Known for their capability to spark engaging debates and critical thinking, constitutional law courses at Georgia State College of Law are often a favorite of our students. Regardless of what practice area they are interested in pursuing, constitutional law helps prepare them.
“What I tell the students the first day of Con Law I, is this class is unlike any other they’ve taken in law school,” Eric Segall, the Ashe Family Chair Professor of Law said. “We tackle four big questions. What kind of government do we want? What kind of power should it exercise? Who gets to decide those hard questions and with what tools?”
Segall has taught constitutional law at Georgia State for 29 years. He says it’s different than other courses because in constitutional law, there is typically a gap in what leads to the conclusion. That gap is a value driven decision that the court often doesn’t explain. That requires the students to tap into critical thinking.
“Our constitutional law classes are excellent for getting students to see the gaps of reason,” Segall said. “Seeing those gaps of reasoning is what makes you a better lawyer across the board.”
At Georgia State Law, students are required to take Con Law I, which covers the structural constitution-federalism and separation of powers. As electives, students have the option to take Con Law II, which goes over topics such as the 14th Amendment, equal protection, due process and affirmative action. Federal Courts is also offered, which is a constitutional law course of federal jurisdiction.
Along with Segall, the constitutional law curriculum is taught by professors Neil Kinkopf, Lauren Sudeall and Anthony Kreis. Both Segall and Kinkopf worked for the Department of Justice before joining the faculty, while Sudeall’s experience covers the non-profit sector and Kreis has a lot of state government experience.
“It’s a very dynamic group of people and we have different perspectives, training and life experiences on constitutional law,” said assistant professor Anthony Kreis, who joined the Georgia State Law faculty this year. “You could put us all in one room together and get very different takes on any given issue and I think that’s really valuable.”
Kreis says Georgia State is an ideal place to study constitutional law for several reasons. First, because Atlanta is the home of the civil rights movement, which is an inspirational driving force to think about how law and social change works. Secondly, there are opportunities for students to get involved and take on their own initiatives.
“If I have students that are really interested in the constitutional questions that are implicated by legislation that is pending in Georgia, we could work on that,” Kreis said. “That is a unique experience that you don’t get at every law school because you can’t walk down the street and engage with the decision makers.”
Georgia State Law has both the American Constitution Society and the Federalist Society student organizations. The groups are on different ends of the political spectrum and they differ on how the constitution should operate. Despite their differences, they often host joint events to allow for compelling discussions. Alex Garrett, president of ACS, says that is especially important for virtual events in place this year.
“When you’re trying to compete in the attention economy where everyone is going to be looking through a screen, it’s hard to be engaging if everyone has the same views,” Garrett said. “It’s more important than ever for us to have these lawyers, judges and professors with partially different views on the same panels.”
Segall agrees, “a debate is always better than a speech,” and hopes the constitutional law offerings at Georgia State Law become a model of how to disagree amicably.
Written by Mara Thompson