Legal History Courses

Professor Alison LaCroix

The courses listed below provide a taste of the Administrative Law courses offered at the Law School, although no formal groupings exist in our curriculum. This list includes the courses taught in the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years. Not all of these courses are offered every year, but this list will give you a representative sample of the variety of courses we might offer over any two-year period. Other new courses will likely be offered during your time at the Law School.

PLEASE NOTE: This page does not include courses for the current academic year. To browse current course offerings, visit my.UChicago.

American Indian Law

Autumn 2016, M. Todd Henderson and Justin B. Richland

This course will consider two distinct bodies of law regarding the 565 federally recognized Indian tribes in the United States. First, we will study the law governing the relation between non-tribal law and tribal law. This is the law of treaties, federal jurisdiction, and sovereignty. The Supreme Court has several cases on tribal issues each year, and with the rise of gaming and natural resources as major sources of wealth, the stakes in these cases for tribe members and non-members is increasing. The materials for the course will be mostly Supreme Court cases, as well as some historical materials necessary to understand the context of the judicial consideration of tribal jurisdiction. The flavor for this part of the course will be international law, although with a decidedly American approach. Second, we will study the law within several prominent tribal areas. The Hopi, for instance, have a court system that is roughly parallel to the American one, but with key differences for handling crimes, contracts, torts, and so on. The flavor for this part of the course will be comparative law, since we will compare how different legal rules develop in distinct but related legal systems. This course is mandatory for students interested in participating in the Hopi Law Practicum (serving as clerks to justices of the Hopi Appellate Court on live cases), but it is open to all students with an interest in tribes, federal jurisdiction, sovereignty, or comparative law.

American Law and the Rhetoric of Race

Spring 2017, Dennis Hutchinson

This course presents an episodic study of the ways in which American law has treated legal issues involving race. Two episodes are studied in detail: the criminal law of slavery during the antebellum period and the constitutional attack on state-imposed segregation in the twentieth century. The case method is used, although close attention is paid to litigation strategy as well as to judicial opinions. Undergraduate students registering in the LLSO, PLSC, HIST, AMER cross-listed offerings must go through the undergraduate pre-registration process. Law students do NOT need consent.

American Legal History: The Twentieth Century

Spring 2018, Laura Weinrib

This course examines major legal and constitutional conflicts in twentieth century American history. Topics include law and social movements, the role of the courts, rights consciousness, the legal profession, and legal thought. Students will connect legal texts and legal struggles to broader developments in social, cultural, and political history. Grading is based on class participation and a final take-home examination.


  • Spring 2017, Laura Weinrib

Child Exploitation, Human Trafficking & the Supply Chain

Winter 2018, Virginia Kendall

This seminar provides a comprehensive, practical introduction to the history and present-day reality of child sexual exploitation and trafficking, as well as to the interconnected web of domestic and transnational federal laws and law enforcement efforts launched in response to this global challenge. The class will use a text written by the professor and a colleague who have the distinctive perspective of two individuals who have spent their careers in the trenches investigating, prosecuting, and adjudicating these intricate and commonly emotional cases. The class will offer open debate about child sexual abuse by stripping it of its unhelpful, constricted definitions, and by candidly discussing the state of the law, the criminal justice process, and the treatment of offenders and victims. The seminar examines today's system of federal anti-exploitation laws including the arrival of commercial supply chain laws; the connection between modern communications technologies, such as the Internet, and the rise in U.S. and foreign child exploitation; the unique challenges posed by transnational investigations; organized crime's increasing domination over the commercial sexual exploitation of children; the current state of the U.S. government's transnational anti-trafficking efforts; the myriad international legal instruments designed to enhance transnational enforcement efforts; how, during investigations and trials, to avoid re-injuring the child-victims; the hallmarks of an effective trial strategy; the most promising investigative and trial avenues for the defense; and, what contemporary research tells us about charging and sentencing-related issues, including victimization and recidivism rates. Taught by federal district court judge, Hon. Virginia M. Kendall. Final grade will be based on a major paper.

European Legal History

Winter 2018, Richard Helmholz

This seminar aims to give students an appreciation of the basic themes and most important events in European (as opposed to English) legal history. It begins with the Roman law formulated under the Emperor Justinian and moves forward to the 19th century. Among the subjects covered are Germanic law, the rise of legal science beginning in the 12th century, the nature of the ius commune, legal humanism, the reception of Roman law, the natural law school, and the movement towards Codification. In addition to the text book, students are expected to read one law review article each week and to share it with the class. They are permitted to write a research paper, but a final examination will also be offered as an option.


  • Winter 2017, Richard Helmholz

Evolution of Legal Doctrine

Autumn 2017, Frank Easterbrook

Legal doctrines have life cycles. They are born and mature. Many doctrines fade and die. There is a form of natural selection among doctrines, with several candidates offering to serve the same function in different ways. This seminar looks at the maturation and replacement of doctrines, posing the question why some die and others survive. Scope is eclectic: the doctrines range from "separate but equal" under the equal protection clause to the "original package doctrine" under the commerce clause, from the appointment of counsel under the Sixth Amendment to the understanding of the Rules of Decision Act (that is, why Swift gave way to Erie). The premise of the seminar is that those who fail to learn from the past are condemned to repeat it. Final grade will be based on: a series of short research papers and class participation.

Federalism and State Social Policy

Spring 2017, Fay Hartog-Levin

This seminar will examine the origins of federal and States' powers; how conflicts between the two have been resolved; how and why there has been an expansion or contraction of States' powers; and what political, policy,economic and other factors have affected these changes. Some of the substantive topics to be discussed include K-12 education, regulation of water quality and access, discrimination based on sexual orientation, labor laws, elections and voting rights,environmental laws, gun control, and the legalization of marijuana. Resources will include current news articles and commentaries. Guest lecturers will include Senator Dick Durbin and other politicians and practitioners. This class is cross-listed with Harris. Harris School students must also attend class on Wednesday, March 29. The final meeting for this class will be on Wednesday, May 24.

Greenberg Seminar: Black Lives Matter, Why?

Spring 2018, Herschella Conyers, Amy Hermalik, Xiaorong Jajah Wu

#BlackLivesMatter, why? In this class, we will examine Black Lives Matter, its meteoric leap from hashtag to rights movement, and where it goes from here. We will explore the roots of the movement, criticisms and pushback, intersectionality, and the questions it raises for the nation's future. We will read articles and essays, and also draw on a number of podcasts and movies to round out our discussion and come to a clearer understanding of Black Lives Matter. The class will meet twice in the fall, once in the winter, and twice in the spring.


  • Autumn 2017, Herschella Conyers, Amy Hermalik, Xiaorong Jajah Wu
  • Winter 2018, Herschella Conyers, Amy Hermalik, Xiaorong Jajah Wu

Greenberg Seminar: Discrimination in American Institutions

Spring 2018, Adam Chilton and Emily Buss

Although it has been over fifty years since the passage of the Civil Rights Act, racial discrimination remains a major problem in America's institutions. In this Greenberg seminar, each session we will watch a documentary film that explores racial discrimination in a different institution that is central to life in America. These will include areas like criminal justice, education, housing policy, political participation, and employment. We will specifically explore the de jure and de facto drivers of discrimination, and ways that legal reforms may help to address these problems. We will also discuss the extent to which the films we watch are successful at identifying and accurately characterizing institutional discrimination, and the power of media to drive awareness and change.


  • Autumn 2017, Adam Chilton and Emily Buss
  • Winter 2018, Adam Chilton and Emily Buss

Greenberg Seminar: Greek Tragedy and Justice

Spring 2017, Martha Nussbaum and Richard Posner

This seminar will study tragedies based on two mythic themes: the House of Atreus (Aeschylus' Oresteia, Sophocles' Elektra, Euripides' Elektra and Orestes), and the Theban cycle (Sophocles' Oedipus Tyrannos, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone, Aeschylus' Seven Against Thebes), considering themes of justice and law. We will then consider literary representations of the trial and death of Socrates, especially by Plato. Please send a statement about your background in literature to both instructors. Places will be reserved for 2 LL.M. students. Graded Pass/Fail.


  • Autumn 2016, Martha Nussbaum and Richard Posner
  • Winter 2017, Martha Nussbaum and Richard Posner

Greenberg Seminar: Hamilton

Spring 2017, Alison LaCroix and William Baude

This seminar will study tragedies based on two mythic themes: the House of Atreus (Aeschylus' Oresteia, Sophocles' Elektra, Euripides' Elektra and Orestes), and the Theban cycle (Sophocles' Oedipus Tyrannos, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone, Aeschylus' Seven Against Thebes), considering themes of justice and law. We will then consider literary representations of the trial and death of Socrates, especially by Plato. Please send a statement about your background in literature to both instructors. Places will be reserved for 2 LL.M. students. Graded Pass/Fail.


  • Autumn 2016, Alison LaCroix and William Baude
  • Winter 2017, Alison LaCroix and William Baude

Greenberg Seminar: Unions in the American Political System

Spring 2018, Nicholas Stephanopoulos and Genevieve Lakier

In the United States and throughout much of the rest of the world, unions have historically played a tremendously important role in national, as well as local, politics. Over the past several decades, however, union strength has declined markedly, and the ability of unions to play an important role in national politics is today very much in question. In this seminar, we will explore the past, present, and future role that unions have played in the American political system.  We will examine the constitutional questions raised by union political power, the challenges that unions face in the present political environment, and the possible alternatives to unions as mobilizing institutions. We will also examine the significant differences in the nature of union political power in other industrialized countries and ask why, in this context as in others, the United States is so exceptional.


  • Autumn 2017, Nicholas Stephanopoulos and Genevieve Lakier
  • Winter 2018, Nicholas Stephanopoulos and Genevieve Lakier

Greenberg Seminar: What is Racism?

Spring 2018, Daniel Abebe and Aziz Huq

This seminar explores the historical, sociological, and cultural roots of racism and racial ideologies. It examines the relationship of racism and racial ideologies with different forms of political governance, including segregation and apartheid, and explores the legal mechanisms that have both permitted and prohibited racism in various settings. The seminar will mainly focus on the meaning of racism most prevalent in the United States but will also, where appropriate, consider comparative examples.


  • Autumn 2017, Daniel Abebe and Aziz Hu
  • Winter 2018, Daniel Abebe and Aziz Huq

The History of Civil Liberties in the United States

Winter 2017, Laura Weinrib

This seminar examines changing understandings of civil liberties in American legal history. It emphasizes legal and ideological contests over the meaning of free speech, religious freedom, and reproductive rights during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Readings explore the intersection between legal struggles and broader developments in social, cultural, and political history, with a particular focus on the labor, civil rights, and feminist movements.

International Human Rights

Winter 2018, Thomas Ginsburg

This course is an introduction to international human rights law, covering the major instruments and institutions that operate on the international plane. It includes discussion of the conceptual underpinnings of human rights, the structure of the United Nations System, the major international treaties, regional human rights machinery, and the interplay of national and international systems in enforcing human rights. There are no prerequisites. Grading will be on the basis of a take-home exam at the end of the quarter. Students who wish to write, in lieu of the exam, a paper sufficient to satisfy the substantial writing requirement, may do so upon approval of the topic in advance.

Islamic Law: Foundations and Current Issues

Autumn 2016, Kamran Bajwa

Since its inception, Islamic Law has grown from a set of rules governing life in 6th century Arabia to a global body of law developed across time and place with application to religious, civil, criminal, constitutional, commercial, and international law. The primary objective of the seminar will be to give students a basic understanding of Islamic Law and the issues faced in applying Islamic Law in the modern context. The seminar will cover the origins and historical development of Islamic Law, Islamic legal theory, scope and application of Islamic Law, and selected current issues such as Islamic Finance. Modern constitutional law issues regarding sources of law, religious freedom, public interest, and related issues in Muslim majority countries will be reviewed as well as the debates around the application of Islamic Law for Muslim minorities living in secular states. Special attention will be paid to comparative law aspects of Western legal theory and Islamic legal theory in light of the historical introduction of Western legal systems to the Muslim world through Colonial and post-Colonial experiences. Current political debates around Shari law and the concept of a Caliphate will be assessed against Islamic legal theory and constitutional law, specifically in light of the Arab Spring revolutions and the phenomenon of violent extremism. As such, in addition to a theoretical understanding of Islamic Law in the modern context, students will also develop an understanding of the practical impact of legal theory on political, social, and economic realities in the Muslim world and beyond. This is a one-quarter seminar for 2L and 3L students. There are no pre-requisite courses required in Islam. Weekly readings will be assigned in English language source materials. The seminar will draw on the lecturer's extensive personal experience with the subject matter and knowledge of the legal systems of Muslim majority states such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, UAE, Pakistan, Egypt, Malaysia, and elsewhere. Professor Kamran Bajwa studied classical Islamic Law and Islamic Theology at the Al-Azhar seminary in Cairo, Egypt prior to attending the University of Michigan Law School where he also took advanced courses in Islamic Law. After graduating from law school, Professor Bajwa trained as a corporate transactional lawyer at a major U.S. law firm and then moved to the Middle East and practiced law in that region for 8 years. During his time working in the Middle East, Professor Bajwa continued his studies in Islamic Law and served as an advisor to major Islamic scholars and political leaders throughout the Muslim world involved in legal reform and intellectual projects. Professor Bajwa currently heads the Middle East regional practice for a major U.S. law firm and travels regularly to the region. Grading will be based on student participation and a collaborative student presentation on a sub-topic of the student's choice.

Labor History and the Law

Spring 2018, Laura Weinrib

This seminar examines the historical relationship between American workers and the law. It focuses on legal contests over workers' rights in the courts, legislatures, and administrative agencies during the late-nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Readings explore the ways in which law has shaped labor solidarity, class formation, and strategies for organization and resistance. They also consider the influence of organized labor and of labor law on mobilization for social change, including the movements for civil liberties and civil rights. The seminar concludes by exploring current trends in American labor relations, including recent efforts to curtail the collective bargaining rights of public employees. Final grade will be based on a major paper or a series of short reaction papers.

The Original Meaning of the Constitution

Winter 2017, William Baude

This seminar will explore the original meaning of the Constitution, both in theory and in substance. The first half of the seminar will cover debates over the theoretical foundations of "originalism," as well as considering how originalism might confront such problems as unforeseen circumstances and precedent. The second half will be historically oriented -- we will read historical materials and scholarship in several case studies on the original, historical, meaning of different parts of the Constitution. The case studies will likely include federalism, the First Amendment, and the Fourteenth Amendment. Students may complete either a series of short papers during the quarter or a longer research paper on an originalist topic (which has the option of being an SRP). Prior constitutional law classes are not a prerequisite, and may or may not be helpful.

Race and American Law: Identity, Education, and Criminal Justice

Spring 2017, LaToya Baldwin Clark

After Obama's historical election, many declared that the United States had finally become a post-racial nation. The assumption was that if the country could elect a black President, then surely racism and prejudice were evils of the past. But then came the killings of Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner and others, and the community responses in Ferguson, Baltimore, and other cities across the country. These events, in turn, led to several criminal trials and federal investigations, and showed the salience of race in the operation of the criminal justice system. The assertion that "Black Lives Matter" became a rallying cry, and what started as a hashtag turned into a movement. This seminar will examine the role of law in creating and recreating race in our decidedly non-post-racial society. Topics covered will include racial identity, education, and criminal justice. Readings will include cases to understand the "law on the books;" law review articles to understand how legal academics interact the law and its implications; and social science research to understand "law in action." Students will be evaluated as follows. For 2 credits, students will write three response papers, 4-5 pages each, on 3 different set of readings, due the day before that class meets. For students wishing to take the course for 3 credits, the student must write a 20-25 page research paper on a topic of interest to the student and approved by the instructor.

Roman Law

Spring 2018, Richard Epstein

The course will treat several problems arising in the historical development of Roman law: the history of procedure; the rise and accommodation of multiple sources of law, including the emperor; the dispersal of the Roman community from the environs of Rome to the wider Mediterranean world; and developments in the law of persons. We will discuss problems like the relationship between religion and law from the archaic city to the Christian empire, and between the law of Rome and the legal systems of its subject communities.

The Social and Legal Construction of Race

Spring 2018, LaToya Baldwin Clark

This seminar will examine the role of law in creating and recreating race in our decidedly non-post-racial society. Topics covered will include racial identity, reproduction, and criminal justice. Readings will include cases to understand the "law on the books;" law review articles to understand how legal academics interact the law and its implications; and social science research to understand "law in action." Final grade will be based on: a major paper (3 credits), a series of short reaction papers (2 credits), and class participation.

Trump and the Presidency

Spring 2017, Eric Posner

Donald Trump's election was one of the most polarizing events of modern American history. While Trump's supporters celebrated the victory of their candidate, many of Trump's critics argued that Trump's election was illegitimate, and demonstrators took to the streets. Even after a short time in office, Trump's actions have-according to his critics-showed a profound indifference to democratic institutions. They complain that he has violated constitutional norms by retaining his business ties, issuing aggressive executive orders, and attacking the press, among other actions. But are the critics right? Is Trump a normal president or a constitutional aberration? We will examine these questions from the standpoint of law, history, and political theory. The seminar will require three, 5-page response papers.