Current Political and Moral Conflicts and the U.S. Constitution
General Catalog Course Title:
Legal Studies 39D, Section 1
Terms Offered:
Fall 2015
Fall 2014
Spring 2014
Fall 2013
Course Thread: 
Human Rights
Instructor: 
Pomerantz, Alan

The debate about morals has moved steadily into the realm of the Supreme Court, but people differ on what exactly the role of the Court should be. Some have strongly argued that the Court's interpretation and application of the Constitution have adversely affected our fundamental rights and usurped powers from other branches of government. This position claims the Court has created an "Imperial Judiciary." Others argue as strongly that the Court has acted properly to protect fundamental freedoms and individual rights in the face of unprecedented political and governmental efforts to limit them. This position claims the Court has, in fact, fulfilled the role envisioned for the Court by the Constitution. This seminar will follow the Socratic method in examining moral and political issues that have a constitutional basis and the Court's participation in the debate on topics such as gay rights (including gay marriage), gun control, abortion, privacy, symbolic speech, college speech codes, "hate" speech, euthanasia and racial profiling. We will read Supreme Court cases, as well as political and legal commentary from across the political spectrum, and consider not only the opinions of the Justices, but also why they hold those opinions. Students will be asked to develop and apply critical thinking skills and are expected to develop and support their own views and opinions regarding the relevant topics. This seminar may be used to satisfy the Philosophy and Values or Social and Behavioral Sciences breadth requirement in Letters and Science.

Alan J. Pomerantz, Esq., is a practicing lawyer and Senior Counsel at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, a major international law firm. A graduate of the NYU School of Law, he also studied in Chile and received an advanced legal degree from the University of Amsterdam (Netherlands). He has lectured and taught widely, including at the NYU School of Law, NYU College of Arts and Science, the University of Amsterdam, Columbia Graduate School, and the University of Concepcion (Chile). He has published numerous articles and contributed to several treatises on legal topics. Mr. Pomerantz is recognized by several peer publications as one of the world's leading lawyers. Mr. Pomerantz has participated in important and controversial matters affecting individual rights, including death penalty appeals, right of public artistic expression, right of privacy for acts of consenting adults, and numerous free speech cases.

For more detailed information about classes, please visit the UC Berkeley Online Schedule of Classes.