Jurisprudence and Legal Theory Courses
The courses listed below provide a taste of the Jurisprudence and Legal Theory courses offered at the Law School, although no formal groupings exist in our curriculum. This list includes the courses taught in the 2020-21 and 2021-2022 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.
Jump to a course
- Advanced Interpretation: Law and Language
- Advanced Topics in Moral, Political, and Legal Philosophy
- American Indian Tribal Law
- Behavioral Law and Economics
- Canonical Ideas in American Legal Thought
- Comparative Legal Institutions
- Constitutional Decisionmaking
- Constitutional Law I: Governmental Structure
- Critical Race Studies
- Emotions, Reason, and Law
- Equality as a Human Right
- Federal Courts
- First Amendment Theory
- Greenberg Seminar: (Re)Building Bridges: Can Reviving & Reimagining Public Infrastructure Save America?
- Greenberg Seminar: Crime and Politics in Charm City: A Portrait of the Urban Drug War
- Greenberg Seminar: Tyrants, Big and Small
- History and Theory of Policing in America
- The History of American Federalism: Origins to the Civil War
- History of the Common Law
- Introduction to Law and Economics
- Islamic Law: Foundations and Contemporary Issues
- Jurisprudence I: Theories of Law and Adjudication
- Jurisprudence II: Problems in General Jurisprudence
- Law and Economic Development
- Law and Politics: U.S. Courts as Political Institutions
- Law and Public Policy: Case Studies in Problem Solving
- Law and Society
- Legislation and Statutory Interpretation
- Life (and Death) in the Law
- Modern Indian Political and Legal Thought
- The Original Meaning of the Privileges or Immunities Clause
- Property Theory
- Psychological Dimensions of Criminal Law
- Public Choice and Law
- Public International Law
- Public Law in the Time of Trump
- Racism, Law, and Social Sciences
- Responses of Law and Legal Institutions to the Impacts of Racial Segregation in Chicago
- Supreme Court Reform
- U.S. Supreme Court: Theory and Practice
- Workshop: Law and Economics
- Workshop: Law and Philosophy
- Workshop: Public Law and Legal Theory
Advanced Interpretation: Law and Language
This seminar invites students to develop, defend, and apply a framework for interpreting the language of law. The course materials highlight the basis for and means of the law's commitment to an inquiry into "ordinary meaning," identify theoretical and operational shortcomings in the inquiry, and open a dialogue about how best to deal with the problem.
The dialogue is centered around a proposal to use linguistic theory and tools to better refine the inquiry into the communicative content of the language of law. We will consider traditional tools long used by judges (such as dictionaries, canons, and legislative history) and emerging tools used by linguists (such as corpus linguistic tools and human-subject survey instruments). We will then consider possible grounds for refinement in our interpretive approach to ordinary meaning, as developed in judicial opinions and in emerging scholarship on law and linguistics.
The course materials include both support for and substantial critiques of the use of linguistic theory and tools. The goal of the seminar is not to convince students to embrace these emerging tools. It is to invite careful, critical thinking about how best to theorize and operationalize the inquiry into the communicative content of the language of law, and on what to do when we encounter indeterminacy.
Students will be invited to come to their own conclusions. They will be asked to do so (a) by participating in class discussion of the assigned scholarly material, as applied to a range of cases on statutory interpretation; and (b) producing a paper that outlines, defends, and applies a framework of interpretation as applied to a reported or pending case, a canon of interpretation, or some other application.
This class requires a major paper (20-25 pages). Participation may be considered in final grading. This is a short class that will meet from 6:30-8:30pm on April 11, 12, 13, 25, 26, 27 and May 2, 3, 9, 10.
- Spring 2022: Thomas R. Lee
- Spring 2021: Thomas R. Lee
- Spring 2020: Thomas R. Lee
Advanced Topics in Moral, Political, and Legal Philosophy
Topic: NIETZSCHE AND THE HERMENEUTIC TRADITION
Hermeneutics, or the theory of interpretation, was developed in its modern form in Germany in the 18th- and early 19th-centuries by authors like Herder, F. Schlegel and Schleiermacher. Later in the 19th-century, there emerged what Ricouer subsequently dubbed a "hermeneutics of suspicion"-an attempt to reveal the hidden meanings beneath the surface meanings people express-in figures like Marx, Nietzsche and Freud. In the first half of the seminar, we will give a close reading of Nietzsche's On the Genealogy of Morality as an exercise in the hermeneutics of suspicion, as well as consider in some detail Nietzsche's remarks on perspectivism and interpretation. In the second half of the seminar, we will then consider the historical background to this hermeneutics of suspicion in Romantic hermeneutics. We will also give particular attention to the development of legal hermeneutics in Savigny and then, much later, through the work of Gadamer. We will conclude by returning to the hermeneutics of suspicion, especially as illustrated by Marx. Open to philosophy PhD students without permission and to others with permission; those seeking permission should e-mail Leiter with a resume and a detailed description of their background in philosophy (not necessarily in the study of Nietzsche or hermeneutics). In the event of demand, preference will be given to J.D. students with the requisite philosophy background. (I) and (III) M. Forster; B. Leiter. This class requires a major paper of 20-25 pages.
- Winter 2022: Brian Leiter and Michael N. Forster
American Indian Tribal Law
Most of American legal education focuses on federal, state, and local government laws. Yet, there are 574 tribal governments in the United States that receive precious little attention from legal academia and American society broadly. Why do we generally ignore or exclude the laws of American Indian tribes from the mainstream study and conception of of "American law"? When we take the time to look at tribal law, what might we learn? These questions will guide this seminar as we examine the complex history of tribal law in America and the current state of American Indian tribal law. A series of short research papers on different topics in tribal law will be required (20-25 pages.)
- Spring 2021: Elizabeth A. Reese
Behavioral Law and Economics
This seminar will explore a set of frontier issues at the intersection of law and human behavior, including people's conduct under risk and uncertainty; the commitment to fairness; social influences and peer pressure; extremism; adaptation; happiness; discrimination; and judicial behavior. Some discussion will be devoted to the uses and limits of paternalism. Grades will be based on class participation and a series of short papers.
- Spring 2022: Jonathan Masur
- Spring 2021: Jonathan Masur
- Spring 2020: Jonathan Masur
- Autumn 2019: Jonathan Masur
- Spring 2019: Jonathan Masur
- Autumn 2018: Jonathan Masur
- Spring 2018: Jonathan Masur
Canonical Ideas in American Legal Thought
This year-long research seminar is the equivalent of a research colloquium in a PhD program. During the Autumn quarter, students will read, discuss, and critique some of the most influential legal scholarship. The readings will consist of a mix of public law and private law, and various scholarly methodologies. Students will have short research and writing assignments on the readings. Students will also work with faculty to identify a topic for a substantial research paper. During the Winter quarter, the seminar will not meet in formal sessions, but each student will work on his or her research paper and will meet individually with the instructors to assess the paper's progress. During the Spring quarter, the seminar will reconvene, and students will workshop their drafts (i.e., each student will circulate his or her draft in advance and answer questions from students and faculty). Students will receive an Autumn quarter grade based on their short writing assignments, discussion facilitation, and class participation. Students will receive a separate grade for the Winter and Spring quarters based on the quality of their research papers and class participation. Every student must enroll for the entire year; students may not drop the class after the Autumn quarter. Students may only enroll with the permission of the instructors. Participation may be considered in final grading.
Autumn quarter 3 credits
Winter quarter 2 credits
Spring quarter 2 credits
- Spring 2022: Adam S. Chilton and William Baude
- Winter 2022: Adam S. Chilton and William Baude
- Autumn 2021: William Baude and Adam S. Chilton
- Spring 2021: Thomas J. Miles, Tom Ginsburg, and Hajin Kim
- Winter 2021: Thomas J. Miles, Tom Ginsburg, and Hajin Kim
- Autumn 2020: Thomas J. Miles, Tom Ginsburg, and Hajin Kim
- Spring 2020: Tom Ginsburg, Aziz Huq, and Thomas J. Miles
- Winter 2020: Tom Ginsburg, Aziz Huq, and Thomas J. Miles
- Autumn 2019: Tom Ginsburg, Aziz Huq, and Thomas J. Miles
- Winter 2019: Tom Ginsburg, Aziz Huq, and Thomas J. Miles
- Autumn 2018: Tom Ginsburg, Aziz Huq, and Thomas J. Miles
- Spring 2018: William H. J. Hubbard and Nicholas Stephanopoulos
- Winter 2018: William H. J. Hubbard and Nicholas Stephanopoulos
- Autumn 2017: William H. J. Hubbard and Nicholas Stephanopoulos
Comparative Legal Institutions
This course is designed to examine a range of legal institutions from a comparative and interdisciplinary perspective. It is not a traditional course in comparative law, in that it focuses not so much on particular rules of substantive law but on the structure of different legal systems and the consequences of those structural differences for law and society. In particular, we will focus on the economic impact of legal traditions. Readings will be drawn from legal and social science literature, including works from anthropology, economics, political science and sociology. The course will explicitly cover non-Western legal traditions to an extent not found in conventional comparative law courses. Furthermore, American institutions are explicitly included in the comparison: this is not simply a course in foreign law. Assessment is by a three-hour take-home exam. There is an option to write a research paper sufficient to fulfill the substantial writing requirement; LLM, second-year and third-year students can exercise this option freely but only a limited number of first-year students may avail themselves of it. Participation may be considered in final grading.
- Spring 2022: Tom Ginsburg
- Spring 2021: Tom Ginsburg
- Spring 2019: Tom Ginsburg
- Spring 2018: Tom Ginsburg
Students enrolled in the seminar will work as "courts" consisting of five "Justices" each. During each of the first eight weeks of the quarter, each court will be assigned two hypothetical cases raising issues under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. All cases must be decided with opinion (concurring and dissenting opinions are permitted). The decisions may be premised on the "legislative history" of the Equal Protection Clause (materials on that history will be provided) and on any doctrines or precedents created by the "Justices" themselves. The "Justices" may not rely, however, on any actual decisions of the United States Supreme Court. The seminar is designed to give students some insight into the problems a Justice confronts in collaborating with colleagues, interpreting an ambiguous constitutional provision, and then living with the doctrines and precedents he or she creates. Enrollment will be limited to three courts. Since the members of each court must work together closely under rigid time constraints, students must sign up as five-person courts. This seminar will not have regularly-scheduled classes (except for introductory and concluding meetings), but you should not underestimate the time demands. It is a very demanding seminar. If more than three courts sign up, I will select the participating courts by lot. To be eligible for participation in the seminar, students should send me an e-mail (email@example.com), including the names and e-mail addresses of all five "Justices." This seminar will not have regularly-scheduled classes (except for an introductory meeting), but you should not underestimate the time demands. It is a very demanding seminar. If more than three courts sign up, I will select the participating courts by lot and I will email you to let you know whether your court has been selected.
Students in each court will write mock Supreme Court opinions in a series of eight hypothetical cases. On average, each student in this seminar writes opinions totaling approximately 50 single-spaced pages. This includes SRP papers.
- Winter 2022: Geoffrey R. Stone
- Winter 2021: Geoffrey R. Stone
- Spring 2020: Geoffrey R. Stone
- Winter 2019: Geoffrey R. Stone
- Spring 2018: Geoffrey R. Stone
Constitutional Law I: Governmental Structure
This course provides an introduction to the Constitution's structural provisions. We will study the powers of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the federal government as well as how the Constitution structures the spaces of overlap between them, including the administrative state. We will also study the Constitution's system of federalism, which distributes power vertically between the federal government and state and local governments. The course will provide an introduction to constitutional argumentation, sources of constitutional analysis, and certain topics in constitutional theory. This class has a final exam. Participation may be considered in final grading.
- Spring 2022: Bridget A. Fahey
- Winter 2022: Alison LaCroix
- Autumn 2021: David A. Strauss
- Spring 2021: Bridget A. Fahey
- Winter 2021: William Baude
- Winter 2021: Alison LaCroix
- Spring 2020: Aziz Huq
- Autumn 2019: Ernest A. Young
- Spring 2019: Alison LaCroix
- Winter 2019: Aziz Huq
- Autumn 2018: William Baude
- Spring 2018: David A. Strauss
- Winter 2018: Aziz Huq
Critical Race Studies
This course provides an introduction to critical race theory through reading canonical works by critical race scholars; it explores a selection of current legal debates from a critical race perspective; and it contextualizes critical race theory through the study of related movements in legal scholarship, including legal realism, critical legal studies, and social science research on discrimination and structural racism. We will attempt to identify the ways in which critical race scholarship has influenced, or should influence, legal research and law school pedagogy. Requirements for this course include thoughtful class participation and a series of short research papers.
- Spring 2022: William H. J. Hubbard
- Spring 2021: William H. J. Hubbard
Emotions, Reason, and Law
Emotions figure in many areas of the law, and many legal doctrines (from reasonable provocation in homicide to mercy in criminal sentencing) invite us to think about emotions and their relationship to reason. In addition, some prominent theories of the limits of law make reference to emotions. (Thus Lord Devlin and, more recently, Leon Kass have argued that the disgust of the average member of society is a sufficient reason for rendering a practice illegal, even though it does no harm to others. J. S. Mill and Herbert Hart argue against this view, but preserve a role for some emotions in the law.) Emotions, however, are all too rarely studied closely, with the result that both theory and doctrine are often confused. The first part of this course will study major theories of emotion, asking about the relationship between emotion and cognition, focusing on philosophical accounts, but also learning from anthropology, psychology, and psychoanalytic thought. We will ask how far emotions embody cognitions, and of what type, and then we will ask whether there is reason to consider some or all emotions "irrational" in a normative sense. We then turn to the criminal law and select areas of constitutional law, asking how specific emotions figure in doctrine and theory: anger, fear, compassion, disgust, guilt, and shame. Legal areas considered will include self-defense, reasonable provocation, mercy, victim impact statements, sodomy laws, sexual harassment, shame-based punishments, equal protection, the role of constitutions in warding off fear, shame, and stigma. Other topics will be included as time permits. Requirements: regular class attendance; an 8 hour take-home final exam OR, if special permission is given, a 20-25 page paper.
- Note: this course counts as a 1L elective for law students, and is open to all law students without prerequisite. Undergraduates may enroll only with the permission of the instructor. All other students may enroll without permission.
- Spring 2022: Martha C. Nussbaum
Equality as a Human Right
This seminar will examine equality within the context of human rights. The general principles of equality and non-discrimination are fundamental elements of international human rights law and most of the world's constitutions. However, legal definitions of equality and non-discrimination differ globally as do perspectives on how human rights principles (and the concept of rights more generally) promotes and impacts equality. We will explore legal definitions of inequality based on protected classes, attributes and identity such as race, gender, ethnicity, nationality and sexual orientation. We will also discuss socio-economic inequality and its intersection with the human rights system. Students may take the course for two or three credits. All students will do a short presentation. Students taking the course for two credits will write two 4-5 page reaction papers. Students taking the course for three credits will write a reaction paper and a longer final paper. Grades will be based on the presentation, participation and papers submitted.
- Winter 2021: Claudia M. Flores
This course covers the role of the federal courts in the federal system. Topics will include the jurisdiction of the federal courts, Congress's power over those courts, litigation against federal and state governments and their officials, and the relationships between federal and state courts. Constitutional Law I is a prerequisite, though it may be waived in special circumstances. The student's grade is based on class participation and a final take-home examination. NOTE: Unlike in previous years, this class may not use the traditional Hart and Wechsler casebook, or any casebook. Prerequisite: Constitutional Law I.
- Spring 2022: William Baude
- Spring 2021: Alison LaCroix
- Autumn 2020: Fred O. Smith, Jr.
- Spring 2020: William Baude
- Spring 2019: William Baude
- Winter 2019: Aziz Huq
- Autumn 2018: Fred O. Smith, Jr.
- Spring 2018: Aziz Huq
- Autumn 2017: Adam Mortara
First Amendment Theory
This course will examine the theoretical underpinnings of the First Amendment guarantees of free speech and religious liberty. We will review and critique constitutional doctrine in these areas, in light of relevant history, philosophy, and legal scholarship, and explore the connection between these two rights. Having completed Constitutional Law II or V is recommended but not required. The grade will be based on a major paper of 20-25 pages and class participation.
- Spring 2021: Erin Miller
Greenberg Seminar: (Re)Building Bridges: Can Reviving & Reimagining Public Infrastructure Save America?
The traditional rationale for government spending on public infrastructure is to solve collective action problems. However, in recent years, governments have struggled to maintain existing infrastructure, much less expand it to be inclusive of new needs. Why is building infrastructure and maintaining it so difficult in the present day? Could government spending on public infrastructure be a means to facilitate collective action and to create collective identity? Can expanding and improving shared resources and public spaces give the United States a better and more unified future? Should we expand our notion of what counts as public infrastructure? In contemporary society, is access to some sorts of public infrastructure essential or even a right? How can or should equity analysis impact public infrastructure? This seminar exploring public infrastructure will raise these and other questions.
We will begin by considering what is - or should be - considered part of our shared public infrastructure. We will then examine classic examples of public infrastructure-think roadways, bridges, and water systems-and the challenge of addressing the current collapsing state of American infrastructure. Then we will move on to press the boundaries of what we consider public infrastructure-from public parks to schools to healthcare access-and to ask how our conception of public infrastructure reflects shared values about what public goods are worth providing at a societal level. We will conclude with a focus on lessons learned throughout the year-why are shared spaces and services important? What are the societal benefits of robust and reliable public infrastructure? As we deal with a tumultuous time, a public health crisis, an economic crisis, and struggles for justice, how should we change public infrastructure-in terms of both its concrete and its conceptualization-in the United States in the coming decade? We are excited to have the conversation with you.
- Spring 2021: Robert A. Weinstock and Amy Marie Hermalik
- Winter 2021: Robert A. Weinstock and Amy Marie Hermalik
- Autumn 2020: Robert A. Weinstock and Amy Marie Hermalik
Greenberg Seminar: Crime and Politics in Charm City: A Portrait of the Urban Drug War
We will explore a series of works on crime, politics, policing, and race, with an emphasis on the City of Baltimore: David Simon, "Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets," Sudhir Venkatesh, "Gang Leader for a Day," Jill Loevy, "Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America," and all of "The Wire." We will focus particularly on the drug war - the economics and violence of the trade; the culture of the police bureaucracy; alternative law enforcement strategies such as informants and wiretapping; the politics of race, crime rates, and legalization; and the effects of addiction. But these works also examine the effects of declining blue-collar jobs and weakening labor unions; the effects of race, incumbency, and corruption on local politics; the challenges and failures of education and child welfare agencies; and the role of the city newspaper in self-governance. Preference is given to 3L students. Graded Pass/Fail. Spring meetings will be held on April 8 and May 6 from 7:00-9:00 PM.
- Spring 2021: Johnathan Masur and Richard McAdams
- Winter 2021: Johnathan Masur and Richard McAdams
- Autumn 2020: Johnathan Masur and Richard McAdams
Greenberg Seminar: Tyrants, Big and Small
We're surrounded by 'tyrants' and complaints about ''tyranny'--in the household, among our peers, on social media, in our national government, and overseas. But what is tyranny? And why's it so bad? This Greenberg seminar takes an eclectic look at the idea of 'tyrants' in a wide array of contexts, using a varied set of texts.
- Spring 2021: Bridget A. Fahey and Aziz Huq
- Winter 2021: Bridget A. Fahey and Aziz Huq
- Autumn 2020: Bridget A. Fahey and Aziz Huq
History and Theory of Policing in America
We will read from classic texts that influenced the way those who think and write about the police, as well as the police themselves, view the role of the police in American society. This class requires a major paper (20-25 pages). To earn SRP credit, papers will be 25-35 pages and include drafts and revision. Participation may be considered in final grading.
- Spring 2022: John Rappaport
The History of American Federalism: Origins to the Civil War
This seminar examines the history of American federalism, both as a constitutional value and as a product of intellectual history, from its early modern European antecedents to the U.S. Civil War. Topics include the legal and political organization of the colonies and the British Empire; early American federal experiments; the American Revolution and the Articles of Confederation; the drafting and ratification of the Constitution; the nullification crisis; secession; and the Civil War. Readings will come from primary historical sources, secondary sources in history and law, political theory, and cases. Grades will be based on a series of short response papers and an in-class presentation. Students wishing to take the seminar for three credits must write an additional short research paper of 10 to 15 pages in addition to the rest of the coursework. Participation may be considered in final grading.
- Spring 2021: Alison LaCroix
History of the Common Law
A survey of the development of Anglo-American legal institutions. Among the subjects covered will be the origins and growth of the legal profession, the origin and use of royal writs, the growth of the court system and the nature of trials at common law, law reporting, and the development of the common law in the American colonies and the new Republic. This class has a final exam.
- Winter 2022: R. H. Helmholz
- Spring 2020: R. H. Helmholz
Introduction to Law and Economics
This class is an introduction to the economic analysis of law, an approach that has grown rapidly in the last thirty years and now exerts a profound influence on how law is taught and on how courts make decisions. The class will provide you with a set of tools for analyzing transactions and how they are shaped by legal rules, through systematic exposure to the economic way of thinking about law across a variety of legal contexts. These tools are intended to complement, not to challenge, the traditional doctrinal approach to law. The objective is to equip you to use economic reasoning in an informed and critical spirit to analyze cases and transactions of the sort you may encounter in practice. More generally, you should be able to understand and critically evaluate the use of economic analysis in legal scholarship, judicial opinions, and other legal contexts. This class has a final exam. Participation may be considered in final grading.
- Winter 2022: Dhammika Dharmapala
- Winter 2021: Dhammika Dharmapala
- Winter 2020: Dhammika Dharmapala
- Winter 2019: Dhammika Dharmapala
- Winter 2018: Dhammika Dharmapala
- Autumn 2017: Anup Malani
Islamic Law: Foundations and Contemporary Issues
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, including current political and social events globally that have roots in Islamic Law issues. 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. This is a one semester 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. A series of research papers is required (20-25 pages). Participation may be considered in final grading.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. Professor Bajwa currently heads the Middle East regional practice for Kirkland & Ellis and travels regularly to the region.
- Autumn 2020: Kamran Bajwa
- Autumn 2019: Kamran Bajwa
- Autumn 2018: Kamran Bajwa
- Autumn 2017: Kamran Bajwa
Jurisprudence I: Theories of Law and Adjudication
An examination of classic jurisprudential questions in and around the theory of adjudication: the theory of how judges actually do decide cases and how they ought to decide them. These questions include: Do legal rules really constrain judicial decision-making? What makes a rule (or norm) a rule of the legal system? Are principles of morality legally binding even when such principles have not been enacted into a law by a legislature? (Relatedly, are there objective principles of morality?) When no legal norm controls a case, how ought judges to decide that case? Can there be right answers to legal disputes, even when informed judges and lawyers disagree about the answer? Are there principles or methods of legal reasoning that constrain judicial decision-making, or is legal reasoning essentially indeterminate, such that a skillful judge can justify more than one outcome for any given dispute? Is judicial decision-making really distinct from political decision-making of the sort legislators engage in? Readings drawn exclusively from major twentieth-century schools of thought - especially American Legal Realism (e.g., Karl Llewellyn, Jerome Frank), Natural Law (e.g., Ronald Dworkin, John Finnis), and Legal Positivism (e.g., H.L.A. Hart, Joseph Raz) - supplemented by other pertinent readings (from Leslie Green, Richard Posner, and the instructor, among others). No familiarity with either jurisprudence or philosophy will be presupposed, though some readings will be philosophically demanding, and the course will sometimes venture into (and explain) cognate philosophical issues in philosophy of language and metaethics as they are relevant to the core jurisprudential questions. Attendance at the first session is mandatory for those who want to enroll. This class has a final take-home exam.
- Spring 2022: Brian Leiter
- Spring 2021: Brian Leiter
- Spring 2020: Brian Leiter
- Spring 2019: Brian Leiter
Jurisprudence II: Problems in General Jurisprudence
The class builds on topics first touched upon in Jurisprudence I, probing more deeply into the philosophical and jurisprudential issues; the class will be more philosophically demanding than Jurisprudence I. After a review of the Hart-Dworkin debate, we will consider the semantics underlying Hart's theory of the "open texture" of language as a source of legal indeterminacy, and a competing view of meaning that might eliminate indeterminacy. We then turn to the general problem of the normativity of law, before an extended investigation of Dworkin's jurisprudence, with particular attention to his different conception of jurisprudential methodology, and his treatment of questions about the objectivity of law (and morals) and the problem of theoretical disagreements. We will look at criticisms of Dworkin's views, including venturing into issues in metaethics, as well as alternative approaches to the problem of theoretical disagreements (esp. the Toh-Leiter debate). We briefly consider one other, contemporary anti-positivist approach to law that involves striking methodological assumptions. We conclude by examining the most famous work of Scandinavian Realism (Alf Ross's On Law and Justice), whose approach to the problem of the nature of law differs from Hart's and Dworkin's. Students who have not taken Jurisprudence I at the Law School must seek instructor permission to enroll (please supply detailed information about prior study of legal philosophy). This class has a final exam or students may choose to write a major paper (20-25 pages). Students who have already take Jurisprudence I can email the registrar's office at firstname.lastname@example.org to be enrolled.
- Spring 2022: Brian Leiter
Law and Economic Development
Why do some nations perform better than others, whether measured by income, happiness, health, environmental quality, educational quality, freedom, etc.? What can be done to help the world's poor? We explore the proximate causes of inequality across countries, including the role of human capital, natural resources, technology and market organization. We also explore the root causes of long-term differences in wealth, including the role of geography (e.g., location in tropical areas) and technological development (e.g., the impact of plow agriculture). We spend a substantial amount of time on the role of institutions, broadly defined, on development. We will explore the value of democracy, the common law, and state capacity generally. We will study the impact of disruptions such as the slave trade, colonialism and war. Ultimately, we will try to understand the implications of each explanation for development policy. Importantly, we will also consider how the lessons law and economics offers for countries with weak state capacity and limited rule of law differ dramatically from those it offers for countries such as the US. A major paper (20-25 pages) is required. Students will be required to complete a review and critical analysis of the literature on a specific topic in development. The topic must be approved by the professor. Participation may be considered in final grading.
- Autumn 2021: Anup Malani
- Winter 2021: Anup Malani
Law and Politics: U.S. Courts as Political Institutions
The seminar aims to introduce students to the political science literature on courts understood as political institutions. In examining foundational parts of this literature, the seminar will focus on the relationship between the courts and other political institutions. The sorts of questions to be asked include: Are there interests that courts are particularly prone to support? What factors influence judicial decision-making? What effect does congressional or executive action have on court decisions? What impact do court decisions have? While the answers will not always be clear, students should complete the seminar with an awareness of and sensitivity to the political nature of the American legal system. In addition, by critically assessing approaches to the study of the courts, the seminar seeks to highlight intelligent and sound approaches to the study of political institutions. Particular concern will focus on what assumptions students of courts have made, how evidence has been integrated into their studies, and what a good research design looks like. This class has a final exam or major paper of 20-25 pages. Participation may be considered in final grading. The final exam is administered by the instructor. Please watch the following video from Professor Rosenberg about the class: https://youtu.be/k0Lvqs5EQF8.
- Spring 2021: Gerald N. Rosenberg
- Autumn 2019: Gerald N. Rosenberg
- Winter 2019: Gerald N. Rosenberg
- Winter 2018: Gerald N. Rosenberg
Law and Public Policy: Case Studies in Problem Solving
This course examines the intersection of law and public policy and the lawyer's role in helping to formulate and defend public policy choices, using recent, real-world problems based, in part, on the instructor's experience as former Corporation Counsel and senior legal advisor to the Mayor of the City of Chicago. While the course will be conducted in a seminar/discussion format, a significant portion of each class will be devoted to hands-on role-playing in which students will play the role of legal advisors to an elected official, grappling with and proposing solutions to vexing issues of public policy. While this course may be of particular interest to students who are interested in public service and public policy-making, its emphasis on developing students' analytical and problem-solving skills and on providing hands-on, practical experience in advising clients on complex issues should be of benefit to any student, regardless of interests and career objectives. Providing legal analysis and advice and counseling clients are a critical part of almost every legal career, whether as a litigator or transactional lawyer in a private firm or as in-house counsel for a corporation or not-for-profit. Assigned reading will include press articles, proposed legislation, briefs and pleadings, and other materials concerning the case studies/public policy issues that will be examined. Students will be expected to identify and analyze legal issues, competing legal and policy interests, and possible policy alternatives, and advise their ""client"" accordingly. Grades will be based on class participation and performance in role-playing exercises and short (5 page) reaction papers concerning three of the case studies that will be examined.
- Autumn 2021: Stephen R Patton
- Autumn 2020: Stephen R Patton
- Autumn 2019: Stephen R. Patton
- Autumn 2018: Stephen R. Patton
Law and Society
This seminar offers an introduction to the central themes and major debates in the field of Law and Society. The field of sociolegal studies is an interdisciplinary one, and reflecting this, the course will emphasize research in sociology, political science, psychology, anthropology, and legal studies. We will explore classic readings from the Law and Society canon as well as more contemporary research and theory. We will analyze the readings for both their theoretical and empirical contributions, as well as for the methodologies the authors deploy. The themes we will consider over the course of the quarter include the tension between state or "official" law and nonlegal norms for ordering everyday life; the factors that influence who mobilizes the law (and who doesn't); and what it means to use law in contexts other than courtrooms, such as in families, neighborhoods, workplaces, social movements, and mass media. We will explore the debate about the value of rights and litigation strategies in efforts to produce social change, and we'll examine the ubiquitous role of law in popular culture. The course will conclude with a look forward at future directions in law and society research. Final grade will be based on a 20-25 page major paper.
- Autumn 2020: Anna-Maria Marshall
- Autumn 2019: Anna-Maria Marshall
- Autumn 2018: Anna-Maria Marshall
- Autumn 2017: Anna-Maria Marshall
Legislation and Statutory Interpretation
Much legal work today involves the close reading and interpretation of statutes or similar texts. This class considers current theories and problems related to the production and interpretation of statutes. It aims to bolster students' ability to work with statutes in law school and beyond. At the end of the class, students should have a thorough grasp of the production of statutes by the legislative branch and their use by the courts. The student's grade is based on a final examination.
- Spring 2022: Ryan D. Doerfler
- Spring 2021: Farah Peterson, Jennifer Nou, Ryan D. Doerfler, and Richard A. Epstein
- Autumn 2019: Jennifer Nou
- Spring 2018: Richard A. Epstein
Life (and Death) in the Law
This seminar will explore the various definitions and valuations of life across diverse areas of the law. Readings will include seminal cases in reproductive rights, assisted suicide, right-to-die, and capital punishment. Background readings in related areas, i.e., scientific journals, papers, etc. will also be required. The seminar will discuss policy decision-making including actuarial analysis and social, medical and religious values inherent, implicit or ignored in the legal analysis. Students will be required to write three response papers, co-draft a statute in one area of law, and participate in jury deliberations. Grade will also be based on class participation.
- Spring 2022: Herschella Conyers
- Spring 2021: Herschella Conyers
- Spring 2020: Herschella Conyers
- Spring 2019: Herschella Conyers
- Spring 2018: Herschella Conyers
Modern Indian Political and Legal Thought
India has made important contributions to political and legal thought, most of which are too little-known in the West. These contributions draw on ancient traditions, Hindu and Buddhist, but transform them, often radically, to fit the needs of an anti-imperial nation aspiring to inclusiveness and equality. We will study the thought of Rabindranath Tagore (Nationalism, The Religion of Man, selected literary works); Mohandas Gandhi (Hind Swaraj (Indian Self-Rule), Autobiography, and selected speeches); B. R. Ambedkar, the chief architect of the Indian Constitution (The Annihilation of Caste, The Buddha and his Dhamma, and selected speeches and interventions in the Constituent Assembly); and, most recently, Amartya Sen, whose The Idea of Justice is rooted, as he describes, both in ancient Indian traditions and in the thought of Tagore.
This is a seminar open to all law students, and to others by permission.
A major paper of 20-25 pages is required for this class.
- Winter 2022: Martha C. Nussbaum
The Original Meaning of the Privileges or Immunities Clause
The Fourteenth Amendment, enacted in the wake of the Civil War, provides that "No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States." But this Clause was quickly diluted by the courts, so its true meaning remains obscure. But if the original meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment is to be recovered, the Clause's meaning is central to debates over the incorporation of the Bill of Rights, the status of unenumerated rights, and principles of antidiscrimination. This seminar will be a deep dive into the original meaning of that Clause, via a mix of primary sources and competing scholarly theories. It will presume a great deal of constitutional law background, so students should have prior or concurrent enrollment in Con Law III, or the permission of the instructor. This class requires a major paper (20-25 pages). Participation may be considered in final grading.
- Spring 2021: William Baude
This seminar will survey many of the most important contributions to property law scholarship. The readings will consist of classic law review articles that have helped define the discipline as well as articles by leading contemporary academics. The seminar will explore key themes in real property, such as the relationship between formal rules and informal social norms, the role of information and transaction costs, the moral significance of commodification, and the distributional and efficiency implications of different property arrangements. This seminar is ideally suited to students who might want to become law professors in the future. Students will be evaluated on the basis of a series of brief reaction papers, a short final paper that sketches out a roadmap for an article-length piece of property scholarship, and class participation. While seminar students will not produce a substantial piece of scholarship during the seminar itself, the seminar's goal is to help students identify promising ideas for such scholarship that can be pursued during a subsequent quarter, or independently in the case of graduating students. Prerequisite: Property.
- Spring 2021: Lior Strahilevitz
Psychological Dimensions of Criminal Law
This mini-seminar will explore experimental work on psychological dimensions of criminal law theory and doctrine. Topics of discussion will include theories of punishment, elements of crime, and legal doctrines that impose and absolve criminal liability. This class requires a series of reaction papers. Participation may be considered in final grading. Pre-requisite: Criminal Law. This is a short class that meets on October 13,15,18,20, and 22.
- Autumn 2021: Avani Sood
Public Choice and Law
This course focuses on the relationship between modern perspectives on voting and interest groups on the one hand and legislation and judicial interventions on the other. Public choice is essentially the science of group decision-making, and it comes with several well-developed tools of analysis, including the difference between aggregating preferences and looking for right answers to questions. With these tools, and that perspective, we revisit the interactions between legislatures and judges, democracy's attempt to solve certain problems, and the roles played by a variety of legal doctrines and constitutional institutions. It is also an opportunity to think about everyday group decisions in law firms and other settings where this is group hiring, cost sharing, and so forth. As the course proceeds, we explore specific topics in law, such as the possibility of judicial vote-trading, the role of referenda in some jurisdictions but not others, and the role of precedent itself. Grades will be based on a final examination.
- Spring 2022: Saul Levmore
- Winter 2021: Saul Levmore
Public International Law
This course is an introduction to public international law, which is the body of law that nation states have jointly created for the purpose of governing their relations. The course focuses on the sources of international law, international institutions such as the United Nations, international adjudication, and various substantive fields of international law, such as the use of force, human rights, the treatment of aliens, and international environmental law. Grades will be based on a take-home examination, with marginal bonus for participation. A paper option is allowed for students who wish to write an SRP.
- Autumn 2021: Tom Ginsburg
- Autumn 2020: Tom Ginsburg
- Autumn 2019: Eric A. Posner
- Autumn 2018: Eric A. Posner
- Autumn 2018: Mary Ellen O'Connell
- Autumn 2017: James Gathii
Public Law in the Time of Trump
Recent events, including President Trump's controversial policies and actions, the COVID-19 pandemic, and nationwide protests over policy brutality, have placed a strain on administrative law and institutions in the United States. In this seminar, invited speakers from other law schools will present scholarship that examines these developments. The seminar serves the dual purpose of introducing students to scholarly approaches to understanding contemporary events, and educating them about the relevant administrative and constitutional rules, particularly those that address crises and fast-changing problems. Students will read academic articles, draft short reaction papers, and be prepared to ask questions of the speaker. The Q&A with each paper's author will be followed by discussion among the students and professors regarding the strengths and shortcomings of the scholarship presented. This seminar will be conducted entirely via Zoom to facilitate the inclusion of invited speakers from other schools.
- Autumn 2020: Jonathan Masur and Eric A. Posner
Racism, Law, and Social Sciences
The domains of racism, law, and the social sciences impact one another in myriad ways. At times, a system of racism is deployed through law, which in turn shapes questions asked in the social sciences. In other instances, the sciences articulate conceptual frameworks that lead to the creation of new forms of racism within society and law. Particular systems of racism have operated across a spectrum from incidents of overt violence to the daily impacts of implicit biases. Our readings and class discussions will consider a sample of case studies from across the globe in addition to past and present dynamics in the United States. Analyses of the social construction of racial and ethnic identities have facilitated studies of the ways in which social differences are created, maintained, and masked. Subjects to be addressed in this course include the interrelation of racial ideologies with other cultural and social dimensions, such as class, ethnicity, gender, political and legal structures, and economic influences. At an international scale, policy makers confront the challenge of balancing calls for multicultural tolerance with demands for fundamental human rights. We will also consider the related histories of biological, genetic, and epigenetic concepts of different races within the human species. This seminar includes a major writing project in the form of a seminar paper (20-25 pages).
- Winter 2022: Christopher Fennell
- Winter 2021: Christopher Fennell
- Spring 2020: Christopher Fennell
- Spring 2019: Christopher Fennell
- Spring 2018: Christopher Fennell
Responses of Law and Legal Institutions to the Impacts of Racial Segregation in Chicago
Chicago is among the most racially segregated major cities in America and also has one of the greatest disparities in poverty rate by race. Racial segregation in Chicago is the product of governmental policies & socio-economic trends. Such segregation has in turn given rise to many social justice issues that impact Chicago communities.
This three-credit seminar is designed to examine social and legal problems in Chicago that are connected to racial segregation in the city. In doing so, the seminar will provide an opportunity to evaluate how different areas of law interact with and effect a complex web of social problems. This seminar will meet once a week, for two hours.
The introductory sessions will provide an overview of the historic drivers of racial segregation in Chicago, key contemporary racial, socio-economic, administrative and political dynamics in the City. Each subsequent session will be led by a different faculty member or external expert and focused on exploring the ways key laws, policies, and legal institutions within a particular area of law create or exacerbate social ills related to racial segregation. Sessions in prior years have focused on criminal law, policing, environmental justice, human rights, corporate law, education, & housing. Each session will present a tailored mix of legal doctrine, interdisciplinary insights, & practical perspectives on the way law and legal institutions redress or reinforce a particular social challenge in contemporary Chicago. Some sessions will feature guest speakers to convey the real-world effect of legal institutions on a community.
Students will be assessed in the following ways: 1) weekly reactions to the readings in advance of the week's seminar; 2) a final research paper (20-25 pages); and 3) class participation.
- Winter 2022: Robert A. Weinstock
- Winter 2021: Robert A. Weinstock
- Winter 2020: Robert A. Weinstock, Nino Guruli, and Amy Marie Hermalik
Supreme Court Reform
The seminar will discuss various proposals for reforming the Supreme Court in particular and the judiciary in general. It will begin with a discussion of the current political context and how judicial reform has come to be a serious possibility for the first time in almost a century. It will then turn to more theoretical readings, covering the basic political philosophical considerations that bear on the issue. Finally, we will discuss different concrete reform proposals, both in terms of legality and desirability. Students will work in small groups to prepare and present memos evaluating specific reform proposals. Participation may be considered in final grading.
- Winter 2021: Ryan D. Doerfler
U.S. Supreme Court: Theory and Practice
This seminar will provide an in-depth look at the U.S. Supreme Court, with particular emphasis on the skills required to practice successfully in that forum. Students will not only discuss the Court as an institution, but they will also hone skills needed to navigate the certiorari process and to brief and argue before the Court. In addition to class participation, students will be graded on a legal brief (generally 15-20 pages in length) and a moot court presentation.
- Autumn 2021: Sarah M. Konsky and Michael Scodro
- Autumn 2020: Sarah M. Konsky and Michael Scodro
- Autumn 2019: Sarah M. Konsky and Michael Scodro
- Autumn 2018: Sarah M. Konsky and Michael Scodro
- Autumn 2017: Sarah M. Konsky and Michael Scodro
Workshop: Law and Economics
This workshop, conducted over three sequential quarters, is devoted to the intensive examination of selected problems in the application of economic reasoning to a wide variety of legal questions. Workshop sessions will be devoted to the presentation and discussion of papers by faculty. In addition to workshop sessions, which occur approximately every other week, there will be discussion sessions, which will serve as opportunities for students to engage in in-depth, informal discussion of topics in law and economics with the instructor. Students may either write reaction papers across all three quarters, or write a single major paper (students interested in academic writing in law and economics may use the latter option to develop their ideas). Students enrolled in the workshop receive three credits with either method of evaluation; one in Autumn, one in Winter, and one in Spring. Participation may be considered in final grading.
- Spring 2022: Dhammika Dharmapala
- Winter 2022: Dhammika Dharmapala
- Autumn 2022: Dhammika Dharmapala
- Spring 2021: Lee Fennell and Dhammika Dharmapala
- Winter 2021: Lee Fennell and Dhammika Dharmapala
- Autumn 2020: Lee Fennell and Dhammika Dharmapala
- Spring 2020: William H. J. Hubbard and Lee Fennel
- Winter 2020: William H. J. Hubbard and Lee Fennel
- Autumn 2019: William H. J. Hubbard and Lee Fennel
- Spring 2019: Todd Henderson and William H. J. Hubbard
- Winter 2019: Todd Henderson and William H. J. Hubbard
- Autumn 2018: Todd Henderson and William H. J. Hubbard
- Spring 2018: Omri Ben-Shahar and William H. J. Hubbard
- Winter 2018: Omri Ben-Shahar and William H. J. Hubbard
- Autumn 2017: Omri Ben-Shahar
Workshop: Law and Philosophy
The Workshop will expose students to work in "general jurisprudence" from roughly the last five years, including some new and forthcoming work. General jurisprudence is that part of philosophy of law concerned with the central questions about the nature of law, the relationship between law and morality, and the nature of legal reasoning. Confirmed speakers include Emid Ataq (Cornell), Julie Dickson (Oxford), David Plunkett (Dartmouth), Stephen Sachs (Duke), and Kevin Toh (University College London).
Students who have taken Leiter's "Jurisprudence I" course at the law school are welcome to enroll. Students who have not taken Jurisprudence I must contact the instructor with information about their prior study of legal philosophy. Detailed familiarity with Hart's The Concept of Law and Dworkin's criticisms of Hart is essential.
A final paper of 20-25 pages is required.
- Spring 2021: Brian Leiter and Matthew Etchemendy
- Winter 2021: Brian Leiter and Matthew Etchemendy
- Autumn 2020: Brian Leiter and Matthew Etchemendy
- Spring 2020: Martha C. Nussbaum and Daniel Guillery
- Winter 2020: Martha C. Nussbaum and Daniel Guillery
- Autumn 2019: Martha C. Nussbaum and Daniel Guillery
- Spring 2018: Martha C. Nussbaum and Nicolas Delon
- Winter 2018: Martha C. Nussbaum and Nicolas Delon
- Autumn 2017: Martha C. Nussbaum and Nicolas Delon
Workshop: Public Law and Legal Theory
Working from a variety of methodological orientations, the workshop examines questions arising at the intersections of public law, legal theory, and interdisciplinary work in law and the social sciences, with an emphasis on politics, legal history, and legal theory. The topics are therefore varied. Sessions are devoted to the presentation and discussion of papers by faculty members from other institutions. Students must enroll for the entire year and will receive one pass/fail credit. Students are required to read the papers, attend the workshop, ask questions, and to post questions to the online discussion board. The Public Law Workshop will meet on alternating Tuesday afternoons throughout the year. Students enrolling in the Public Law Workshop should check to make sure that they do not intend to take other Tuesday afternoon courses during any quarter throughout the year that would overlap with the Workshop. A series of reaction papers will be required for this workshop.
- Spring 2022: Ryan D. Doerfler, Sharon R. Fairley, Tom Ginsburg, Hajin Kim, Joshua C. Macey, John Rappaport, and Sonja Starr
- Winter 2022: Ryan D. Doerfler, Sharon R. Fairley, Tom Ginsburg, Hajin Kim, Joshua C. Macey, John Rappaport, and Sonja Starr
- Autumn 2021: Ryan D. Doerfler, Sharon R. Fairley, Tom Ginsburg, Hajin Kim, Joshua C. Macey, John Rappaport, and Sonja Starr
- Spring 2021: Richard McAdams, Ryan D. Doerfler, Aziz Huq, Sonja Starr, and Bridget A. Fahey
- Winter 2020: Richard McAdams, Ryan D. Doerfler, Aziz Huq, Sonja Starr, and Bridget A. Fahey
- Autumn 2020: Richard McAdams, Ryan D. Doerfler, Aziz Huq, Sonja Starr, and Bridget A. Fahey
- Spring 2020: Aziz Huq, Daniel Hemel, Adam S. Chilton, Jonathan Masur, and Tom Ginsburg
- Winter 2020: Aziz Huq, Daniel Hemel, Adam S. Chilton, Jonathan Masur, and Tom Ginsburg
- Autumn 2019: Jonathan Masur, William Baude, Adam S Chilton, Ryan D. Doerfler, and Tom Ginsburg
- Spring 2019: Jonathan Masur
- Winter 2019: Jonathan Masur
- Autumn 2018: Jonathan Masur
- Spring 2018: Jonathan Masur, R. H. Helmholz, Adam S. Chilton, Daniel Hemel, and Genevieve Lakier
- Winter 2018: Jonathan Masur, R. H. Helmholz, Adam S. Chilton, Daniel Hemel, and Genevieve Lakier
- Autumn 2017: Jonathan Masur, R. H. Helmholz, Adam S. Chilton, Daniel Hemel, and Genevieve Lakier