darby Lumber Co.

Week 11 - Judicial Power & Constitutional Change, Pt. 2

Briefs due: (1) National Labor Relations Board v. Jones Laughlin Steel Corp. (2) Wickard v. Filburn, (3) Katzenbach v. McClung

Week 12 - Freedom of Expression and Liberty

Briefs due: (1) Dennis v. United States (2) Cox v. Louisiana, (3) Buckley v. Valeo, (4) Tinker v. Des Moines School District

Week 13 - First Ammendment - Freedom of the Press & Obscenity (J. Swain)

Briefs due: (1) Near v. Minnesota, (2) New Times Co. v. Sullivan, (3) A Book Named [Fanny Hill] v. Attorney General of Massachusetts, (4) Ginzburg v. United States; Mishkin v. New York

Week 14 - Freedom of - and from - Religion (J. Swain)

Briefs due: (1) West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, (2) Zorach v. Clauson, (3) Engle v. Vitale, (4) Wisconsin v. Yoder

Week 15 - Racial Discrimination (J. Swain)

Briefs due: (1) Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, (2) Cooper v. Aaron, (3) Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States, (4) Baker v. Carr

Week 16 - Student's DECISION: IMMIGRATION LAW (with prof. moland)

Briefs due: (1) Plyer v. Doe, (2) Sale v. Haitian Centers Council, (3) ONE of the following: Yick Wo v. Hopkins OR United States v. Ju Toy
Also read: US v. Texas (2016)

Week 17 - Final Exam WEek

Oral Final Exam