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 2019-20 and 2020-2021 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.
Advanced Interpretation: Law and Language
This seminar invites students to explore the theory and practice of interpretation in public law. We will begin with an introduction to the field of law and language-considering both legal and linguistic scholarship of relevance to the practice of legal interpretation. We will then extend this scholarship to an in-depth, comparative analysis of the law's approach to interpretation in the fields of constitutional law and legislation.
In each of these fields students will first be presented with legal scholarship on the premises of interpretation in that field. We will then explore tools of interpretation that may be used to resolve the interpretive problems that arise in each field. Among other tools, students will be introduced to methods used by linguists (including corpus linguistic analysis and survey methods). Each unit will close with a practice problem allowing students to apply the theory and tools they have learned in analyzing a hypothetical problem of the sort that might arise in the field. Student performance will be assessed on the basis of class participation and, more significantly, a case note, comment, or amicus brief on a matter that goes to a question of ambiguity in a provision of public law. This is a condensed class that meets only on April 12, 13, 26, 27 and May 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, and 18.
- Spring 2021, Thomas Rex Lee
- Spring 2020, Thomas Rex Lee
Advanced Topics in Moral, Political & Legal Philosophy: Social and Political Philosophy of Hegel & Marx
We will focus on Hegel's philosophy of history and its influence on Marx's historical materialism; and on Hegel's critique of Christianity in the Early Theological Writings and also in the Phenomenology and its relation to Marx's early theory of human nature in the 1840s and his critique of ideology. A major paper of 20-25 pages is required. Participation may be considered in final grading. This class will begin on Monday, January 11. A make-up session for the missed January 4 class will be provided.
- Winter 2021, Michael N. Forster and Brian Leiter
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 Anne Reese
Artificial Intelligence Technology, Law, and Policy
Artificial intelligence is transforming the way that companies and organizations engage, routine tasks are carried out, and humans relate to one another. Machine learning, natural language processing, machine vision, and related technologies are augmenting or replacing human intelligence in a number of domains, creating new legal and policy issues, challenges and opportunities.
Students that take this course are expected to gain fluency, working knowledge and the rudimentary skills of analysis that pertain to the technology, business, law and policy issues raised by artificial intelligence, robotics, and related technologies. Through reading assignments, case studies, and research exercises, students will leave the course with the ability to understand the business models and comparative advantages of various artificial intelligence firms and projects, to spot and analyze the legal, ethical and policy issues raised by them, and to problem-solve and understand how to apply existing and emerging frameworks to the challenges associated with artificial intelligence. This is a short class meeting for four days: October 7,10,14, and 17.
- Autumn 2019, Colleen Chien
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 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 law review articles and other forms of legal writing from the past 150 years. The readings will consist of a mix of public law and private law, and various scholarly methodologies, including critical race theory, law and economics, and the legal process school. 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. Students interested in enrolling should email Professors Ginsburg and Kim a resume and a one-paragraph statement explaining why they would like to enroll in the seminar no later than midnight on August 31, 2020.
- Spring 2021, Thomas J. Miles, Thomas Ginsburg, and Hajin Kim
- Winter 2021, Thomas J. Miles, Thomas Ginsburg, and Hajin Kim
- Autumn 2020, Thomas J. Miles, Thomas Ginsburg, and Hajin Kim
- Spring 2020, Thomas Ginsburg, Aziz Huq, and Thomas J. Miles
- Winter 2020, Thomas Ginsburg, Aziz Huq, and Thomas J. Miles
- Autumn 2019, Thomas Ginsburg, Aziz Huq, and Thomas J. Miles
- Winter 2019, Thomas Ginsburg, Aziz Huq, and Thomas J. Miles
- Autumn 2018, Thomas Ginsburg, Aziz Huq, and Thomas J. Miles
- Spring 2018, William Hubbard and Nicholas Stephanopoulos
- Winter 2018, William Hubbard and Nicholas Stephanopoulos
- Autumn 2017, William 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.
- Spring 2021, Thomas Ginsburg
- Spring 2019, Thomas Ginsburg
- Spring 2018, Thomas 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org), 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. To be eligible for participation in the seminar, students should send me an e-mail (email@example.com) by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, November 6, including the names and e-mail addresses of all five "Justices." If more than four courts sign up, I will select the participating courts by lot and I will email you by Monday, November 9, to let you know whether your court has been selected. This class will have varied meeting dates determined by the faculty member, but will still have the equivalent meeting times and out of class work required for a 3 credit seminar.
- 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 constitutional law. It will cover, among other things, the institution of judicial review; the separation of powers between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the federal government; and the distribution of power between the federal government and state and local governments. It will also cover methods of constitutional interpretation and topics in constitutional theory. This class has a final exam. Participation may be considered in final grading.
- Spring 2021, Bridget Anna 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 Legal Studies vs. Law and Economics
This seminar will explore two kindred (!) schools of legal thought: critical legal studies (including critical race theory and critical legal studies scholarship on gender and status) and law and economics. We will read canonical and representative works from both schools, with special attention to their critiques of each other. We will attempt to identify the ways in which these critiques have influenced, or should influence, current research and teaching in law. Grades will be based on class participation and a series of short papers. A 3 credit option is available to students who write an additional 10-12 page paper in addition to the series of short reaction papers and class participation.
- Spring 2020, William H. J. Hubbard
- Spring 2019, William H. J. Hubbard
- Spring 2018, William H. J. Hubbard
Critical Race Studies
Spring 2021, William J. H. Hubbard
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 final examination.
Emotion, 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. 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 and psychology. 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, 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. Next, we turn to the role played by emotions in constitutional law and in thought about just institutions - a topic that seems initially unpromising, but one that will turn out to be full of interest. Other topics will be included as time permits. Law students and Ph.D. students may register without permission. All others need instructor's permission.
- Spring 2020, Martha C. Nussbaum
- Spring 2018, 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 Maria Flores
This course considers the role of the federal courts in the U.S. federal system. Topics will include the power of Congress to expand or contract the jurisdiction of the federal courts, federal question jurisdiction, litigation against federal and state governments and their officials, direct and collateral review of state-court decisions, abstention, and related doctrines. Constitutional Law I is recommended. This class has a final exam.
- 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 Lynn 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, Jonathan Masur and Richard McAdams
- Winter 2021, Jonathan Masur and Richard McAdams
- Autumn 2020, Jonathan Masur and Richard McAdams
Greenberg Seminar: The Conservative Legal Movement
We will study the rise of the conservative legal movement as a competitor to legal liberalism. Topics will include both influential persons and organizations, such as the Federalist Society, and jurisprudential ideas, including originalism and law and economics. Participating students earn one pass/fail credit. Attendance at all sessions is required to earn the credit.
- Spring 2020, John Rappaport and Joel Isaac
- Winter 2020, John Rappaport and Joel Isaac
- Autumn 2019, John Rappaport and Joel Isaac
- Winter 2018, Saul Levmore and Julie Roin
- Autumn 2017, Saul Levmore and Julie Roin
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 Anna Fahey and Aziz Huq
- Winter 2021, Bridget Anna Fahey and Aziz Huq
- Autumn 2020, Bridget Anna Fahey and Aziz Huq
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.
- Spring 2020, Richard 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. This class will begin the week of January 4, 2021.
- Autumn 2017, Anup Malani
- Winter 2018, Dhammika Dharmapala
- Winter 2019, Dhammika Dharmapala
- Winter 2020, Dhammika Dharmapala
- Winter 2021, Dhammika Dharmapala
Is Our Constitution Undemocratic?
It is often said that the U.S. Constitution is the oldest democratic constitution in the world. But how democratic is it? This seminar will explore that question both historically and by examining, in some detail, the constitutional design. Topics to be discussed include: the Framing and the legacy of slavery; constitutional war powers and U.S. imperialism; presidential power; Article III and the powers of judicial review; the Senate; the Electoral College and the constitutional organization of voting more broadly; Article V and the difficulties of amending the Constitution. Grades will be based on some combination of class participation, reaction papers and/or a short final research paper.
- Winter 2020, William Baude and Genevieve Lakier
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 exam.
- Spring 2021, Brian Leiter
- Spring 2020, Brian Leiter
- Spring 2019, 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. This class begins the week of January 4.
- Winter 2021, Anup Malani
- Spring 2020, Anup Malani
- Spring 2019, Anup Malani
- Spring 2018, Thomas Ginsburg and 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 Rosenberg
- Autumn 2019, Gerald Rosenberg
- Winter 2019, Gerald Rosenberg
- Winter 2018, Gerald Rosenberg
Law and Psychology
The economist John Maurice Clark once observed that although members of his field may choose to remain ignorant of insights offered by the field of psychology, they "will not thereby avoid psychology." Instead, he wrote, the economist "will force himself to make his own, and it will be bad psychology." The same can be said of law.
In this seminar, we will examine the ways in which the law makes its own psychology, and will analyze whether these instances are good or bad psychology-that is, whether they are supported by empirical evidence. We will examine bits and pieces of various legal doctrines, ranging from criminal procedure to antidiscrimination law, but we will not cover any area of law in a systematic fashion. This course will emphasize insights to be gained from social and cognitive psychology, and will spend comparatively less time on developmental or clinical psychology.
This course will require a series of short reaction papers. Participation may be considered in final grading.
- Spring 2020, Roseanna Sommers
- Autumn 2018, Roseanna Sommers
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 on the instructor's experience as Corporation Counsel for the City of Chicago and senior legal advisor to Mayor Rahm Emanuel. 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 on available options 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 and limits, 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 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
Many challenges in law come from the difficulty of interpreting words-always incomplete, often old. This seminar explores different methods of resolving interpretive problems: "plain meaning," its cousin textualism; a search for intent ("original," presumed, or imputed); functional analysis; and so on. The seminar asks how the competing approaches to decoding texts stand up on different criteria, such as consistency with principles of democratic governance (including the contributions of public choice theory) and the philosophy of language. Constitutional and statutory interpretation receive approximately equal emphasis. Enrollment is limited to 20 students. The student's grade is based on a series of short research papers. Successful completion of this seminar qualifies for the fulfillment of the WP graduation requirement. Participation may be considered in final grading.
- Winter 2020, Frank Easterbrook
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 agencies and courts. The student's grade is based on a final examination. Participation may be considered in final grading.
- Spring 2021, Farah Peterson, Jennifer H. Nou, Ryan David Doerfler, and Richard A. Epstein
- Autumn 2019, Jennifer H. 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 two 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 2021, Herschella Juanita Glenn Conyers
- Spring 2020, Herschella Juanita Glenn Conyers
- Spring 2019, Herschella Juanita Glenn Conyers
- Spring 2018, Herschella Juanita Glenn Conyers
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 Patrick Baude
Originalism and Its Discontents
Originalism is a major school of constitutional interpretation and an important field of study. Both legal discussions and public debates regularly feature originalist arguments or criticisms of originalism. To engage these arguments, lawyers and citizens must weigh the merits of a diverse set of originalist theories. Prerequisite: any constitutional law course.
This short seminar is designed to acquaint you with a number of originalist and nonoriginalist arguments; to enable you to assess their strengths; and to give you an opportunity to sharpen your own views on the topic.
This class requires a series of response papers (combined page total = 10-12 pages). Participation may be considered in final grading.
- Winter 2020, Stephen E. Sachs
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 Punishment (Operationalizing Theories & Methods of Psychology in Criminal Law)
This two-week seminar will introduce law students to how tools of socio-cognitive psychology can be used to uncover empirical insights into the workings of criminal law and its decision-makers, including judges and jurors. We will discuss empirical scholarship that combines doctrinal analysis with theories and methodologies of psychology to identify where and why the legal system's expectations and assumptions about how criminal laws and procedures operate are at odds with the socio-cognitive realities of human decision-making. We will also consider potential legal and psychological routes through which policy makers and practitioners can address these disconnects in order to improve the accuracy and fairness of the criminal justice system. More broadly, we will discuss both the possibilities and limitations of what the theories and methods of psychology can offer to the study and practice of criminal law. At the end of the course, students will propose their own experimental designs in this regard. No prior experience in psychology is needed.This is a short class that meets 6 times: April 7/8/9/14/15/16 from 6:10-7:55 p.m.
- Spring 2020, Avani Sood
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. 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. 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.
- Winter 2021, Saul Levmore
- Winter 2020, Saul Levmore
- Winter 2019, Saul Levmore
- Spring 2018, 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.
*Depending on the enrollment outcome, this course may qualify to be all in person.
- Autumn 2020, Thomas Ginsburg
- Autumn 2019, Eric Andrew Posner
- Autumn 2018, Eric Andrew 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 Andrew 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).
Participation may be considered in final grading. This class will begin the week of January 4, 2021.
- 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 session will provide an overview of the historic drivers of racial segregation in Chicago, key contemporary racial, socieo-economic, administrative and political dynamics in the City. After that introductory meeting, each subsequent session will be led by a different faculty member 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. Many sessions will feature either a skills-based component, to present how the law operates in reality, or a guest speaker, to convey the real-world effect of legal institutions on a community. This year, we will follow a similar format, but focus on events from the past year.
Students will be assessed in the following ways: 1) weekly blog-style reactions to the readings in advance of the week's seminar; 2) a final research paper; and 3) class participation."
- 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 David 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 short reaction paper.
- 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 year-long 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. This workshop does not require a research paper, but students interested in academic writing in law and economics are encouraged to use this workshop to develop their ideas. Grading is based on the completion of a series of reaction papers. Students enrolled in the workshop receive three credits; one in Autumn, one in Winter, and one in Spring. Participation may be considered in final grading.
Please note that the Workshop is open to anyone to attend on a non-registered basis. Only law students can take it for a grade (i.e., everyone else takes it P/F) and non-law students should only be able to register if slots are open after law students have registered.
- 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, but for the first time, the fall quarter will have a specific topical focus: policing reform. 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. Participation may be considered in final grading.
- Spring 2021, Richard McAdams, Ryan David Doerfler, Aziz Huq, Sonja Starr, and Bridget Anna Fahey
- Winter 2020, Richard McAdams, Ryan David Doerfler, Aziz Huq, Sonja Starr, and Bridget Anna Fahey
- Autumn 2020, Richard McAdams, Ryan David Doerfler, Aziz Huq, Sonja Starr, and Bridget Anna Fahey
- Spring 2020, Aziz Huq, Daniel Jacob Hemel, Adam S Chilton, Jonathan Masur, and Thomas Ginsburg
- Winter 2020, Aziz Huq, Daniel Jacob Hemel, Adam S Chilton, Jonathan Masur, and Thomas Ginsburg
- Autumn 2019, Jonathan Masur, William Patrick Baude, Adam S Chilton, Ryan David Doerfler, and Thomas Ginsburg
- Spring 2019, Jonathan Masur
- Winter 2019, Jonathan Masur
- Autumn 2018, Jonathan Masur
- Spring 2018, Jonathan Masur, Richard H. Helmholz, Adam Chilton, Daniel J. Hemel, and Genevieve Lakier
- Winter 2018, Jonathan Masur, Richard H. Helmholz, Adam Chilton, Daniel J. Hemel, and Genevieve Lakier
- Autumn 2017, Jonathan Masur, Richard H. Helmholz, Adam Chilton, Daniel J. Hemel, and Genevieve Lakier