The law course explores the limits of executive power


Opening statements

Trump and the Constitution: Law Class Explores the Limits of Executive Power

President Donald Trump. Shutterstock.

For third-year law student Kelly Holler, reading the headlines wasn’t enough. She wanted more insight and perspective on the limits of the law under a presidency of Donald Trump. That’s why she enrolled in a new course at the University of Washington: “Executive Power and Its Limits.” Holler is one of 40 students enrolled in the class, who seeks to equip students with the tools and critical thinking skills necessary to analyze the Constitution and the Presidency.

“Following the presidential election, I felt the urgency to understand how, as a future lawyer, I can act to preserve the integrity of our constitutional system and hold elected officials accountable for the rule of law. ”Holler said. “Lawyers have privileged access to the tools of justice, and I want to be ready to argue for the accountability of the government. “

Catherine watts

Catherine Watts. Photos courtesy of the University of Washington.

Kathryn Watts is one of the two teachers who teach the course. She says the admins responded to student demand when they created the class and it quickly filled up as soon as it was announced.

“Our law students believe they should have a good understanding of the law that defines presidential powers and defines the limits of presidential powers,” Watts said.

One example she gives concerns the president’s promise to build a wall on Mexico’s border to discourage illegal immigration. Does President Trump have the right to do this? Does it need congressional approval beforehand?

Watts says these are the kinds of issues the class is able to dissect and discuss in real time.

Kevin Eggers, another 3L, is also in the class. He says it’s fascinating to watch the story unfold.

“We can take current stories from the news cycle, compare them to similar historical circumstances, and use that analysis as a way to understand the powers and limitations of the president’s office,” Eggers explains. “Perhaps most interesting is the fact that at the end of our analysis, we often conclude that the contours of a specific power of the president are not as well defined as we might have assumed before taking the course. “

The class meets twice a week for a total of three hours. Students review case studies and hear from different experts in the field.

Sanne Knudsen

Sanne Knudsen

“We just wanted to give the students a more specialized course and dive into the news,” says Sanne Knudsen, who teaches the course with Watts.

Both professors say there has been a surge of interest. UW teachers asked if they could sit down, and other schools asked for course and program information. Meanwhile, community members have also expressed interest in the material, prompting Knudsen and Watts to provide reading resources through the Law Library.


Nancy I. Romero

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