TOPICS IN LAW – THE BILL OF RIGHTS
TUESDAYS 6:30 p.m. – 9:20 p.m.
Instructor: Mary Jo Miller Department: SDS
E-mail: [email protected] Course: 88284
Office hours: By appointment Room: Baker Hall 136 (Adamson Wing)
WRITING ASSIGNMENT INSTRUCTIONS
First instruction: Read the instructions, come back and read the assignment and then read
the instructions again.
On April 26, 2021, the Supreme Court added the case of New York State Rifle & Pistol
Association v. Corlett to the docket for the 2021-2022 term. New York State has a law that
requires a license to carry a concealed handgun. An applicant for a concealed carry license must
show that “proper cause exists” for the issuance of the license. The Respondents, backed by the
National Rifle Association, challenged the law as a violation of the Second Amendment. The
Second Circuit held that under its precedent cases, New York’s proper cause requirement does
not violate the Second Amendment and affirmed the judgement of the District Court for the
Northern District of New York.
Remember that the Court held in District of Columbia v. Heller (a case that we read and
discussed) that the Second Amendment protects “the individual right to possess and carry
weapons in case of confrontation.” Remember that the Court also held in Heller that the Second
Amendment right is not unlimited and can be subject to state regulation consistent with the
Amendment. We discussed a number of cases decided after Heller in which appellate courts have
reviewed those regulations. The parties differ on whether there is a split among the circuits on
the question of whether the Second Amendment prohibits government regulation of possessing
and carrying a handgun outside of the home. The New York Rifle & Pistol Association framesmailto:[email protected]
the issue as: “Whether the Second Amendment allows the government to prohibit ordinary law-
abiding citizens from carrying handguns outside the home for self-defense.” New York states
the issue as: “Whether the Second Amendment prohibits New York from requiring residents who
wish to carry a concealed firearm in public to have an actual and articulable need to do so.”
You are going to write the opinion in this case for the Supreme Court as an Associate
Justice. For purposes of the assignment, please assume that you are in the majority and that you
have been assigned to write the opinion in the case (New York State Rifle & Pistol Association,
Inc. v. Corlett, Docket No. 20-843). This is the link to the page at SCOTUSblog that has links to
all of the relevant petitions, briefs and opinions that you will need:
If you can’t get to the page through the link, just search “SCOTUSblog New York State
Rifle & Pistol Association v. Corlett” and you should get to that page. You will see links from
left to right beginning with one for the docket – click on the docket number (20-843) and that
will give you a list of all the activity in the case with the earliest appearing first. The next link
will take you to the opinions of the Second Circuit. The Second Circuit opinion is a very short
affirmance of the District Court’s opinion, so you should read the District Court opinion for the
substance of the opinion. You can find it in the appendix to the Petition for a writ of certiorari
filed on December 17, 2020 under the docket entries. Below those links, you will find a listing
of case activity with additional links to the briefs. The Petition for the writ of certiorari will have
the legal arguments for the Petitioners (New York Pistol & Rifle Club) and the Brief of
respondents in opposition to the writ will have the arguments of the Respondents (the state of
New York and the named respondent as head of the New York state police). That brief was filedhttps://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/new-york-state-rifle-pistol-association-inc-v-corlett/https://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/new-york-state-rifle-pistol-association-inc-v-corlett/
on February 22, 2021 and will have all the legal arguments that New York makes in support of
the statute. The Petitioners also filed a reply brief on March 10, 2021. There are multiple amicus
briefs in this case, and you may read any of those if you find them helpful. Those links should
help you navigate through the opinion below and the parties’ briefs. You do not need to do any
research or read anything other than the record in the case and you should only refer to the record
in your opinion.
You may write as yourself or as your favorite justice. Remember that cases are fact
specific and the precise circumstances surrounding the case are extremely important. Consider
all the facts, the Court’s precedent on similar issues and your interpretation of the Second
Amendment, keeping in mind all the cases we have read so far.
INSTRUCTIONS (READ THESE FIRST AND OFTEN).
The opinion must be broken down into each of the following sections; clearly labeled
and divided (it’s important that you do this):
1. FACTS: This should be a detailed recitation of the facts that led to the
issue before the Court. Read the case and tell the story in your own words. This section should
be objective and complete. This is the narrative section of the brief in which you tell the story of
2. PROCEDURAL HISTORY: Describe how the case got to the Supreme
Court. This should be very short, just one or two sentences.
3. ISSUE: Define the precise issue or issues for the Court to decide in
specific constitutional terms – be sure to incorporate the specific factual issue and the
constitutional provision at issue – be as specific as possible and frame the issue as a question.
For example, in an Establishment Clause case, the issue may be, “Whether a newly erected
display of the Ten Commandments standing alone in a county courthouse violates the
Establishment Clause of the First Amendment?” Hint – the issue is written above from the
perspective of each party, but feel free to reword it if you think that the facts and the law require
4. OPINION: This is the section in which you announce the Court’s
opinion. Please summarize the arguments from both sides. If you have more than one basis for
your opinion, each should be broken down and clearly headed as a separate section. State your
positions clearly and support those positions with facts and precedent. You must cite other cases
on this issue decided by the Supreme Court. Make certain that you distinguish those cases to the
extent they differ with your opinion. You will not write any dissenting or concurring opinions,
but include which justices join/dissent from your opinion.
This should be the most detailed section of the opinion. Whether you find for the
petitioner or the respondent, it is the quality of your opinion that matters most. Your use of
precedent, your application of the facts to the law and the quality of your writing are most
important. Think like a judge and don’t let your personal views of the issue color your opinion.
1. DUE DATE: The assignment is due before noon on Monday, May 17, 2021 by 9:00 a.m.
Only the real justices have until June. Feel free to submit before the due date. Please email the
opinion as an attachment (please note in the covering email that the opinion is attached – Word is
best and be sure to put your name on the actual opinion). The assignment must also be
submitted on Canvas. Instructions will be posted for that.
You have ample time to complete the assignment, so no extensions will not be granted, but in the
event of an emergency, please let me know as soon as possible.
2. THE OPINION: The paper must be double spaced, in 12- point type and should be no less
than 8 and no more than 12 pages long (not a hard and fast rule). Normal margins please. You
will be graded on your understanding of the case, the way you select the important facts, the way
in which you frame the issue, the organization of the opinion and the connection of your analysis
and decision to the cases we have read. This must be your own work – do not cut and paste
from other opinions or anything that you might find online regarding this issue, including amicus
briefs. If you cite or quote from a decision, be sure to properly attribute it. You should
incorporate precedent into your opinion. You must also work alone and may not consult with or
collaborate with anyone else. We will use Turnitin or similar software to review the
3. FREE ADVICE: Read the instructions. Do not wait until the last minute to start the
opinion. Be sure to clearly outline and separately head the sections of the opinion. Read
through the material first and make notes. Think like a lawyer and be analytical – the
Constitution is your guide here, not any political viewpoint on either the Second Amendment or
the underlying issue here. Write in your own style but remember the best opinions we’ve read
and let them be instructive.
Please e-mail with any questions or problems. Good luck!