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 2018-19 and 2019-2020 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

Spring 2020, Thomas Rex Lee

This seminar invites students to explore the theory and practice of interpretation in public and private 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, legislation, and contracts. 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, short papers submitted in response to the practice problems. Each student will be expected to submit a paper on two of the three practice problems.Participation may be considered in final grading. This is a short class meeting: April 13, 14, 20, 21, 27 & 28 and May 4 & 5.

Advanced Topics in Moral, Political, and Legal Philosophy:  Nietzsche on Morality, Suffering, and the Value of Life

Autumn 2019, Brian Leiter

The goal of the seminar is to introduce students to some recent work of note in general jurisprudence.  Tentative topics:  (1) Julie Dickson's "Is the Rule of Recognition a 'Convential Rule'?" which sheds light on a crucial aspect of the Hart-Dworkin debate; (2) David Enoch's "Reason-Giving and the Law," which helps clarify the supposed problem about the "normativity" of law; (3) the Leiter-Toh debate about theoretical disagreements, and the relation between metaethics and general jurisprudence (main texts will be Kevin Toh's "Legal Philosophy a la Carte" and Leiter's "Theoretical Disagreements in Law:  Another Look"); (4) the Leiter-Green-Murphy debate about law's artifactual nature, and how it matters for general jurisprudence (main texts will be Leiter's "The Demarcation Problem in Jurisprudence," and excerpts from Leslie Green's "The Morality in Law," Leiter's "Legal Positivism about the Artifact Law" and Mark Murphy's "Two Unhappy Dilemmas for Natural Law Jurisprudence"); (5) Mark Greenberg's unusual brand of anti-positivism (main text will be Greenberg's "The Moral Impact Theory of Law").  Depending on time and student interests we may also discuss work by other authors. This class requires a final 20-25 page research paper.

Recommended prerequisite (not required): Jurisprudence I: Theories of Law and Adjudication or a comparable course elsewhere.


  • Winter 2019, Michael N. Forster and Brian Leiter

Artificial Intelligence Technology, Law, and Policy

Autumn 2019, Colleen Chien

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.

Behavioral Law and Economics

Spring 2020, Jonathan Masur

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 research papers totaling 20-25 pages..


  • Spring 2018, Jonathan Masur
  • Autumn 2018, Jonathan Masur
  • Spring 2019, Jonathan Masur
  • Autumn 2019, Jonathan Masur

Canonical Ideas in American Legal Thought

Spring 2020, Thomas Ginsburg, Aziz Huq, and Thomas J. Miles

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 Huq a resume and a one-paragraph statement explaining why they would like to enroll in the seminar no later than midnight on August 31, 2018. Participation may be considered in final grading.

Credits for this workshop: 
Autumn quarter: 3
Winter quarter: 2
Spring quarter 2


  • Autumn 2017, William Hubbard and Nicholas Stephanopoulos
  • Winter 2018, William Hubbard and Nicholas Stephanopoulos
  • Spring 2018, William Hubbard and Nicholas Stephanopoulos
  • Autumn 2018, Thomas Ginsburg, Aziz Huq, and Thomas J. Miles
  • Winter 2019, Thomas Ginsburg, Aziz Huq, and Thomas J. Miles
  • Autumn 2019, Thomas Ginsburg, Aziz Huq, and Thomas J. Miles
  • Winter 2020, Thomas Ginsburg, Aziz Huq, and Thomas J. Miles

Comparative Legal Institutions

Spring 2019, Thomas Ginsburg

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 2018, Thomas Ginsburg

Constitutional Decisionmaking

Spring 2020, Geoffrey R. Stone

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 (gstone@uchicago.edu) by Monday, February 10, 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. Open to JD students only.


  • Spring 2018, Geoffrey R. Stone
  • Winter 2019, Geoffrey R. Stone

Constitutional Law I: Governmental Structure

Autumn 2019, Ernest A. Young

This course focuses on the structural side of Constitutional Law: the institution of judicial review, the federal division of authority between the nation and the states, and the separation of powers among the branches of the national government. We will cover a great deal of contemporary doctrine on these subjects, but we will also consider them from a theoretical and historical perspective. In particular, we will consider theories of constitutional obligation (why we obey the Constitution), interpretation (how constitutional meaning should be ascertained), and judicial review (what role the courts, vis-a-vis other actors, should play in determining constitutional meaning). And we will assess how the Constitution's content and role have changed over time in response to historical developments.

Students' grades will be based on a final take-home examination, with marginal adjustments for contributions to class discussion.  Students who have taken Constitutional Law for LLMs may not register for this course.


  • Winter 2018, Aziz Huq
  • Spring 2018, David A. Strauss
  • Autumn 2018, William Baude
  • Winter 2019, Aziz Huq
  • Spring 2019, Alison LaCroix

Critical Legal Studies vs. Law and Economics

Spring 2020, William H. J. Hubbard

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 2018, William H. J. Hubbard
  • Spring 2019, William H. J. Hubbard

The Demagogue and Executive Power

Autumn 2018, Eric Posner

This seminar explores the question of executive power through the figure of the demagogue, and the related phenomenon of populism. Taking a historical approach, we examine the role of the demagogue at several stages of American history: the founding, the Jeffersonian era, the Jacksonian era; the populist era; the New Deal; and the modern era. We ask, What is a demagogue? What is wrong with demagoguery? What is the relationship between the demagogue and the U.S. Constitution? What is the role of the demagogue in a democracy? We also look at some international comparisons. The readings will be mainly historical.Grades will be based on class participation and reaction papers.

Emotion, Reason, and Law

Spring 2020, Martha C. Nussbaum

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 2018, Martha C. Nussbaum

Empirical Legal Studies

Spring 2019, Kyle Rozema

Lawyers constantly evaluate and make legal arguments based on facts about the world. Often, these "facts" are not universally accepted. These facts usually stem from empirical research, and the debate over the facts is usually about the debate over the empirical research. Empirical research can be difficult to understand, but a lot of today's empirical research uses only a handful of methods. In this seminar, you will learn about these methods and the main legal questions that they have been applied to address. The goal of this seminar is not to become a producer of empirical research, and students will not attempt to conduct any empirical analysis. There will be no coding in the seminar. Rather, the goal of the seminar is to become a better consumer of empirical research. Class time each week will be devoted to understanding the intuition of empirical methods. There will be no math in class, and students are encouraged to skip over all the math in the readings. With better intuition about the common empirical methods, students will be able to ask the right questions if presented with arguments based on empirical research. The method of evaluation will be a series of short reaction papers.

Fairness in Law and Economics

Winter 2019, Lee Fennell and Richard McAdams

This seminar will explore the connections between fairness and the economic analysis of law.  We will probe the standard view that fairness and the economic concept of efficiency are rival considerations, and consider the extent to which they may complement each other.  Topics will include a mix of positive analysis (how fairness perceptions influence the way parties behave), normative analysis (including questions of how best to carry out redistribution), and selected legal applications in different doctrinal areas (likely including property, contracts, torts, and criminal law, among others).   The student's grade will be based on a series of short papers and class participation.

Federal Courts

Spring 2020, William Baude

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 a final take-home examination.


  • Autumn 2017, Adam Mortara
  • Spring 2018, Aziz Huq
  • Autumn 2018, Fred O. Smith
  • Winter 2019, Aziz Huq
  • Spring 2019, William Baude

Feminist Philosophy

Spring 2019, Martha C. Nussbaum

The course is an introduction to the major varieties of philosophical feminism.  After studying some key historical texts in the Western tradition (Wollstonecraft, Rousseau, J. S. Mill), we examine four types of contemporary philosophical feminism: Liberal Feminism (Susan Moller Okin, Martha Nussbaum), Radical Feminism (Catharine MacKinnon, Andrea Dworkin), Difference Feminism (Carol Gilligan, Annette Baier, Nel Noddings), and Postmodern "Queer" Gender Theory and trans femism (Judith Butler, Michael Warner and others).  After studying each of these approaches, we will focus on political and ethical problems of contemporary international feminism, asking how well each of the approaches addresses these problems. Undergraduates may enroll only with the permission of the instructor. This class has an 8 hour take-home final exam or major paper of 20-25 pages.

Greenberg Seminar: Our Algorithmic Futures

Spring 2019, Aziz Huq and Nicholas Stephanopoulos

Machine learning, and other 'artificial intelligence' tools, increasingly sculpt the regulatory, discursive, political, economic, and scientific landscapes. This Greenberg addresses the ways in which these new technologies will alter our lives and societies, or reproduce (for better or worse) entrenched elements of those societies.


  • Autumn 2018, Aziz Huq and Nicholas Stephanopoulos
  • Winter 2019, Aziz Huq and Nicholas Stephanopoulos

Greenberg Seminar: The Conservative Legal Movement

Spring 2020, John Rappaport and Joel Isaac

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.


  • Autumn 2017, Saul Levmore and Julie Roin
  • Winter 2018, Saul Levmore and Julie Roin
  • Autumn 2019, John Rappaport and Joel Isaac
  • Winter 2020, John Rappaport and Joel Isaac

Hellenistic Ethics

Autumn 2018, Martha C. Nussbaum

The three leading schools of the Hellenistic era (starting in Greece in  the late fourth century B. C. E. and extending through the second century C. E. in Rome) - Epicureans, Skeptics, and Stoics - produced philosophical work of lasting value, frequently neglected because of the fragmentary nature of the Greek evidence and people's (unjustified) contempt for Roman philosophy.  We will study in a detailed and philosophically careful way the major ethical arguments of all three schools.  Topics to be addressed include: the nature and role of pleasure; the role of the fear of death in human life; other sources of disturbance (such as having definite ethical beliefs?); the nature of the emotions and their role in a moral life; the nature of appropriate action; the meaning of the injunction to "live in accordance with nature".  If time permits we will say something about Stoic political philosophy and its idea of global duty.  Major sources (read in English) will include the three surviving letters of Epicurus and other fragments; the skeptical writings of Sextus Empiricus; the presentation of Stoic ideas in the Greek biographer Diogenes Laertius and the Roman philosophers Cicero and Seneca. This course complements the Latin course on Stoic Ethics in the winter quarter, and many will enjoy doing both. Admission by permission of the instructor.  Permission must be sought in writing by September 15. Prerequisite: An undergraduate major in philosophy or some equivalent solid philosophy preparation, plus my permission.  This is a 500 level course.  Ph.D. students in Philosophy, Classics, and Political Theory may enroll without permission.

History of the Common Law

Spring 2020, Richard H. Helmholz

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.

Human Rights: Contemporary Issues

Autumn 2018, Susan Gzesh

This interdisciplinary course presents an overview of several major contemporary human rights problems as a means to explore the use of human rights norms and mechanisms. The course addresses the roles of states, inter-governmental bodies, national courts, civil society actors including NGOs, victims, and their families, and other non-state actors. Topics are likely to include universalism, enforceability of human rights norms, the prohibition against torture, U.S. exceptionalism, and the rights of women, racial minorities, and non-citizens.


  • Autumn 2017, Susan Gzesh, Matthew Furlong, and Kai Parker

Introduction to Law and Economics

Winter 2020, Dhammika Dharmapala

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. Participation may be considered in final grading.


  • Autumn 2017, Anup Malani
  • Winter 2018, Dhammika Dharmapala
  • Winter 2019, Dhammika Dharmapala

Is Our Constitution Undemocratic?

Winter 2020, William Baude and Genenvieve Lakier

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.

Islamic Law: Foundations and Contemporary Issues

Autumn 2019, Kamran S. Bajwa

Since its inception, Islamic Law has grown from a set of rules governing life in 6th century Arabia to a global body of law developed across time and place with application to religious, civil, criminal, constitutional, commercial, and international law. The primary objective of the seminar will be to give students a basic understanding of Islamic Law and the issues faced in applying Islamic Law in the modern context, 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. 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.  Non-law students who seek to enroll in this class should email Professor Bajwa at: Kamran.bajwa@kirkland.com. This class requires a 20-25 page paper to earn 3 credits vs. 2. Participation may be considered in final grading.


  • Autumn 2017, Kamran S. Bajwa
  • Autumn 2018, Kamran S. Bajwa

Jurisprudence I: Theories of Law and Adjudication

Spring 2020, Brian Leiter

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. Non-JD students must get instructor permission to enroll.


  • Spring 2019, Brian Leiter

Law and Economic Development

Spring 2020, Anup Malani

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. This class requires a major paper of 20-25 pages. Participation may be considered in final grading.


  • Spring 2018, Thomas Ginsburg and Anup Malani
  • Spring 2019, Anup Malani

Law and Politics: U.S. Courts as Political Institutions

Autumn 2019, Gerald Rosenberg

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.

Please watch the 17 minute video in which Professor Rosenberg explains the aims of the seminar, the topics covered, and the requirements. You can find the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2SNLd_wUEQ


  • Winter 2018, Gerald Rosenberg
  • Winter 2019, Gerald Rosenberg

Law and Psychology

Autumn 2018, Roseanna Sommers

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.

Law and Public Policy:  Case Studies in Problem Solving

Autumn 2019, Stephen Patton

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 2018, Stephen Patton

Law and Society

Autumn 2019, Anna-Maria Marshall

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 2017, Anna-Maria Marshall
  • Autumn 2018, Anna-Maria Marshall

Legislation and Statutory Interpretation

Autumn 2019, Jennifer H. Nou

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 in-class examination. Participation may be considered in final grading.


  • Winter 2019, Ryan Doerfler

Life (and Death) in the Law

Spring 2020, Herschella Juanita Glenn Conyers

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 2018, Herschella Juanita Glenn Conyers
  • Spring 2019, Herschella Juanita Glenn Conyers

Originalism and Its Discontents

Winter 2020, Stephen E. Sachs

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.

Poverty Law

Spring 2019, Andrew Hammond

This seminar offers an introduction to the substantive law and procedure of public benefit programs in the United States. The seminar will identify persistent controversies in poverty law, including means-test design, funding structure, federalism issues, and behavioral rules, as well as how poverty law interacts with immigration enforcement and disability law. Throughout, we will examine to what extent the agencies that administer these public benefits are vulnerable to federal litigation and what remedies may result from such litigation. Final grade will be based on: a series of short reaction papers and class participation (2 credits). Student who wish to earn 3 credits will be writing an additional long paper.


  • Spring 2018, Andrew Hammond


Spring 2019, William Baude

In this seminar we will consider several different aspects of the doctrine of precedent. Do lower courts have to obey the precedents of higher courts? If so, why, and when? Does the Constitution permit the Supreme Court to follow precedent, even when that precedent misinterprets the Constitution? If so, why? And under what circumstances can or should precedents be overturned? Is it possible to have a principled doctrine of precedent? We will consider both examples from case law and arguments from text, structure, and history.A previous constitutional law class is recommended, but not required. A major paper of 20-25 pages is required. Class participation may also be considered in final grading.

Psychological Dimensions of Crim Punishment (Operationalizing Theories & Methods of Psych in Crim)

Spring 2020

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.

Public Choice

Winter 2020, Saul Levmore

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.


  • Spring 2018, Saul Levmore
  • Winter 2019, Saul Levmore

Public International Law

Autumn 2019, Eric Andrew Posner

Public international law is the law that governs the relations of nation states. The class will cover the major concepts of international law, including treaties, customary international law, and state sovereignty; and several fields within international law, including human rights, international criminal law, the law of the sea, and the law of war.


  • Autumn 2017, James Gathii
  • Autumn 2018, Mary Ellen O'Connell

Racism, Law, and Social Sciences

Spring 2020, Christopher Fennell

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. Requirements for this course include thoughtful class participation and a final take-home examination.


  • Spring 2018, Christopher Fennell
  • Spring 2019, Christopher Fennell

Responses of Law and Legal Institutions to the Impacts of Racial Segregation in Chicago

Winter 2020, Robert A. Weinstock, Nino Guruli, and Amy Marie Hermalik

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 and socio-economic trends.  Such segregation has in turn given rise to many social justice issues that impact the Chicago communities that surround the Law School.  

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 focused on criminal law, policing, environmental justice, human rights, corporate law,  education and housing are anticipated.  Each session will present a tailored mix of substantive legal doctrine, interdisciplinary insights, and 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.  

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 of 20-25 pages; and 3) class participation.

Stoic Ethics Through Roman Eyes

Winter 2019, Martha C. Nussbaum

 The major ideas of the Stoic school about virtue, appropriate action, emotion, and how to live in harmony with the rational structure of the universe are preserved in Greek only in fragmentary texts and incomplete summaries. But the Roman philosophers give us much more, and we will study closely a group of key texts from Cicero and Seneca, including Cicero's De Finibus book III, his Tusculan Disputations book IV, a group of Seneca's letters, and, finally, a short extract from Cicero's De Officiis, to get a sense of Stoic political thought. For fun we will also read a few letters of Cicero's where he makes it clear that he is unable to follow the Stoics in the crises of his own life. We will try to understand why Stoicism had such deep and wide influence at Rome, influencing statesmen, poets, and many others, and becoming so to speak the religion of the Roman world. Prerequisite: ability to read the material in Latin at a sufficiently high level, usually about two-three years at the college level. Assignment will usually be about 8 Oxford Classical Text pages per week, and in-class translation will be the norm. Note: This class has a final exam that will be scheduled by the instructor.

U.S. Supreme Court: Theory and Practice

Autumn 2019, Sarah Konsky and Michael Scodro

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 15-25 pages in length) and on their performance in a moot court.


  • Autumn 2017, Sarah Konsky and Michael Scodro
  • Autumn 2018, Sarah Konsky and Michael Scodro

Workshop: Judicial Behavior

Spring 2019, Lee Epstein, Frank Easterbrook, and William M. Landes

The Workshop on Judicial Behavior provides students with a unique opportunity to read and analyze cutting-edge scholarship that focuses on how judges reach their decisions. In a case law system such as that of the United States, a realistic understanding of judicial behavior, which conventional legal instruction does not convey, is essential to the understanding and practice of law. Over the course of the academic year, six scholars from the fields of law and the social sciences will present their work.


  • Autumn 2017, Lee Epstein, Frank Easterbrook, William M. Landes, Richard Posner, and Dennis J. Hutchinson
  • Winter 2018, Lee Epstein, Frank Easterbrook, William M. Landes, Richard Posner, and Dennis J. Hutchinson
  • Spring 2018, Lee Epstein, Frank Easterbrook, William M. Landes, Richard Posner, and Dennis J. Hutchinson
  • Autumn 2018, Lee Epstein, Frank Easterbrook, and William M. Landes

Workshop: Law and Economics

Spring 2019, William H. J. Hubbard and Lee Fennel 

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. 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.


  • Autumn 2017, Omri Ben-Shahar
  • Winter 2018, Omri Ben-Shahar and William H. J. Hubbard
  • Spring 2018, Omri Ben-Shahar and William H. J. Hubbard
  • Autumn 2018, Todd Henderson and William H. J. Hubbard
  • Winter 2019, Todd Henderson and William H. J. Hubbard
  • Spring 2019, Todd Henderson and William H. J. Hubbard
  • Autumn 2019, William H. J. Hubbard and Lee Fennel 
  • Winter 2020, William H. J. Hubbard and Lee Fennel 

Workshop: Law and Philosophy

Spring 2020, Martha C. Nussbaum and Daniel Guillery

The theme for 2019-20 is "Migration and Citizenship." Confirmed speakeres as of 1/19 include David Miller, Joseph Carens, Ayelet Shachar, Adam Hosein, Adam Cox, Aziz Huq, and Seyla Benhabib, who will also be the Dewey Lecturer on January 15.

This is a seminar/workshop many of whose participants are faculty from various related disciplines.  It admits approximately ten students.  Its aim is to study, each year, a topic that arises in both philosophy and the law and to ask how bringing the two fields together may yield mutual illumination. Most sessions are led by visiting speakers, from either outside institutions or our own faculty, who circulate their papers in advance.   The session consists of a brief introduction by the speaker, followed by initial questioning by the two faculty coordinators, followed by general discussion, in which students are given priority. Several sessions involve students only, and are led by the instructors.    Students write a 20-25 page seminar paper at the end of the year.  The course satisfies the Law School Substantial Writing Requirement. Students must enroll for all three quarters to receive credit.

Students are admitted by permission of the two instructors.  They should submit a c.v. and a statement (reasons for interest in the course, relevant background in law and/or philosophy) to the instructors by e mail by September 20.  Ph.D. students in Philosophy and Political Theory and law students do not need permission.


  • Autumn 2017, Martha C. Nussbaum and Nicolas Delon
  • Winter 2018, Martha C. Nussbaum and Nicolas Delon
  • Spring 2018, Martha C. Nussbaum and Nicolas Delon
  • Autumn 2019, Martha C. Nussbaum and Daniel Guillery
  • Winter 2020, Martha C. Nussbaum and Daniel Guillery

Workshop: Law and Philosophy: Enlightenment Liberalism and its Critics, Left and Right

Spring 2019, Brian Leiter and Nethanel Lipshitz

The topic for 2018-19 will be "Enlightenment liberalism and its critics," the critics coming from both the left and the right. Enlightenment liberalism was marked by its belief in human freedom and the need for justifications on any infringements of that freedom; by its commitment to individual rights (for example, rights to expression or to property); and by its faith in the rational and self-governing capacities of persons and their basic moral equality. The Workshop will begin in the fall with several classes just for students to discuss foundational readings from liberal thinkers like Locke, Kant and Mill (Jeremy Waldron and David Brink will also visit the Workshop to discuss, respectively, Locke and Mill). In the Winter quarter, we will consider critics from the left, notably Marx and Frankfurt School theorists like Herbert Marcuse. (Steven Lukes is a confirmed outside visitor.) In Spring, we will turn to critics from the "right" such as Nietzsche (who rejects the moral equality of persons) and Carl Schmitt. There will be sessions with the students discussing primary texts and then sessions with outside speakers (some still being scheduled) sometimes interpreting the primary texts, sometimes criticizing the critics of liberalism, and sometimes developing their ideas. Open to PhD students in philosophy, and to J.D. students and other graduate students who submit an application to Prof. Leiter detailing their background in philosophy. This class will require a major paper (20-25 pages). Only continuing students from winter will be registered.


  • Autumn 2018, Brian Leiter and Nethanel Lipshitz
  • Winter 2019, Brian Leiter and Nethanel Lipshitz

Workshop: Public Law and Legal Theory

Spring 2020, Aziz Huq, Daniel Hemel, Adam S. Chilton, Jonathan, and Thomas Ginsburg

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. 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.


  • Autumn 2017, Jonathan Masur, Richard H. Helmholz, Adam Chilton, Daniel Hemel, and Genevieve Lakier
  • Winter 2018, Jonathan Masur, Richard H. Helmholz, Adam Chilton, Daniel Hemel, and Genevieve Lakier
  • Spring 2018, Jonathan Masur, Richard H. Helmholz, Adam Chilton, Daniel Hemel, and Genevieve Lakier
  • Autumn 2018, Jonathan Masur
  • Winter 2019, Jonathan Masur
  • Spring 2019, Jonathan Masur
  • Autumn 2019, Jonathan Masur, William Baude, Adam S. Chilton, Ryan David Doerfler, Thomas Ginsburg
  • Winter 2020, Aziz Huq, Daniel Hemel, Adam S. Chilton, Jonathan, and Thomas Ginsburg

Wrongful Discrimination: Legal and Philosophical Perspectives

Spring 2019, Nethanel Lipshitz

As human beings, we make distinctions all the time. We cannot get by in the world without discriminating. Yet, some forms of discrimination are wrongful, and when discrimination is wrongful, it is typically considered to be a central case of injustice and unfairness. The question of what makes an incidence of discrimination wrong is thus a topic of heated social debate. This is the main question we will take up in this seminar. We will read philosophical literature on discrimination, and use legal cases as our cases studies. We will look in more detail at one case of discrimination in particular - discrimination against the disabled - and discuss the contentious topic of affirmative action.A major paper of 20-25 pages is required for this class. Class participation may be considered in final grading.