Law Schedule of Classes

NOTE: Course offerings change. Classes offered this semester may not be offered in future semesters.

236 sec. 001 - Capital Punishment and the Constitution Seminar (Spring 2020)

Instructor: Alison Bernstein  (view instructor's teaching evaluations - degree students only)
View all teaching evaluations for this course - degree students only

Units: 3

Due to COVID-19, law school classes were graded as credit/no pass in spring 2020.


    M 10:00 AM - 12:40 PM
    Location: Law 115
    From January 13, 2020
    To April 28, 2020

Course Start: January 13, 2020
Course End: April 28, 2020
Class Number: 32175

Enrollment info:
Enrolled: 16
Waitlisted: 0
Enroll Limit: 24
As of: 06/16 11:02 PM

The course offers an overview of federal constitutional law governing the death penalty, focusing primarily on the jurisprudence of the United States Supreme Court and the interpretation of the Eighth Amendment. Throughout the course we will identify the rules that govern how the death penalty is imposed, and examine how those rules developed in relation to larger societal and jurisprudential changes. We will ask how and if these rules promote a fair, rational, equitable and just use of the death penalty, and what changes, if any, should be made.

We will consider the following topics: historical development of death penalty jurisprudence and the challenges of arbitrariness; different statutory attempts to enact constitutional death penalty schemes; execution of those who commit non-homicide crimes, juveniles, the mentally retarded, and the insane; the effect of race on the administration of capital punishment; jury selection in capital cases; methods of execution; and clemency proceedings.

There will be an emphasis on class discussion. Attendance is mandatory. Students are expected to be prepared for class and participate in a critical discussion of the assigned readings and judicial opinions.

The course is designed for students, regardless of their views about the death penalty, who generally wish to learn more about the application of capital punishment in the United States, and methods of constitutional interpretation. The course will be particularly useful for students who are interested in a career in criminal law.

The casebook is Rivkind & Shatz, Cases and Materials on the Death Penalty, Fourth Edition (Thomson/Reuters 2016).

Attendance at the first class is mandatory for all currently enrolled and waitlisted students; any currently enrolled or waitlisted students who are not present on the first day of class (without prior permission of the instructor) will be dropped. The instructor will continue to take attendance throughout the add/drop period and anyone who moves off the waitlist into the class must continue to attend in order not to be dropped.

Requirements Satisfaction:

This is an Option 1 class; two Option 1 classes fulfill the J.D. writing requirement.

Exam Notes: (P) Final paper  
Course Category: Criminal Law
This course is listed in the following sub-categories:
Public Law and Policy

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Required Books are in blue

  • Cases and Materials on the Death Penalty
    Nina Rivkind, Steven Shatz
    ISBN: 9781634590419
    e-Book Available: unknown
    Copyright Date: To Be Determined
    Price: To Be Determined

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