Marbury v. Madison, take 37

Three finals down, two to go. If only all of our finals could be as much fun as our law final. I’m going to miss this class. Szypszak told us at the beginning of the semester to trust him. He had a plan and he knew where he wanted to take us. Class discussions might not seem relevant, but don’t tune out, he said. It’s all part of the Socratic process. “I know where we’re going.” The last day of class, we watched High Noon and sure enough, Chuck brought us full circle, back to practicing virtue by way of being just and honest, as per Aristotle, especially in our relationships.

“If you can’t be an honest lawyer, just be honest.” – Abraham Lincoln

When Szypszak walked into class the first day with his military crewcut and sparse, two-page syllabus, he intimidated us. It was clear he was going to expect the same level of focus and self-discipline from us that he did from himself.


Charles Szypszak, UNC School of Government

He told us if we liked analysis and that style of thinking, we’d like this class, and that process would come more easily to some than it did to others. I never did better than average on our assignments but my analytical baseline might have been lower to start. Truly, I was happy for every “P” I got in that class knowing how much effort it took for me to deconstruct cases. I’m better at it now than I was to start.

These last three weeks reviewing with Micah, Andrew, and Maria have been fun. (Ask me about the Lemon test, go ahead. Where in the Constitution is a right to privacy stated?) I learned so much from my classmates and our discussions and most of all, from Szypszak’s deliberate selection of these cases to careful guidance of our discussions to tease out the most salient points. I learned a lot. It’s fulfilling to go over Marbury v. Madison now for the 37th time and grasp Justice Marshall’s brilliance at creating judicial review. I understand better what our constitutional freedoms are, how they’ve evolved, and what it looks like when they are being breached.

law book
With more knowledge of our judicial history, I’m optimistic too, however banal that sounds. Once, our courts upheld racial segregation and sterilization of the mentally disabled. So too, very soon I hope, Amendment One will be an anachronism.

Most of all, Charles Szypszak equipped me with a new way of thinking, of analyzing information, teasing out the logic, questioning its application, and trying to understand from what viewpoint another is making a decision.

I’ll probably get a “P” on his final too, but it will still have been way more enjoyable than these next two finals. On-on.

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