In my Constitutional Law class, we didn’t read the Constitution

Law school is a notorious scam.

In the course of three years, young victims pay for courses in property law but don’t learn how to buy a house. They take courses in contract law but are never taught how to write one. They take courses in litigation procedures but in a courtroom they literally don’t know when to stand up and when to sit down. In fact, it’s common for students to graduate without having seen the inside of a courtroom.

Never entrust a recent law school graduate with any legal matters.

If we trained doctors the way we train lawyers, surgeons would graduate medical school without knowing how to wash their hands or which end of a scalpel is for holding and which end is for cutting.

The proliferation of law schools in America is not driven by student demand, but by money. Law schools are cash cows for the universities with which they’re associated. They don’t require expensive laboratories. Class sizes are large, and so they don’t need many professors. Increasingly, the professors they do have are adjunct professors who receive mere stipends rather than actual salaries.

It’s a disgrace, about which I’ll write more someday. Today’s column is about one facet of this disgrace: Constitutional Law.

All law students take a basic course in Constitutional Law – or “Con Law” as the insiders call it with inadvertent exactitude. It’s there that they study the Constitution, supposedly.

They learn that the Constitution guarantees free speech unless you shout “FIRE” in a crowded theater. They learn that the Constitution prohibits the taking of private property without compensation. They learn that there’s a “penumbra” of the Constitution, perceptible only to enlightened scholars, that prohibits states from regulating abortion.

But in law schools across the country, law students paying upwards of a quarter million dollars for a law degree that may or may not produce a remunerative career are never asked to read the Constitution itself.

It reminds me of certain Christian sects where practitioners are never asked to read the Bible. Their bejeweled and berobed bosses say in effect, “Don’t read the Bible. We’ll tell you what you need to know about it.” The bosses say this because much of the Bible conflicts with what the bosses want the practitioners to believe.

It’s for this same reason that law students are not asked to read the Constitution. Much of the Constitution conflicts with the Constitutional Law they get taught.

Unlike the Bible, the Constitution is not a long document. It’s 4,543 words plus the amendments. Most adults read about 200-250 words per minute, and so it would take them about 20 minutes to read the Constitution.

To put this in context, law students are assigned upwards of 20 hours per week of reading, which amounts to roughly 2,000 hours over the course of the three years. But they are never asked or even invited to spend 20 minutes of that time to read the foundational document of American jurisprudence.

And unlike the Bible, the Constitution is not expressed in confusing and disjointed stories and parables by dozens of writers who wrote at different times about different things. The Constitution was written by people who worked together and knew how to write. And they specifically designed it to be understood.

Law students ultimately go on to careers in law, the skills for which they are taught by generous and sometimes exploitative seasoned lawyers after they graduate since the students learn no such skills in law school. From watching other lawyers, they learn to handle lawsuits, to prosecute and defend the criminally accused, to write and negotiate contracts and, notably, to serve as judges who decide the Constitutional rights of Americans.

The Founders who risked their lives, fortunes and sacred honor in writing, debating and fighting for the sacred document that embodies those rights would be disappointed.

(Glenn Beaton was a successful law student who received a perfect score in Property Law. To this day, he can recite from memory the Rule against Perpetuities — “No interest is good unless it must vest, if at all, not later than twenty-one years after some life in being at the creation of the interest” — but he doesn’t know how to do a house closing.)

23 thoughts on “In my Constitutional Law class, we didn’t read the Constitution

  1. A 50-year-old lawyer who had been practicing since he was 25 passed away and arrived at the Pearly Gates for judgment. The lawyer said to St. Peter, “There must be some mistake! I’m only 50 years old, that’s far too young to die.” St. Peter frowned and consulted his book. “That’s funny, when we add up your billing records, you should be at least 83 by now!”

  2. From my 30-year career as a residential broker, I can tell you that any closing at which a principal was “represented” by an attorney took twice as long as necessary, so we could explain things to the attorney.
    Now that I have escaped from that war, and sell headstones, I charge artists, attorneys, architects and people from Boulder double.

    • I also thought of the ongoing battle between attorneys and realtors when it comes to contracts and contract law. I love your new profession. You might want to expand the cities on your list.

  3. Your expose goes a way in explaining to me how Roger Stone and Paul Manafort were convicted in an obviously biased court. What kind of lawyers could let these examples of miscarriages of justice occur? Not firebrands advocating vigorously for their client(s)? Although finally General Flynne got Sidney Powell who has some fire in her belly as his legal advocate. We need more like her and some resurrections of Clarence Darrow.

  4. This is as good an explanation as I have ever heard for why I believe in governing the United States according to the Constitution rather than the Bible (or any other religious scripture).

    The Constitution addresses that very point itself, not just in the First Amendment (which is pretty widely known) but even more so in Article VI of the original document, which states:
    “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation to support the Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

    The Constitution itself is consistent with this provision, in that it conspicuously lacks any reference to “God” or any supernatural being. Any such references in official government documents, seals, oaths, anthems, etc. are contrary to this provision — particularly because they essentially require public officials and employees (such as teachers in public schools) to endorse a concept that is entirely religious as a condition of their employment.

    These concepts might be better understood by the general public if the “Pledge of Allegiance” were revised to make the “pledge” to the Constitution and not to the “flag,” and to make the reference to “under God” a term which individuals should explicitly be free to say or not say as they choose.

  5. The Constitution certainly refers to God, being written “to secure the Blessings of Liberty.” Blessings simply do not exist without a higher power to confer them, and Liberty is endowed by the Creator according to the authors of the Declaration of Independence.

  6. The notion that the “Blessings of Liberty” can only be conferred by a “higher power” is a completely religious belief. Where the governance of the United States is concerned, the Constitution (and not the Declaration of Independence) is the “higher power.” Under the Constitution, everyone has the right as private citizens to believe and advocate their religious beliefs, and the libertarian in me would extend that protection to any other beliefs — provided that they are not advocated by inciting violence. But people occupying an “Office or public Trust under the United States” do not have a right under the Constitution to promote their personal religious beliefs. As someone who studied English, you should be able to understand that.

    Around the time that you were avoiding military service by studying English, I was voluntarily serving as an Army officer — most of that time in an armor unit defending Korea against Communist expansion of the type that we now see rearing its ugly head in “progressive” American cities. In doing so, I took an “affirmation” rather than an “oath” to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and I have considered that to be permanently binding. To the credit of the U.S. Army, the fact that I declared “none” as my religious affiliation, and which appeared on my “dog tags,” was never used to discriminate against me in any way.

    So, if you are as big a patriot as you claim to be, you should recognize that it is in the mutual interest of people like you and Glenn and me to focus on the real threats to civilized people of all races and religions (or non-religions) in the United States, including those of us who place our Constitution above your preferred religious tract or anyone else’s. And those “religious tracts” include the Declaration of Progressive Orthodoxy being flaunted on yard signs by “woke” liberals, which starts with “Black Lives Matter” (with its hidden “dog whistle” that “Black” lives are superior to those of everyone else).

    • I’m just going by standard definitions of “blessing” and my understanding that there were no atheists in the I8th century (not even Voltaire) and certainly not among The Founders, who shared the general sense that our lives and such blessings as we experience have an Author (they upper-cased the word as I just did). Neither they nor I feel that we just create our own blessings by writing a document. Some were Deists, some were Anglicans, many were who-knows-what, but my sense is that they all bought into the notion of a Divinely authored Natural Law, as articulated by Thomas Aquinas, John Locke, and others.

      • It is entirely appropriate to say that we are “blessed” by the concept of liberty without necessarily interpreting that as meaning that the “blessing” comes from some supernatural force. If the majority of the signers of the Constitution had believed that the wording and intent of the Constitution would be enhanced by a reference to some divine being, they presumably would have used words such as “Divinely endowed blessings of liberty.” But they did not, and regardless of their own particular religious beliefs, the majority wisely recognized the fairness and practicality (in terms of minimizing religious conflict) of mandating that the government of the United States and its subdivisions be neutral in matters of religion.

        While most of them certainly believed in some variant of Christianity and none may have been avowed atheists, out of hundreds of millions of people who lived throughout the world at that time, some people certainly were. Many suffered extreme oppression by religious zealots as the result, and many of those zealots were in control of governments throughout the world. The relative lack of religious strife in the United States has been a blessing bestowed on us by the Founders.

    • “Divinely endowed blessings” would be redundant — there’s no other kind. The Founders could attempt to “secure” blessings, but they could no more “bestow” blessings than today’s progressives can declare such things as healthcare, free college, and the choice to abort a child in the womb as basic human “rights.”

      • My standard Webster’s Dictionary has both religious and a secular definitions of “bless,” the secular ones being “to speak gratefully of …” and “to confer prosperity or happiness upon.”

        For example, have you ever heard of a father “blessing” the marriage of his daughter? That doesn’t diminish the right of a minister or anyone else to pray to their particular idea of “God” to “bless” a marriage. The two uses of the concept of “blessing” are not mutually exclusive, any more than the Constitution discourages the practice of religion (except in rare cases where it involves child abuse, etc) while mandating government neutrality on the issue.

        Maybe you should have more contact with people outside of your religious circle and learn how other Americans — and not just leftists who pretty much avoid websites like Glenn’s — think and use the English language. I have a LOT of Catholic friends who share the vast majority of my moral/ethical values, and that is reflected in the way that we usually vote for the same candidates and ballot issues.

      • Carlton, I was an “other” American for about 60 years before I became a Catholic, and learned English long before then. Furthermore, none of my prior comments have argued for a specific religious orientation as the basis for the Constitution, because there wasn’t one.

  7. John Adams wrote,”Because we have no government armed with the power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, and licentiousness would break the strongest cords of our Constitution, as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” I will rely on Adams’ interpretation of the document rather than Carlton’s. As an aside, I can only add that our gracious host’s experience with law school precisely replicates mine.

    • Hopefully, those lawyers who have become judges throughout the judicial system — and particularly on the Supreme Court — received a more thorough grounding in the U.S. Constitution than Glenn and you admit to having received.

      Also, President John Adams who, despite his many contributions to the advancement of the citizens of the United States, enacted an abomination to their civil rights called the “alien and sedition laws.” And Abraham Lincoln enforced essentially the same unconstitutional policy by executive order against U.S. citizens in the Northern states who opposed his military response to the secession of the Southern states (for reasons independent of the slavery issue).

      While I am not a lawyer, many people have told me that I should have been. They didn’t intend that as a compliment, but I actually have regarded it as one, because I have a great deal of understanding of and respect for the U.S. legal system — including most of the people with formal legal education who administer it.

      That is founded upon my ability — owning largely to my education in both public and private schools of excellent quality — to appreciate the words and intent of the Founders that are contained in the Constitution. Although I respect those words and intentions as having been a giant leap forward in human rights and thus human progress in both material prosperity and political freedom, I don’t regard all of the words or intentions as having been “divinely inspired” and thus immutably true for all eternity. Instead, they were the consensus of men who were extraordinarily intelligent and concerned about the welfare of at least the portion of humanity to which they belonged. Although their concept of human rights was far short of modern standards, they incorporated two principles in the Constitution (among others, or “inter alia” for you lawyer types) that I particularly admire:

      1. That the Constitution contained provisions for its own amendment/modification by peaceful means, and

      2. That the Constitution mandated a government that was neutral on matters of religion.

      A J.D. (law) degree should not be required to recognize those provisions of the Constitution that should be eternally immutable.

  8. Glenn, I’m not sure what Christian sects you are referring to, but the phrase “bejeweled and berobed bosses” suggests the Catholic Church. Although Catholics are hardly biblical illiterates, I completely agree that the “bosses” have been fashioning a designer religion since the 1960s that Catholics of 80 years ago would not recognize. Your analogy is a good one: souls are being lost in both contexts.

  9. In fact, Thomas Hobbes was the greatest influence on the U.S. Constitution as a contract for civil society – we agree to leave the “nasty, brutish, and short” life in the lawless state of nature. We give up our rights to everything and nothing to abide by constructs that preserve life and property. Our Founders took it to the most exquisite manifestation – protection of Individual Rights, protection against national concentrated government or executive control, and tolerance for regions (states) to govern themselves. Nothing like it ever imagined.

    • I agree completely, except for your last sentence: I think The Founders were haunted by the ever-present likelihood of “a war of all on all.” Hence, statements like Jefferson’s about how the tree of Liberty would have have to be watered with the blood of patriots about five times a century.

  10. JD enrollment peaked in 2010. Number of law schools have been pretty level for a decade and a half. Supply and demand taking its toll.

  11. Glenn, I recently completed my Catholic confirmation. Not only was it hard to find a class that would take me, you are exactly right. When I told them I was reading the bible, they told me I didn’t need to do that, or to at least just stick with the gospel. My spidey sense knew that was wrong and not only did I finish the bible, I have moved on to the apocrypha. And no longer attend that church. Thank you for being part of the light and encouraging people to seek the truth!

  12. Imagine, as a law student attending a class on Constitutional Law, and never having to read the US Constitution. Like pastors who don’t read the Bible or police officers who don’t read the laws of their jurisdiction. Stunning.

    Send your kids to vocational school. If a grandparent, tell your kids to send their kids to vocational school. Don’t waste money on college and avoid the communist indoctrination their kids would receive.

    • Very few police ever study the laws and ordinances of their jurisdiction, much less of any other that may encompass or abut theirs, except to know a few of them that they issue the most common traffic citations for on the street. The rest they either look up or ask another officer at the station while someone they arrested is being processed or merely tell the intake people what the charge is and let them look it up and put it in the proper space on the record.

      I’ve never been police myself but I’ve worked in private security since 1983, around and alongside and with police from departments large and small, in big cities – the inner city, outskirts, and suburbs – counties, small towns, and in the country. Most of them don’t *know* the law, they just *think they know* the law.

      • Yes, and the main complaint by black people that I sympathize with is that in stopping young black males for questioning at a higher rate than other people, police often violate their civil rights, particularly their Constitutional rights prohibiting illegal search and self-incrimination. “Profiling” young black males is understandable, given the fact that this group overall has a much higher incidence of criminality than practically any other group, and it in NO WAY justifies the gross over-reaction to the extreme case of the Floyd killing. But it is a legitimate subject for serious consideration by civilized Americans of all races.

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