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Sunday, January 01, 2012

Wilson Huhn's "Obamacare" E-Book

I am suddenly excited about this semester's Constitutional Law class (not least because I will again be using a no-laptop policy!).  As noted in an earlier post on this blog by Michael O'Hear, I'm going to use the healthcare law and litigation, both on the first day as a way of introducing students to some of the basic themes in constitutional law and then on and off throughout the course.  As a first-day assignment, I think it will work better than the Heller case, which I've used for the past couple of years, mostly to my pleasure but with some dissatisfaction with that case's heavy focus on originalism and historical materials.  I'm happy to share notes, both on the blog and via private emails, about how this experiment goes.

I know some other professors are doing or thinking about doing something similar in their classes.  For their sake (or their students' sake!), I wanted to note that Wilson Huhn has an e-book available on Amazon titled Obamacare: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  It is short, seems readable based on my quick survey of it, and is inexpensive: about six and a half dollars.  It gives a good deal of detail on the legislation itself, and also discusses the basic constitutional issues raised by the law, including discussion of some of the cases that have addressed these issues so far.  I am going to assign this book to my students as background reading, and other professors might consider doing the same thing.  

Posted by Paul Horwitz on January 1, 2012 at 03:56 PM in Paul Horwitz | Permalink

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Comments

The graphic adaption is worthwhile as is Linda Monk's "The Words We Live By," which has support from various ideological sides.

I don't know if Prof. Mazur covers it, but it interests me how little the Supreme Court dealt with the fact that D.C. was involved. The Heller dissent in the lower court as Walter Dellinger briefly during oral arguments suggested how a federal law that restricted state discretion over arms or the militia would be quite different.

But, for whatever reason, the majority & dissenting justices did not really deal with the issue.

Posted by: Joe | Jan 4, 2012 2:06:57 PM

Paul, I use Heller and its dissenting opinions during the first week of class for all the usual interpretive reasons, but with a twist. I emphasize the Article I militia clauses and related military powers throughout the Constitution, using them as a way of introducing constitutional structure, federalism, separation of powers, etc. It always captures student attention to learn they are all members of the militia (in Florida, both men and women), and that they are subject to call-up by Governor Rick Scott if needed to preserve the peace even if they are not members of the military or the National Guard.

I like to start with something unsettling and surprising because it demonstrates that much of the public discussion of constitutional issues can be incomplete and misleading. I expect one problem in beginning with the health-care act is that it will be difficult to dislodge the strong assumptions that students bring to the course. The militia emphasis also works nicely in showing that several of the justices don't understand this historical institution very well either, and so constitutional interpretation based on history isn't necessarily more reliable or more rigorous than other methods.

Here are a couple of book plugs. One (not mine) is The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation. Yes, it's a comic book, but it's serious, and it does a great job of orienting students who feel lost at the beginning.
http://www.amazon.com/United-States-Constitution-Graphic-Adaptation/dp/0809094878

Another (mine) is A More Perfect Military: How the Constitution Can Make Our Military Stronger (Oxford Univ. Press), which is somewhat similar to the "Law Stories" line in that it tells the story behind the story in an accessible way. It focuses, of course, on how much of our constitutional understanding has been forged in a military context: separation of powers, judicial deference, federalism, equal protection, First Amendment, taxing and spending power, voting, citizenship, and more.
http://www.amazon.com/More-Perfect-Military-Constitution-Stronger/dp/0195394488

Your comments on teaching Constitutional Law have been great, and I hope there will be more.

Diane H. Mazur, University of Florida

Posted by: DH Mazur | Jan 4, 2012 1:13:04 PM

Perhaps, it could do a good job w/o using a partisan name that is misleading.

Posted by: Joe | Jan 1, 2012 10:31:34 PM

Paul,
How do your students handle ebooks? With a PDF they can print it out, but a Kindle book can't (easily) be printed out for students who like to read on paper. Do they read it on their PCs or on an iPad or kindle device? Curious, as I am also considering using ebooks in one fashion or another.

Posted by: Josh Blackman | Jan 1, 2012 5:49:52 PM

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