Introduction to U.S. Constitutional Law

Course Description

This course is an introduction to United States constitutional law history, theory, and practice. The course will address the history of the United States Constitution, the governmental structure that the Constitution creates, and the individual rights that it protects. In addition, the course will address the major approaches to interpreting the Constitution. Finally, the course will consider the history, theory and practice of litigating and adjudicating selected substantive Due Process rights, Equal Protection rights, and the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

The 2019 Lisbon course syllabus is available for download here: Ciolino Syllabus for 2019 Constitutional Interpretation Class in Lisbon.

Final Examination

The 2019 final examination is available for download here: Ciolino Final Exam for 2019 University of Lisbon Constitutional Law Course. Professor Ciolino posted the examination on October 16, 2019.

Your answer must be typewritten in 12-point font, double-spaced, 5 to 7 pages in length. Please include your full name on the top of the first page.

You must submit your exam answer on or before Friday, November 1, 2019, at 5:00 p.m. Lisbon time. You must submit the exam through the form at this link: Good luck!

Student Information Form

All students in the class need to fill out this information form: Lisbon Student Information Form. I will use the information from that form to assign cases for Thursday and Friday, and to collect final examinations.

Required Materials

  1. United States Constitution. Please download a PDF copy of the United States Constitution here: United States Constitution.
  2. Decisions of the United States Supreme Court. PDF copies of approximately seven reported decisions from the United States Supreme Court are linked below. Please download and read for our classes on Thursday and Friday.


Each student’s final grade will be based on a final examination. Each student must submit answers to the examination questions two weeks after the exam is distributed by uploading a PDF file to the link that the instructor will post on this page in mid-October 2019.


Each class lecture is described in the table below. The instructor will present two, one-hour lectures each day from Monday, October 7, 2019, through Friday, October 11, 2019. Students are encouraged to participate in class discussions and will be asked to make brief presentations on selected topics and cases on Thursday and Friday.

  1. Introduction. An introduction to the course. Constitutionalism in perspective. An overview of the history of the United States and the adoption of the United States Constitution. Slides.
  2. Governmental Structure. An overview of the governmental structure of the United States. States and federalism, the branches of the federal government, separation of powers, and checks and balances. Slides.
  3. Individual Rights. An overview of the history and theory of individual rights. The Constitution’s Bill of Rights. The First Amendment (establishment of religion; free exercise of religion; freedom of speech and assembly). The Second Amendment (the right to keep and bear arms). The Fifth Amendment (takings). Slides.
  4. Individual Rights. Constitutional criminal procedure. The Fourth Amendment (searches and seizures). The Fifth Amendment (grand jury indictment; double jeopardy; self-incrimination; due process). The Sixth Amendment (speedy and public trial; trial by jury; confrontation; compulsory process; assistance of counsel). The Eighth Amendment (excessive fines; cruel and unusual punishment). The Ninth and Tenth Amendments. Slides.
  5. Enforcing the Constitution. Judicial review. Motions to suppress and the exclusionary rule. Civil-rights litigation. Slides.
  6. Constitutional Interpretation. The problem of interpretation. The “Living Constitution.” Originalism. Slides.
  7. The Constitution in Action. Discussion of U.S. Supreme Court cases. Racial discrimination (Plessy v. FergusonBrown v. Board of Education). The right to keep and bear arms (District of Columbia v. Heller). Slides.
  8. The Constitution in Action. Abortion (Griswold v. Connecticut; Roe v. Wade; Planned Parenthood v. Casey). Slides.
  9. The Constitution in Action. Same-Sex marriage (Obergefell v. Hodges). Slides.
  10. The Constitution in Action. Litigating and adjudicating the constitutionality of a hypothetical municipal ordinance forbidding dog ownership. Slides.