Program Details

The Supreme Court: The Cases, Controversies and Personalities that shaped American History - Boca Raton

Eric Williams
Video Catch-up

Course Description

Alexander Hamilton once described the Supreme Court as the “least dangerous branch” of the American government. Although this may have been true in 1789, the Court has evolved into a co-equal branch of the federal government. From Obamacare to same-sex marriage to the election of a President, it is the Court that ultimately has the final say on most of the important issues of the day. Despite this, it may be appropriate to call the Supreme Court the “least understood branch” since the Court does much of its work behind closed doors. In fact, very few Americans are aware of the Court’s members, decisions, and day-to-day operations. The first half of this course will shed light on the least understood branch by looking at the history and inner workings of the Court. We will then look specifically at the cases and issues that have defined the Court’s agenda and American politics over the past 60 years.


  1. The Early Court, Marbury v. Madison, Chief Justice John Marshall’s leadership to Chief Justice Taney’s disaster (Dred Scott v. Sanford).
  2. The 14th Amendment: The Court fails the Civil Rights test but finds Social Darwinism in the Constitution: Justices Steven Fields, John Harlan, Oliver Wendell Holmes.
  3. The Constitutional Revolution of 1937 and The Warren Court
  4. The Rehnquist Revolution and the Current  Court Membership

About the Instructor

  • Dr. Eric J. Williams is a Professor of Criminal Justice at Radford University.  He teaches courses about constitutional law, the Supreme Court and punishment and corrections.  He received his B.A. in Government and American Studies from Lehigh University and his Ph.D. in Political Science from Rutgers University.  His writings on prisons and rural communities have appeared in academic journals and newspapers nation-wide, including the L.A. Times and his book The Big House in a Small Town was published in 2011.  He is currently working on his next book on "Critical Thinking and Ethical Decision-Making for Criminal Justice Professionals" that will be published by the University of California Press.  Dr. Williams has given guest lectures on various topics relating to prisons and prison management across the country for groups such as the American Corrections Association (ACA) and the North American Association of Wardens and Superintendents (NAAWS), the Association for Women Executives in Corrections (AWEC) and facilitates a training program he developed for the Correctional Management Institute of Texas (CMIT), the National Institute of Corrections (NIC), the Virginia and Maine Department of Corrections, the LA County Sherriff’s Department as well as several county probation departments that teaches critical thinking to senior level criminal justice leaders.