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Focus of the Research Paper
In this essay you will research a case that is actively pending before the Supreme Court of the United States (not yet decided by the Court when you submit your essay at the end of Week Five). It must be a case that raises significant issues involving the interpretation of the Constitution. The thesis of your essay will be a statement of the decision, regarding these issues, which the Court should make, according to your research and analysis of the constitutional principles, Court precedents, facts of the case, and other relevant information.
Step One: Identify a Pending Case
First, you must identify a pending constitutional case that you will research. Here are some suggested search strategies:
Go to http://www.oyez.org and click on “Cases” (at the top-center) to display a list of cases before the Court during its current term. It will show the date on which the case was or is scheduled to be argued before the Court. Only consider cases that have not yet been argued or were argued very recently; so the Court is unlikely to issue its decision before you submit your essay. Click on the name of a case in this list to display the legal “questions” in each case. Look for “questions” that pose constitutional issues; and from these select a case that presents issues that you would want to research.
Go to http://www.scotusblog.com/ and click on “Merits Cases” (at the top-left side) to display a list of recent terms and select the most recent term (e.g., “October Term 2012). That displays a list of cases before the Court during its current term. It will show the date on which the case was or is scheduled to be argued before the Court. Only consider cases that have not yet been argued or were argued very recently; so the Court is unlikely to issue its decision before you submit your essay. This list also summarizes the issues in each case so that you can identify those with constitutional issues. Click on the name of a case to view more information about it, including links to various resources which may directly support your research.
Google the phrase “pending cases before the US supreme court.” Explore the links that Google offers. If you discover a constitutional case that you want to research, use Oyez or SCOTUSBlog (above) to verify that the case will still be pending when you submit your essay in Week Five.
Step Two: Instructor Approval
Next, your instructor may want you to identify your case, the date it will be (or was) argued, and the constitutional issues posed. Follow your instructor’s directions in this regard. Or, be proactive and forward your case information in Week One or Week Two.
Step Three: Begin Your Research
Now, you should be ready to research your case (remember the valuable resources that may be available in SCOTUSBlog). Start by reviewing the relevant chapter(s) in the textbook. Also, do some serious searching for scholarly articles in the Ashford Online Library.
Step Four: Begin Writing Your Paper
Your paper must clearly state your position on the constitutional issues posed in the case. Your paper should not address broader questions about the merits of the case or your personal opinions about extraneous matters; but it should focus on whether or not the state or federal rules, regulations, or laws at issue would violate a specific provision(s) of the Constitution.
You must clearly explain and logically apply a plausible interpretation of the constitutional provision(s) and justify your position using rationales from other relevant and identified Supreme Court decisions. Make clear whether you are relying on rationales used by the Court’s majority view or by a dissenting view; and if you rely on a dissent, your analysis should persuasively justify why this rationale should displace the prevailing majority rationale.
Where appropriate, you may also incorporate support from scholarship in the disciplines of history, social science, biology, ethics, criminal justice studies, and public policy; but, such perspectives may be introduced only as they are directly relevant to interpreting the constitutional provision(s) at issue in the case.
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