Fall 2006

TTH: 12:30-1:50

Professor: Dr. John C. Domino

Room: AB1, 317

Office: AB1, Room 315E   

Office hours: TTH: 9:00-11:00 or by appointment

Office phone: 936/294-1463

pol_jcd@shsu.edu (the best way to reach me)


Course Description: This course provides an overview of the policy making process and then examines in depth one type of policy: civil rights and liberties, made by one actor in the policymaking process: the United States Supreme Court.

Course Objectives: The objectives of the course are to gain knowledge, examine, think critically about, and understand the following:

1. The Policy making process;

2. The role, power, and operation of the United States Supreme Court as a policy maker;

3. The rights and protections contained in the Bill of Rights, as well as Fourteenth Amendment;

4. The area of public policy known as civil rights and liberties and the extent to which the government can restrict those rights;

5. The extent of our freedom of political and artistic, and sexual expression;

6. How the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion and freedom from religion;

7. The rights of persons accused of crimes;

8. The definitions and extent of the right to privacy as it extends to reproduction, homosexuality, and medical decisions;

9. The guarantee against race, gender-based and other forms of discrimination.


Required Books:

   Davis, Public Policy: The Basics

Domino, John. Civil Rights and Liberties in the 21st Century, 2/edition


Course Requirements and Policies:

Exams: There will be four (4) exams -- three “midterms” and a final. The final will not be cumulative. Each exam will consist of multiple choice questions (in class component) and a take home component (essay questions). Make-up exams will be given only if the student has a legitimate excuse (illness, family problems, death) and can provide a written documentation of that excuse. However, if you do not have a legitimate excuse, you will receive a 0 for that exam which will be averaged into your final grade.


Grades: The final grade in the course will be based on an average of four grades. No extra credit or grading curves are used. No re-grades or dropping of grades. The following scale will be applied:

A=90-100   B=80-89   C=70-79   D=60-69   F=0-59



Important Tips on Reading and Studying : Everything you need to know about the reading assignments is on the syllabus. I also rely heavily of BlackBoard . I will rarely make day-to-day reading assignments, so simply use the syllabus to keep up with me in class. NOTE: I will not cover every bit of information contained in the texts in class. Part of the requirements of this course is “reading.” So, it is not uncommon for me to take 60% of the exam items on a test from lectures and 40% from a particular chapter of a book. This strategy is to encourage students to read and think about their reading independently. However, I do provide exam discussion and study guides. ANOTHER NOTE ON STUDYING: Reading is not studying. You would not sit through a class and not take notes on what the professor has said. Similarly, reading without taking notes is largely a waste of time. Critically interact with your book: Ask, “What is the author trying to say?” “What are the main points?” “If I were the professor, what kinds of exam questions would I ask?”


Attendance : In accordance with University Policy, regular attendance is required. However, no points will be added or deducted on the basis of attendance.


Academic Dishonesty: Copying answers from another student's exam, collaborating on a take-home exams, or using unauthorized notes or “cheat sheets” during an exam constitutes academic dishonesty and will result in swift disciplinary action by the professor. This action will take the form of failing that exam or the entire course and a letter to the Dean of Students. If you know of someone cheating, quietly and confidentially inform the professor, since the cheater's success is unfair to you and gives that person a grade-point edge in the competitive job market that you will face upon graduation.


Disruptive Conduct: The First Amendment applies in this class and no one should ever feel that they cannot express their opinion or disagree with me. However, a ny behavior (including cell phones) or language in the classroom that intentionally or unintentionally disrupts the learning process and, thus, impedes the mission of the university, will be reported to the Dean of Students for disciplinary action in accordance with written university policy.


Americans with Disabilities Act: Student requests for accommodations must be initiated by the student. A student seeking accommodations should go to the Counseling Center and Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) in a timely manner.


Religious Holidays: University policy states that a student who is absent from class for the observance

of a religious holy day shall be permitted to take an examination or complete an assignment

scheduled for that day within a reasonable time after the absence. Not later than

the 15th calendar day after the first day of the semester, or the 7th calendar day

after the first day of a summer session, the student must notify the instructor of

each scheduled class that he/she would be absent for a religious holy day.


Other Concerns: Use of any kind of tobacco product in the classroom violates university policy and state law. Guns or weapons of any kind may not be brought into the classroom; University police will be contacted immediately if this violation of university and state policy occurs.

Course Outline (subject to revision)

Part I: Public Policy

  A. What is public policy? Read the Davis book . What are the “Big Issues” of public policymaking in the United States? Where do “liberals” and “conservatives” fit into this debate?
  B. Types of public policy and the actors in the process.
C. The policymaking process.
D. The Supreme Court and Public Policy: Domino, chap. 1.
  1. The Role of the Court in American Society: Videos
  2. Its Source and Application of Power
  3. How the Court Makes Policy: Steps in the Decision-making process
  4. Implementation of rulings: Compliance with SCOTUS

Part II: Civil Rights and Liberties

A. Freedom of Political Speech: Public policies that restrict political speech and the Supreme Court's response to those restrictions: Domino, chap. 2.


B. “Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll,” Obscenity Policy in the U.S. - Balancing freedom of expression in art, music, and photography with our community's interest in decency: Domino, chap. 3.




  C. Religion and Public Policy: Domino chap. 4


  D. Due Process Rights and Criminal Justice: Domino chap. 5




  E. Privacy Issues: Abortion, Drug Testing, Homosexuality, and the Right to Die: Domino chap. 6.


  F. Equal Protection Policy: Domino, chap. 7


  FINAL EXAM: see university final exam schedule