FALL 2009

“Although we may never know with certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.”

-Bush v. Gore, Justice Stevens’ dissenting opinion


“I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.”

-Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail”










Home (click here for the RSU Homepage)






Back to Dr. Ford's Home Page


Examination of global philosophical issues related to law and politics, focusing on the relationship between law and morality, the nature and functions of law, traditional concepts of justice, and contemporary discussions of political legitimacy.


By faithfully completing all the reading assignments, successfully writing the three essays, and actively participating in the discussions, you should be able to do the following by the end of the semester:

  • Recognize important philosophical issues surrounding the law.
  • Explain fundamental concepts in the philosophy of law.
  • Articulate and criticize major philosophical debates about the relationship between law and morality.
  • Evaluate traditional conceptions of the nature of justice.


This course will emphasize discussion and writing. I will regularly suggest questions pertaining to the material we will be discussing in the following class. Students should come to class prepared to address these questions. Always bring your books to class.

There will be three three-page critical essays (approximately 1000 words each), one presentation/performance, a midterm, and a final exam. Each paper is worth 10% of your final grade; the oral performance, 10%; participation, 20%; the midterm, 20%; and the final, 20%.

All essays must be typed and double-spaced, with margins of 1.25 inches. Three pages means three full pages. Unexcused late work will be penalized 10% per day. All essays are due at the beginning of the class period. Due dates for the essays are listed in the course schedule, below. Further details on the nature of these essays, as well as of the midterm and final exams, will be given in class.

This is an upper-division course. As such, it will require a great deal of work on your part. The readings are often difficult, sometimes long, and occasionally both. All essays should be polished, well-written, and persuasive. You should plan to devote 8-10 hours per week to your work in this course, in addition to the scheduled class meetings.


All student work will be judged according to the following academic criteria:

  • Evidence of creative or innovative thinking.
  • Depth of critical thinking and observation.
  • Accuracy of information.
  • Organization and clarity of thoughts.
  • Fidelity of work (no plagiarism, cheating, etc.).
  • Basic writing mechanics.


Every student will be assigned to a group of students later in the semester. Those students will constitute a group of Supreme Court Justices ruling on a particular issue. Each group should begin by making a 7-10 minute presentation, and will then lead the class in discussion of the issue for the rest of the period. This presentation is 10% of your grade. Every member of the group must be in class the day of the presentation. Every student will also write an opinion for the issue in question (this is the third of the three required essays), which will eventually become either the majority opinion (the decision of the court), a concurrence, or a dissent. Further information on  these presentations will be given in class.


            This course will meet in the classroom every Tuesday. Students will access the WebCT portion regularly in between the Tuesday class meetings. Students must have internet access (either at home or at the university) and participate fully in the WebCT portion of the course.



My office hours are listed above. Please feel free to come by, call, etc., during those hours. If that doesn’t work, I would be happy to schedule an appointment at another time. Communication by email is especially welcome (moderation in this, as in all things...).

Finally, realize that it is not unusual for a course like this one to raise challenges to and doubts about some of our most cherished beliefs. It is important that each of us is sensitive to the views of those around us. At the same time, each of us should also be aware that controversial issues, arguments, and positions will be discussed in this course. If something bothers or offends you, let me know and I will do what I can.


This schedule may be revised as necessary during the course of the semester.

Back to Home


“It is not the province of the court to decide upon the justice or injustice, the policy or impolicy, of these laws. The decision of that question belonged to the political or law-making power; to those who formed the sovereignty and framed the Constitution. The duty of the court is, to interpret the instrument they have framed, with the best lights we can obtain on the subject, and to administer it as we find it, according to its true intent and meaning when it was adopted.” 

-Dred Scott v. Sandford, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney



Here are some links that you may find useful, interesting, or even both. If you have any questions about specific pages that you see here, feel free to ask me. Enjoy.

General Supremes Stuff:

Roe v. Wade

Planned Parenthood v. Casey

I pledge allegiance...

Lawrence and Garner vs. Texas

Bush v. Gore

Need a copy of the US Constitution? Try this:




Here are the general instructions. Each student will be assigned to a particular group with particular cases later in the semester.

First, this is the link that has all the cases:  There you will find a link to a brief discussion of the case, plus links to additional resources (lower court rulings, briefs, etc.). EVERYONE looks up EACH of the cases below. Everyone needs to know the basic issues of every case. Then your group should look at the additional resources, plus sites listed below which contain links to even more stuff. Remember that every member of your group will file one opinion, but will need to be familiar with and cast their vote in two cases.

Good luck. Please contact me with any questions or problems.

Each group, make sure to look up your two cases on this site as well (FindLaw):