Civil Rights Litigation Seminar

Course Catalog Number:
Course Credits:
Course Type:
Course Priority:
Seminar - 3rd Year Priority
Graduation Requirements:
Upper-Level Writing
"W" Writing
Full Year Course:

Course Description

This seminar will be a historical consideration of civil rights litigation in the United States. Our goal will be to understand the long history of segregation as it was created by legislatures and then supported by Courts, and how these precedents were reversed through litigation and other strategies. We will read classic cases on race, from the 19th and early 20th centuries, learning how the Supreme Court developed its segregation doctrines. We will simultaneously look at litigation strategies by abolitionists before the Civil War and civil rights activists in the late nineteenth century. We will then turn to the creation of the NAACP and see how it became the leading engine of civil rights litigation. This will lead to the long struggle for an end to segregation, culminating in Brown v. Board of Education (1954). Part of our focus will be on Thurgood Marshall as a lawyer. We will look at NAACP integration strategies along with more activist civil rights strategies by Martin Luther King and others. This part of the course will also look at federal actions on civil rights after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and other civil rights laws. Readings will include some cases -- often in full text -- the classic book Simple Justice, a biography of Marshall, and writings by King and others. Our consistent focus will be on (1) what this history teaches us about attorneys’ litigation strategies and (2) what overarching limits there may be on attaining fundamental change through the litigation process.