PLS/CJ 430

Constitutional Safeguards and Individual Liberties

PLS / CJ 430 Civil Liberties

Fall 2020 [8/31/20 - 12/19/20]

Mon/Wed 2-3:20 pm Online via Zoom
(Zoom Classroom information on
Moodle course page)


Course Description: Investigation of the origins of the U.S. Constitution and its amendments (from the standpoints of criminal justice and law enforcement for CJ). Emphasis on studying and clarifying effects of U.S. Supreme Court decisions and how they relate to society. Prerequisite: CJ 101.

Instructor: Shawn Newman, J.D. (short bio & contact information)

Office Hours: In addition to being available before class and after class via Zoom, I am also available by appointment and via email at snewman@stmartin.edu. I try to respond to emails within 24 hours. Note these etiquette tips for emailing your professor and submitting materials.

Required Texts (in addition to weekly supplemental materials):

Optional & FYI: Professor Newman Subject Matter Index

Optional & FYI: Professor Newman's YouTube Station

Founding Principles - Bowdoin College Civil Liberties

Professor Newman's Supreme Court Arguments and debates:

Course Objectives:

  • Explain the origins of the U.S. Constitution and its amendments.

  • Analyze the sources of American law (federal, state and local) as they apply to civil liberties.

  • Compare and contract civil liberties and civil rights.

  • Identify and assess the problems created by the Articles of Confederation and explain how the Constitution addressed those problems.

  • Distinguish the original intent of the Founding Fathers with how specific amendments are interpreted by the SCOTUS.

  • Summarize how federalism applies to civil liberties.

  • Follow the historical paths used by the proponents of civil rights.

  • Discuss current issues regarding civil rights (e.g. religion, gay marriage & employment, health care, housing, income).

Grade determination method: 700 points total. Grades and feedback provided within one week after due date. Total: 700 points

  • 5 Exams @ 100/each = 500 total

  • Presentation/Debates = 100 points.

  • Active attendance via Zoom video = 100 points

Teaching Philosophy: My job is to help you develop legal knowledge and skills that will make you successful in YOUR career. This class focuses on civil rights literacy. It is your responsibility to be prepared for class and to complete all assignments on time. I have listed reading assignments, exams and presentations/debates for each week below. Please note that I reserve the option to modify the schedule and frequently add content to the syllabus based on current events. Classes are conducted based on the assumption that students have PRE-READ the material for that day's class; all material is subject to class discussion - including any articles I send.

Academic Policy: SMU Academic Policies and Procedures regarding academic dishonesty can be found in the undergraduate student catalog. I do not give mulligans (re-dos/extra credit) or incompletes and absences, regardless of reason, are recorded as absences.

Need Help? Information on student support offices, including academic support, counseling, health and disability support services can be found in the undergraduate student catalog. Students are responsible for working with disability services to provide me notice of any necessary accommodations. For technology help, contact the Help Desk or the Computer Resource Center.

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Syllabus will be on Moodle - log in here