There are several good constitutional law and civil rights and liberties textbooks on the market, so why create another? There was a confluence of factors that led to the creation of this volume. First, and most importantly, after many years of teaching a constitutional law series at a large public institution, it became apparent that the costs of the texts were a barrier to many students. Second, as texts were updated, the authors had to make choices about inclusion or exclusion of cases due to printing and publishing constraints. As such, some material that was pedagogically useful had to be jettisoned to include recent cases as the Court has changed doctrines in multiple areas recently. These two factors were the main motivations. Trailing behind them is the wonderful support and staff at Oregon State University’s Open Educational Resources unit. With their help, I knew that the volume would be useful and accessible to students.
To complete this volume, I worked with several excellent students that had completed the constitutional law series. We examined several other textbooks, and discussed which cases were critical and which were most helpful to them as they tried to understand the substantive material from the course. Together we built a plan for each chapter to include cases that are landmarks, and other cases that help build the profile of the doctrine so that there are guideposts as the doctrine shifts or changes. We read the full case and then selected the key components that related to the constitutional issue, focusing on the key facts, the constitutional questions, and the resolution of the case. We included dissents and concurring opinions where we agreed they were historically important, useful or provided a significantly different approach to the question. We have also included appendices that may help students place the cases in historical context. First, each case is hyperlinked by year to a table that indicates who was on the Court at the time of the decision, their appointing president, and that president’s political affiliation. When available, the table also includes the justices’ Martin Quinn scores for that year so that the ideological balance of the Court can be easily assessed. For these years, there is also a figure that provides these data in a visual format. Finally, there is a table and graph of the scores of the median justice for the years available, again using the Martin Quinn scores as our source.
To use this volume, I would approach it as any other constitutional law textbook; however, there is a significant difference. This volume, again, only contains excerpts. Unless the justices provide an introduction or make a strong connection to previous doctrine in the excerpt, these handholds between major cases are left to the instructor to elucidate. I have used this type of text before in a “rights of the criminally accused course” and it has been highly successful and pushes the students to make the connections as they read through the cases and discuss them in class.
We hope to update this text every other year. I plan to assign my students a group project to excerpt a recent important case that warrants inclusion in the volume. The best versions of these excerpts, with additional editing by me, will then be included in a new version.
A huge thank you to Petar Jeknic, Kimberly Clairmont, Sarah Mason and Alex Metzdorf for their hard work and dedication to this project. Petar was instrumental in the initial planning of the volume and Kimberly, Sarah, and Alex made sure I met my deadlines and did so with fabulous excerpts.
Rorie Solberg, Editor
Oregon State University