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Democracy & Dissent Course


"Discord in the service of harmony"

Students embark on a thought-provoking journey through the corridors of the U.S. Supreme Court with our new course, "Democracy & Dissent." As an integral part of BWL's Constructive Dialogue Initiative, this course delves into the heart of the First Amendment – freedom of speech – through a meticulous examination of key Supreme Court opinions.

Taught by two practicing attorneys, Michael Gollub, Esq. & Steven J. Horowitz, Esq.,  students explore the dynamic interplay between majority and dissenting opinions, recognizing their pivotal role in shaping the fabric of democracy. The course delves into the wisdom of influential justices such as the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Chief Justice John Roberts, who emphasize the transformative potential of dissent in the evolution of legal principles.

Throughout the semester, students unravel the intricacies of legal opinions by studying landmark cases and relevant Law Review articles, and gain profound insights into the rhetorical dialogue between majority and dissent, shedding light on the nuanced evolution of legal doctrines.

Course Topics:

  1. Freedom of Expression/Speech, Constructive Dialogue, and its Role in Democracy
  2. Anatomy of a Supreme Court Opinion
  3. The Role and Function of a Dissenting Opinion
  4. The First Amendment
  5. Equal Protection: Segregation
  6. Equal Protection: Affirmative Action
  7. Right to Privacy/Substantive Due Process: Abortion
  8. Constructive Dialogue: Civil v. Uncivil Discourse

Key Readings:

U.S. Const. art. VII, amend. I.;

Mary Anne Franks, Freedom of Speech, Power and Democracy, 20 Georgetown J. Law & Pub. Pol. Issue S, 865 (2022)

Jeffrey Rosen, From Jefferson to Brandeis:The First Amendment, the Declaration, and the Constitution, Remarks at the Nat’l Const. Centr. (May 2, 2022) 

ABA’s How to Read a U.S. Supreme Court Opinion (2022) 

Excerpts from Lani Guinier, Forward: Demosprudence Through Dissent, Harvard L. Review 122, No. I (2008)

Excerpts from Mark A. Hannah & Susie Salmon, Against the Grain: The Secret Role of Dissents in Integrating Rhetoric Across the Curriculum, 20 Nev.L.J. 935 (2020)

Excerpts from Matthew Bergman,  Dissent in the Judicial Process: Discord in Svc. of Harmony, 68 Denver Law Rev. 79 (1991)

Excerpts from M. Todd Henderson, From Seriatim to Consensus & Back again: A Theory of Dissent, U. Chicago Law, John M. Olin Law Working Paper No. 363 (2d Series) (Oct. 2007)

Excerpts from Melvin I. Urofsky, Dissent and the Supreme Court, (First Vint. Books 2017)

Alexandra Natapoff, Constitutional Rights in Black & White, A Video Casebook, How Criminal Law Evolves: From Bowers to Lawrence (with a Dobbs postscript) Module (Harvard 2023)

Schenk v. United States 249 U.S. (1919)

Abrams v. United States 250 U.S. 616 (1919)

Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357 (1927)

David Adler, The Abrams Dissent: New Life for Freedom of Speech (2022)

Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896)

Brown v. Bd. of Ed., 347 U.S. 483 (1954)

Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973)

Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992)

Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Org., No. 10-1392, 597 U.S. ___, 142 S.Ct. 228 (2022)

Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 206 (2003)

Fisher v. Univ. of Texas, 590 U.S. 297 (2013) (“Fisher I”)

Fisher v. Univ. of Texas, 597 U.S. ___  (2016) (“Fisher II”)

Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President & Fellows of Harvard, No. 20-1199, __ U.S. __ (2023)

Bill Kuhn, How to End Self-Censorship in U.S, High Schools, Bloomberg Online, (2023)

Excerpts from Greg Lukianoff & Rikki Schlott, The Canceling of the American Mind (Simon & Schuster 2023).