Fall 1999

A Message from the Dean

A Discourse on Constitutional Law
The Journey of a Journal
On History and Heritage: John K. Castle
In Defense and Celebration of the First Amendment

Public Service at the Forefront
Lindback Adwardee: Bruce H. Mann
Snippets of History (1915 - 1951)
Celebrations: Alumni Reunion and Commencment

Faculty Notes
Alumni Briefs
In Memoriam

Penn Law

Throughout the history of Penn Law - and of most American law schools - the study of constitutional law has been a sometime thing. Considered a mainstay of the mid-nineteenth century, it had moved to the back burner by the early twentieth century, from which it shifted only occasionally into the light and heat. Since the 1950s, however, it has gained renewed strength. At Penn Law it is a major component of instruction and an extensive source of scholarship.

This issue of the Penn Law Journal reports on the current status of constitutional law at Penn - the instructors, the courses, the scholarship, and the student involvement.

Barbara Bennett Woodhouse, Professor of Law, gives the impression of a very quiet explosion. Low-key and direct in conversation, she has a record of publication and activism that might make Ralph Nader fatigued. She picked up her first degrees, in Italian language and literature, from the Universita per Stranieri, Perugia, Italy, in the early 1960s, did graduate-level work in Italian at the University of Virginia, received a B.S. in French and history from SUNY in 1980, and a J.D. from Columbia in 1983. And those were just teasers. Since joining the Penn Law faculty in 1988, she has taught a wide range of courses on constitutional law, the Supreme Court, and public interest law, with an emphasis on the family and, especially, children's rights. To this she's added dozens of high- and low- profile pro bono cases and amicus briefs relating to adoption, custody, foster care, and children's rights, plus Congressional testimony and service on family law commissions.

Woodhouse's website (accessible through her faculty profile on Penn LaiVs homepage) is set up for heavy traffic, featuring a variety of student exercises such as a Virtual Supreme Court with student profiles of the justices, and "Marriage & Family Law: Landmark U.S. Supreme Court Cases," a spring seminar in which students created resources for Web visitors to investigate the role of the Supreme Court in creating new family law.

The website encapsulates Woodhouse's approach to teaching the Constitution. "I try to combine the theories and doctrines with the practice of constitutional litigation," she explains. "Constitutional law is a very complex, confusing subject. I love to see the students reaching that 'Aha!' moment where the whole scheme clicks."

She has used audiotapes of oral arguments in her first-year Con Law course, illuminating the cyclical pattern of "how lawyers and justices use new law to create more new law." For the Marriage & Family Law seminar, students examined thirty landmark Supreme Court cases and wrote commentaries, then created hypothetical cases and argued them before students in roles representing the current Supreme Court justices. The final paper was a draft of a Supreme Court opinion based on the hypothetical.

Recent court decisions in family law, says Woodhouse, have concentrated on marriage - same-sex marriage, interracial marriage, and the right to marry. The next focus, she hopes and believes, will be on "children's standing and due process rights, particularly in the context of child welfare law. It will include children in custody disputes, but these rights are strongest when one party is the state, as in foster care and adoption."

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