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History of the Supreme Court, Short Course

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For more than two centuries, the Supreme Court has exerted extraordinary influence over the way we Americans live our daily lives. The Court has defined the limits of our speech and actions since its first meeting in 1790, adding to our history books names such as John Marshall, Louis Brandeis, Hugo Black, Earl Warren, Thurgood Marshall, Warren Burger, William Rehnquist, and many others.


The Powers of Law and Politics in the Judiciary

The History of the Supreme Court answers these questions and more as it traces the development of the Court from a body having little power or prestige to its current status as "the most powerful and prestigious judicial institution in the world." The course is taught by a professor schooled in law and politics—both of which are critical to understanding the Court—who is an honored teacher as well as an experienced advocate.

Professor Irons's experience includes initiating the case that ultimately cleared the records of three Japanese Americans whose convictions for resisting World War II internment had been upheld by the Court.

He has also discovered and made available to the public for the first time historic audio recordings of arguments begun during the era of Chief Justice Earl Warren.

Several historic recordings are highlighted in this course. You will have a front-row seat as you hear lawyers arguing before the Court—and the justices' replies. Among those you'll hear are:

  • Dramatic moments from the debates in Roe v. Wade
  • The voice of future Justice Thurgood Marshall, standing to defend the rights he had won four years earlier in Brown v. Board of Education, when the Court struck down the doctrine of "separate but equal" education that had endured since Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896.

Detailed Programme Facts

  • Deadline and start date 36 lectures - 30 minutes per lecture
  • Languages
    • English
  • Delivery mode

Programme Structure

36 Lectures
  1. Personality and Principle
  2. Shaping the Constitution and the Court
  3. Ratification and the Bill of Rights
  4. John Marshall Takes Control
  5. Impeachment, Contract, and Federal Power
  6. Roger Taney Takes Control
  7. “A Small Pleasant-Looking Negro”
  8. The Civil War Amendments
  9. “Separate but Equal”
  10. Two Justices from Boston
  11. The Laissez-Faire Court
  12. “Clear and Present Danger”
  13. The Taft Court and the Twenties
  14. Wins and Losses for New Deal Laws
  15. “Court Packing” and Constitutional Revolution
  16. The New Dealers Take Control
  17. “Beyond the Reach of Majorities”
  18. Pearl Harbor and Panic
  19. The Supreme Court and the Communist Party
  20. Thurgood Marshall—Lawyer and Justice
  21. Five Jim Crow Schools and Five Cases
  22. The Hearts and Minds of Black Children
  23. “War Against the Constitution”
  24. Earl Warren—Politician to Chief Justice
  25. “We Beg Thy Blessings”
  26. “You Have the Right to Remain Silent”
  27. The Warren Court Reshapes the Constitution
  28. Earl Warren Leaves, Warren Burger Arrives
  29. “A Right to Privacy”
  30. From Abortion to Watergate
  31. The Court Faces Affirmative Action
  32. Down from the Pedestal, Out of the Closet
  33. Burning Flags and Burning Crosses
  34. Prayer and Abortion Return to the Court
  35. One Vote Decides Two Crucial Cases
  36. Looking Back and Looking Ahead


Ph.D.,M.A., J.D. Peter Irons

University of California, San Diego

Dr. Peter Irons is Emeritus Professor of Political Science at the University of California, San Diego. He earned his undergraduate degree from Antioch College and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from Boston University. He earned his J.D. from Harvard Law School, where he served as senior editor of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review. Before taking his position at San Diego, Professor Irons taught at Boston College Law School and the University of Massachusetts. He has been a visiting professor at several law schools and served as the Raoul Wallenberg Distinguished Visiting Professor of Human Rights at Rutgers University in 1988. A widely respected authority on the Supreme Court and constitutional litigation, Professor Irons wrote and edited 12 books, including Jim Crow's Children: The Broken Promise of the Brown Decision. His books have won an unprecedented five ìSilver Gavelî awards from the American Bar Association for their contributions to ìpublic understanding of the American legal system.î Professor Irons received Outstanding Teaching Awards from three of the UCSD colleges. Professor Irons is also an active civil rights and liberties lawyer, and belongs to several state and federal bars, including the United States Supreme Court.

English Language Requirements

This programme requires students to demonstrate proficiency in English.

Tuition Fee

  • International Applies to you

    199 USD/module
    Tuition Fee
    Based on the original amount of 199 USD per module and a duration of  .
  • National Applies to you

    199 USD/module
    Tuition Fee
    Based on the original amount of 199 USD per module and a duration of  .
We've labeled the tuition fee that applies to you because we think you are from and prefer over other currencies.
  • Audio: $199.95
  • Dvd: $374.95
  • Cd: $269.95


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