Jurisprudence and Legal Theory Courses

Professor Martha Nussbaum

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

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

Advanced Topics in Moral, Political and Legal Philosophy

Winter 2018, Michael Forster and Brian Leiter

Anglophone epistemology has recently become interested in the question whether the origin of our beliefs matters to their acceptability or justification. The intuitive thought is simple: If you had been brought up in a different family, or a different culture, or at a different time, your moral, religious, and philosophical beliefs (among any others) would likely have been very different than they are. Shouldn't that make us wonder whether we are really justified in believing what we believe? Should the origin or historical contingency of our beliefs and values make us skeptical about them, or lead us to revise them? Many historical figures have thought so: in different ways, Herder, Marx, and Nietzsche. Many recent Anglophone philosophers think not: they ask what epistemological principle would license a localized skepticism about certain beliefs without having far-reaching implications? When does the etiology of belief matter epistemically and when does it not? We begin by looking at contemporary approaches to this question in the recent Anglophone literature, then turn to the important historical figures concerned with these issues. Final grade will be based on a major paper.


  • Winter 2017, Michael Forster and Brian Leiter

American Indian Law

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

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

Behavioral Law and Economics

Spring 2018, 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 short papers.


  • Spring 2017, Jonathan Masur

Canonical Ideas in American Legal Thought

Spring 2018, William Hubbard and Nicholas Stephanopoulos

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 from the twentieth century, as well as newer papers that extend and apply those canonical ideas to modern legal problems. The readings will consist of a healthy mix of public law and private law, and various scholarly methodologies. During the Autumn quarter, 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.


  • Autumn 2016, William Hubbard and Nicholas Stephanopoulos
  • Winter 2017, William Hubbard and Nicholas Stephanopoulos
  • Spring 2017, William Hubbard and Nicholas Stephanopoulos
  • Autumn 2017, William Hubbard and Nicholas Stephanopoulos
  • Winter 2018, William Hubbard and Nicholas Stephanopoulos

Children and the Law: The Restatement Process

Spring 2017, Emily Buss

This seminar combines an introduction to the substantive law of children's rights, and an introduction to the process through which the American Law Institute Restatements are produced. Professor Buss serves as one of the Reporters on the ALI's new Restatement of Children and the Law, and work for this course offers students an opportunity to contribute to that drafting and advising process. After the first few sessions, in which students will gain basic grounding in children's rights and the Restatement process, students will prepare and present draft Restatement portions focused on a topic of their choice, to be discussed and reviewed by their classmates, who will serve in the ALI adviser's role. Possible topics include school speech, search and seizures in schools and elsewhere, rights and limits of religious observance in schools, gender identity rights, rights to access medical and reproductive care, among others. After the seminar concludes, students will submit a final, revised Restatement portion (black letter law, comments, and reporter's notes), which will qualify for SRP credit. Prior enrollment in Con Law VII (Parent, Child & State) or The Constitution Goes to School does not preclude enrollment in this seminar, as student work in the seminar will focus on a specific topic and general discussion will focus on the Restatement process and the particular questions pressed in that context.

City Policing

Winter 2018, Richard McAdams

This seminar will focus on policing and police reform in large American cities, especially Chicago. We will examine the history of the Chicago Police Department and other large city police departments; recent crime levels in Chicago and other cities; municipal practices regarding hiring, training, unionizing, and deployment of police, including community policing; stop and frisk practices; police shootings and other uses of force; citizen complaints and internal discipline; Fourth Amendment doctrine relevant to policing use of force; and institutional mechanisms of accountability. Students will write a series of reaction memos and carry on a discussion regarding the readings and make a brief presentation about a suggestion for reform in one of the last classes. The grade will be based on the memos, the discussion, and the presentation. Students may qualify for an additional credit hour by writing a substantial paper.

Comparative Legal Institutions

Spring 2018, 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; 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 2017, Thomas Ginsburg

Constitutional Decision Making

Spring 2018, Geoffrey 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 12, 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 by Wednesday, February 14, to let you know whether your court has been selected.


  • Winter 2017, Geoffrey Stone

Constitutional Law I: Governmental Structure

Spring 2018, David Strauss

This course provides an introduction to the United States Constitution. Topics to be covered include constitutional interpretation; the function of judicial review; the role of the states and the federal government in the federal structure; and the allocation of powers among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. The student's grade is based on a final take-home examination. Students who have taken Constitutional Law for LLMs may not register for this course.


  • Winter 2017, Louis Michael Seidman
  • Spring 2017, Alison LaCroix
  • Winter 2018, Aziz Huq

Constitutional Law VI: U.S. Constitutional Rights in Comparative Perspective

Autumn 2017, Rivka Weill

The course explores U.S. constitutional law's position regarding the complex burning dilemmas of the twenty first century. These include the death penalty, hate speech, terrorist kidnapping, immigration, secession and nullification, political boycott, the right to bear arms, torture, targeted killings, election integrity and the rights to vote and be elected, the right to marry, freedom of the press, equal protection and affirmative action, abortion, and religious free exercise (especially as it arises in the context of religious sacraments and religious dress). We will examine these issues theoretically and comparatively using Canada, Germany, India, Israel, South Africa and the United Kingdom as case studies. We will reveal fascinating dialogues within countries and between countries on these issues. Assessment for the course will be based on a combination of class participation (10%) and a take-home final examination (90%).


  • Autumn 2016, Rosalind Dixon

Corporate Theory

Spring 2018, Dorothy Lund

This course explores why American corporation law has its particular structure. In the course, we will seek to understand how the separation of ownership and control creates agency costs, and the ways in which corporate law attempts to remedy them, including disclosure, fiduciary duties, voting, and hostile takeovers. In addition to exploring the economic theory underpinning corporate law, we will consider the political context in which corporate governance operates. We will read and discuss current debates about the agency cost framework, the proper balance of decision-making authority between shareholders and managers, and the merits of legal rules. Some background in business law will be helpful, but is not a requirement. Students will be evaluated based on class participation and a series of reaction papers (two credits).

Critical Legal Studies vs. Law and Economics

Spring 2018, William 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. For students who want to earn 2 credits, grades will be based on class participation and a series of short papers. Students who wish to take the class for 3 credits will be required to write a series of research papers totaling 20-25 pages, and will also be graded on class participation.

Emotion, Reason, and Law 

Spring 2018, Martha 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.

Evolution of Legal Doctrine

Autumn 2017, Frank Easterbrook

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

Federal Courts

Spring 2018, Aziz Huq

This course will consider the functioning of the federal courts in our larger federal system. Particular attention will be paid to doctrinal questions pertinent to those intending to litigate in federal court or serve as federal law clerks. It is recommended that students take Constitutional Law I before taking this class. The student's grade is based on a proctored final examination.


  • Autumn 2016, Adam Mortara
  • Spring 2017, Aziz Huq
  • Autumn 2017, Adam Mortara

Feminist Philosophy

Spring 2017, Martha 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 (Judith Butler, Michael Warner). 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. NOTE: Undergraduates may enroll only with the permission of the instructor.

Greenberg Seminar: The Complacent Class and Other Tyler Cowen Ideas

Winter 2018, Saul Levmore and Julie Roin

This Greenberg Seminar will read and discuss books by Tyler Cowen, a provocative and wide-ranging economist. Likely books include: The Complacent Class (the failure of the American Dream and why our society is static); , Average is Over, (ideas about income inequality and jobs in the New Economy);  Good and Plenty (arts funding); Creative Destruction (cultural appropriation and globalization); and What Price Fame (fame versus merit). [Books will be provided.]


  • Autumn 2017, Saul Levmore and Julie Roin

Greenberg Seminar: Crime and Politics in Charm City: A Portrait of the Urban Drug War

Spring 2017, Jonathan Masur and Richard Mcadams

We will explore a series of works on urban crime, politics, and policing, 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 urban education and child welfare agencies; and the role of the city newspaper in self-governance. Preference is given to 3L students. Graded Pass/Fail.


  • Autumn 2016, Jonathan Masur and Richard Mcadams
  • Winter 2017, Jonathan Masur and Richard Mcadams

Greenberg Seminar: Discrimination in American Institutions

Spring 2018, Adam Chilton and Emily Buss

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


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

Greenberg Seminar: The Future of Government

Spring 2017, Salen Churi and M. Todd Henderson

This Greenberg Seminar will explore how new innovations upend existing systems, with a special focus on the ways that technological innovations may affect, displace, or even replace existing legal and regulatory frameworks. We will explore such topics as the conflict between insurgent startup companies like Uber and existing regulation, labor market dislocations brought on or hastened by automation, and how technological change can or should change government structures. Graded Pass/Fail.


  • Autumn 2016, Salen Churi and M. Todd Henderson
  • Winter 2017, Salen Churi and M. Todd Henderson

Greenberg Seminar: The Trump Presidency

Spring 2018, William Howell and Eric Posner

Donald Trump is the most divisive president of the modern era. After a tempestuous electoral campaign, he entered office with weak public support, and was immediately embroiled in a series of scandals. Does his presidency change American politics and constitutional understandings, or is he a "normal" president, appearances to the contrary? We will read recent books on the Trump presidency, focusing on his election, his early tenure, and his legal and political battles.


  • Autumn 2017, William Howell and Eric Posner
  • Winter 2018, William Howell and Eric Posner

Greenberg Seminar: What is Racism?

Spring 2018, Daniel Abebe and Aziz Huq

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


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

Greenberg Seminar: Where Does the Rule of Law Come From?

Spring 2017, Thomas Ginsburg and James Robinson

Although the rule of law is the central political ideal of our time, we know very little about where it comes from or how to push political systems to have more of it. Perhaps there are some clues to be found from looking at its origins. Drawing on readings from anthropology and history, this seminar will interrogate the rule of law and its antecedents in pre-modern societies and early states.


  • Autumn 2016, Thomas Ginsburg and James Robinson
  • Winter 2017, Thomas Ginsburg and James Robinson

Human Rights: Contemporary Issues

Autumn 2017, 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.


  • Winter 2017, Susan Gzesh

Introduction to Law and Economics 

Winter 2018, 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.


  • Autumn 2016, Anup Malani
  • Winter 2017, Dhammika Dharmapala
  • Autumn 2017, Anup Malani

Islamic Law: Foundations and Current Issues

Autumn 2016, Kamran Bajwa

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

Jurisprudence I: Theories of Law and Adjudication

Spring 2018, 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. Take-home essay exam.


  • Spring 2017, Brian Leiter

Land Use and Social Policy

Spring 2017, Michael Pollack

This seminar explores the ways in which land use decisionmaking shapes and reflects broader issues of class and social policy. We will cover topics and debates of contemporary significance including development and gentrification, fair and affordable housing, religious freedom, the impacts of landmark or historic preservation districts, the incidence of eminent domain, the burdens of environmental damage and environmental protection, and more. Grades will be based on a series of short reaction papers and class participation (two credits). Students may earn a third credit by writing a 15-page research paper.

Law and Advances in Medicine

Spring 2018, Julie Palmer

This seminar will address the intersection of medicine, science, and law, focusing on issues related to human research, informed consent, genetic technologies, and other advances in biotechnology. Enrollment is limited to 10 students. Students will write a significant research paper, submitted in three stages, which can be used to satisfy the Writing Project requirement and which will count for 50 percent of the grade. A Writing Project paper can be submitted on the first day of the following quarter. The other 50 percent of the grade will be based on class participation.

Law and Economic Development

Spring 2018, Thomas Ginsburg and Anup Malani

The relationship between law and economic development has been one of the central concerns of both modern social theory and of the development profession. This course will explore how, if at all, one might structure the legal system or implement particular policies so as to foster national economic growth. Drawing on literatures from economics, law and other disciplines, our first topic will be a survey of the various theories that seek to explain the process of development. Then we will turn to a discussion of the role that law might have played the role played in the development of Western Europe and that it might play in the development plans of currently developing nations. We shall also include a discussion of the impact that international trade and investment law play in generating wealth, and the relationship between wealth, democracy and distribution. Final grade is based on a 20-page paper. SRP requires a 25-page paper.

Law and Society

Autumn 2017, 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 major paper.

Legal Interpretation

Winter 2017, Frank Easterbrook

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.

Legislation and Statutory Interpretation

Spring 2018, Richard Epstein

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. The class encompasses political theory and public choice approaches to the legislative process as they relate to legal interpretation. It aims to bolster students' ability to work with statutes in law school and beyond. At the end of the class, students will have a thorough grasp of the production of statutes by the legislative branch and their use by the courts.


  • Spring 2017, Aziz Huq

Negotiating Theory and Practice

Autumn 2016, Ian Solomon

This course offers students an opportunity to develop negotiating skills and strategies for application in all areas of personal and professional life. Students will be introduced to conceptual frameworks for understanding how agreements are reached or not reached, and they will have ample opportunities to practice negotiation in structured simulations and other exercises. Assigned readings and seminar discussions will consider contributions from law, game theory, psychology, and more. Students will be encouraged to develop their own tools and practices of inquiry to enable continued learning about negotiation beyond the limits of the quarter.

The Original Meaning of the Constitution

Winter 2017, William Baude

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

Poverty Law

Spring 2018, 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 2017, Miriam Hallbauer

Public Choice

Spring 2018, 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 collective 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 (from takings law to the meaning of precedents and to the way we structure appeals). 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 2017, Saul Levmore

Public International Law

Autumn 2017, James Gathii

This course takes up international law as a substantive body of rules, an array of processes by which law is created, interpreted, and enforced, as well as a discipline in that comprises a community of lawyers and academic jurists with a common vocabulary, a shared sense of history and a shared range of professional activities, but often with divergent views about its purposes, missions and accomplishments. This course is designed to introduce you to both the substance and process aspects of international law and how it is applied, interpreted and contested by it various participants. After focusing on two problems that demonstrate how international law has evolved and developed, the course then proceeds to focus on the traditional sources of international law and the contemporary pressures that have been placed on them. Its participants will then be considered particularly in light of the decision-making mechanisms by which international law is developed and carried out, the institutions that serve as deciders, and the legal regimes that take shape as a result. Part of the course will also engage the question of international law in the domestic system. The last part of the course will address problems related to global interdependence and integration, including but not limited to international legal challenges relating of managing the global economy (with a particular focus on dispute settlement in the World Trade Organization) as well as on efforts to regulate the use of force. Final grade will be based on: a major paper.

Racism, Law, and Social Sciences

Spring 2018, 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.


  • Winter 2017, Christopher Fennell

The Social and Legal Construction of Race

Spring 2018, LaToya Baldwin Clark

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

Textual Interpretation: Linguistics and the Law

Autumn 2016, N. Elizabeth Diamond

Natural language is the primary tool of the law. Lawyers and judges, called upon to interpret contracts, statutes, and other written documents, have developed methodologies for ascertaining the meaning of the parties as expressed in the writing, according to the rules of grammar. (Thayer, 1892). Methodologies for textual interpretation rest on a number of assumptions about meaning, ambiguity, vagueness, and other aspects of language. But jurisprudence rarely questions those assumptions. The purpose of this seminar is to test the assumptions against philosophical theories, using tools developed in the field of Linguistics. For example, the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia advocated for textualism, an approach which rests on the premise that words and sentences have a "plain meaning." This seminar looks to the classic works of philosophy of language to investigate the concept of "plain meaning." The students will read original essays by Frege, Russell, Quine, Strawson, Donnellan, Grice, and other philosophers. Modern linguists, including Chomsky and Fodor, are also on the reading list. Each session will tackle a problem pondered by analytical philosophers (after many decades, their word puzzles are still intriguing). For each problem we will discuss the legal implications; each problem is illustrated by at least one court case in which a metalinguistic understanding of the text might have been helpful in deciding the case. The seminar explores: - What is the relationship between the words of a document and the document's legal effect? - Does meaning reside only in the private thoughts of the speaker and listener (writer and reader); if not, which aspects of semantic content are intrinsic to the text? - If the notion of plain meaning is a convenient legal fiction, what policy purposes does it serve? - What are the ways in which texts can be unclear (lexical ambiguity, syntactic ambiguity, scope ambiguity, vagueness, etc.)? - When is a proposition true by definition and whose definition counts? - What is the role of precedent in resolving vagueness? First-year contracts is helpful. Background in Linguistics and Philosophy is not required.

Theoretical and Comparative Aspects of Corporate Governance

Spring 2017, Uriel Procaccia

In this seminar we shall explore some key concepts in corporate law from a theoretical (i.e. non-doctrinal) perspective. The materials will borrow heavily from the economic, psychological, financial and accounting literature. By the same token no formal education in either of these disciplines or in math is expected. Doctrinal materials will be treated as empirical observations. For instance, we might note that a given judicial dictum was made by some court as one notes the occurrence of facts, but then explore whether that dictum generates an optimal result. The seminar will be divided in two parts. During approximately the first half of the quarter I shall deliver introductory lectures. In the second half the students will make oral presentations on topics of their choice, which naturally will pertain to the subject of the seminar. Prior to making those presentations the students will be expected to consult with me in order to make sure that their respective presentations are going in the right direction. By the end of the term the students will submit a written paper on the subject of their oral presentations. There will be no final exam. The final grade for students choosing not to be evaluated on a pass/fail basis will be the oral presentation (10%), class participation (10%) and the final written paper (80%). Prerequisite: Corporate Law

Trump and the Presidency

Spring 2017, Eric Posner

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

U.S. Courts as Political Institutions

Winter 2018, 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.

U.S. Supreme Court: Theory and Practice

Autumn 2017, 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. Students interested in enrolling should email Mr. Scodro (mscodro@mayerbrown.com) and Professor Konsky (konsky@uchicago.edu), on or before September 1, a resume and short statement of interest explaining why they would like to enroll in the seminar. Students will be informed of their enrollment status by September 5.


  • Autumn 2016, Sarah Konsky and Michael Scodro

Workshop: Judicial Behavior

Spring 2018, Lee Epstein, William Landes, Richard Posner, Frank Easterbrook, Dennis Hutchinson

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. By the end of the academic year, students will produce a major research paper on judicial behavior. The Workshop is limited to twenty law students; interested students should contact Prof. Landes (w-landes@uchicago.edu) by the start of Autumn quarter 2017. It will meet seven times over the course of the academic year.


  • Autumn 2016, Lee Epstein, William Landes, Richard Posner, Frank Easterbrook, Dennis Hutchinson
  • Winter 2017, Lee Epstein, William Landes, Richard Posner, Frank Easterbrook, Dennis Hutchinson
  • Spring 2017, Lee Epstein, William Landes, Richard Posner, Frank Easterbrook, Dennis Hutchinson
  • Autumn 2017, Lee Epstein, William Landes, Richard Posner, Frank Easterbrook, Dennis Hutchinson

Workshop: Law and Economics

Spring 2018, Omri Ben-Shahar and William Hubbard

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 2016, Omri Ben-Shahar and William Hubbard
  • Winter 2017, Omri Ben-Shahar and William Hubbard
  • Spring 2017, Omri Ben-Shahar and William Hubbard
  • Autumn 2017, Omri Ben-Shahar and William Hubbard
  • Winter 2018, Omri Ben-Shahar and William Hubbard

Workshop: Law and Philosophy: Current Issues in General Jurisprudence

Spring 2017, Brian Leiter, Martha Nussbaum, Matthew Etchemendy

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. The topic for 2016-17 will expose students to cutting-edge work in general jurisprudence, 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. We will be particularly interested in the way in which work in philosophy of language, metaethics, metaphysics, and other cognate fields of philosophy has influenced recent scholarly debates that have arisen in the wake of H.L.A. Hart's seminal The Concept of Law (1961). Please see www.law.uchicago.edu/workshops/lawandphilosophy for additional information concerning each session. Usual participants include graduate students in philosophy, political science, and divinity, and law students. Students write a 20-25 page seminar paper at the end of the year. The paper may satisfy the Law School Substantial Writing Requirement. Students must enroll for all three quarters to receive credit. Students are admitted by permission of the 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.


  • Autumn 2016, Brian Leiter, Martha Nussbaum, Matthew Etchemendy
  • Winter 2017, Brian Leiter, Martha Nussbaum, Matthew Etchemendy

Workshop: Public Law and Legal Theory

Spring 2018, Jonathan Masur, Richard Helmholz, Adam Chilton, Daniel Hemel, Genevieve Lakier

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.


  • Autumn 2016, Jonathan Masur and Richard McAdams
  • Winter 2017, Jonathan Masur and Richard McAdams
  • Spring 2017, Jonathan Masur and Richard McAdams
  • Autumn 2017, Jonathan Masur, Richard Helmholz, Adam Chilton, Daniel Hemel, Genevieve Lakier
  • Winter 2018, Jonathan Masur, Richard Helmholz, Adam Chilton, Daniel Hemel, Genevieve Lakier