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 2021-22 and 2022-2023 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.
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- Advanced Interpretation: Law and Language
- Advanced Topics in Moral, Political, and Legal Philosophy
- Advanced Topics in Moral, Political, and Legal Philosophy: Marx's Phil. and Its 20th-Century Dev.
- Behavioral Law and Economics
- Canonical Ideas in American Legal Thought
- Comparative Legal Institutions
- Comparative Race, Ethnicity and Constitutional Design
- Constitutional Decisionmaking
- Constitutional Law I: Governmental Structure
- Corporate Governance: Theory and Practice
- Critical Race Studies
- Emotions, Reason, and Law
- Federal Courts
- Greenberg Seminar: Race and Public Health
- Greenberg Seminars: Crime and Politics in Charm City: A Portrait of the War on Drugs
- Greenberg Seminars: Order Without Law
- Greenberg Seminars: Rational Do-Gooding
- Greenberg Seminars: The Ethic of Aesthetics -- Examining the Interactions Between Law and Visual Art
- Hellenistic Ethics
- History and Theory of Policing in America
- History of the Common Law
- Introduction to Law and Economics
- Islamic Law
- Jurisprudence I: Theories of Law and Adjudication
- Jurisprudence II: Problems in General Jurisprudence
- Law and Economic Development
- Law and Public Policy: Case Studies in Problem Solving
- Legislation and Statutory Interpretation
- Life (and Death) in the Law
- Modern Indian Political and Legal Thought
- Pandemic Legal Impacts
- Positivism and its Critics
- Psychological Dimensions of Criminal Law
- Public Choice and Law
- Public International Law
- Race and the Law
- Racism, Law, and Social Sciences
- Responses of Law and Legal Institutions to the Impacts of Racial Segregation in Chicago
- U.S. Supreme Court: Theory and Practice
- Workshop: Law and Economics
- Workshop: Public Law and Legal Theory
This seminar invites students to develop, defend, and apply a framework for interpreting the language of law. The course materials highlight the basis for and means of the law's commitment to an inquiry into "ordinary meaning," identify theoretical and operational shortcomings in the inquiry, and open a dialogue about how best to deal with the problem.
The dialogue is centered around a proposal to use linguistic theory and tools to better refine the inquiry into the communicative content of the language of law. We will consider traditional tools long used by judges (such as dictionaries, canons, and legislative history) and emerging tools used by linguists (such as corpus linguistic tools and human-subject survey instruments). We will then consider possible grounds for refinement in our interpretive approach to ordinary meaning, as developed in judicial opinions and in emerging scholarship on law and linguistics.
The course materials include both support for and substantial critiques of the use of linguistic theory and tools. The goal of the seminar is not to convince students to embrace these emerging tools. It is to invite careful, critical thinking about how best to theorize and operationalize the inquiry into the communicative content of the language of law, and on what to do when we encounter indeterminacy.
Students will be invited to come to their own conclusions. They will be asked to do so (a) by participating in class discussion of the assigned scholarly material, as applied to a range of cases on statutory interpretation; and (b) producing a paper that outlines, defends, and applies a framework of interpretation as applied to a reported or pending case, a canon of interpretation, or some other application.
This class requires a major paper (20-25 pages). Participation may be considered in final grading. This is a short class that will meet from 6:30-8:30pm on April 11, 12, 13, 25, 26, 27 and May 2, 3, 9, 10.
- Spring 2022: Thomas R. Lee
- Spring 2021: Thomas R. Lee
- Spring 2020: Thomas R. Lee
Topic: NIETZSCHE AND THE HERMENEUTIC TRADITION
Hermeneutics, or the theory of interpretation, was developed in its modern form in Germany in the 18th- and early 19th-centuries by authors like Herder, F. Schlegel and Schleiermacher. Later in the 19th-century, there emerged what Ricouer subsequently dubbed a "hermeneutics of suspicion"-an attempt to reveal the hidden meanings beneath the surface meanings people express-in figures like Marx, Nietzsche and Freud. In the first half of the seminar, we will give a close reading of Nietzsche's On the Genealogy of Morality as an exercise in the hermeneutics of suspicion, as well as consider in some detail Nietzsche's remarks on perspectivism and interpretation. In the second half of the seminar, we will then consider the historical background to this hermeneutics of suspicion in Romantic hermeneutics. We will also give particular attention to the development of legal hermeneutics in Savigny and then, much later, through the work of Gadamer. We will conclude by returning to the hermeneutics of suspicion, especially as illustrated by Marx. Open to philosophy PhD students without permission and to others with permission; those seeking permission should e-mail Leiter with a resume and a detailed description of their background in philosophy (not necessarily in the study of Nietzsche or hermeneutics). In the event of demand, preference will be given to J.D. students with the requisite philosophy background. (I) and (III) M. Forster; B. Leiter. This class requires a major paper of 20-25 pages.
- Winter 2022: Brian Leiter and Michael N. Forster
The first half of the seminar will introduce major themes of Marx's philosophy-historical materialism, aspects of his economics relevant to his critique of capitalism, Marx's early theory of human nature and flourishing, and the theory of ideology (especially as applied to morality and law)-while the second half will consider the reception and development of Marx's ideas in 20th-century Continental European thought, with a particular focus on the theory of ideology (e.g., Lukacs, Gramsci, Sartre, Althusser) and the application of that theory to art and aesthetics (e.g., Adorno, Benjamin, Lifshits). (IV)Open to philosophy PhD students without permission and to others with permission; those seeking permission should e-mail Leiter with a resume and a detailed description of their background in philosophy (not necessarily in the study of Marx or Marxist philosophy). In the event of demand, preference will be given to J.D. students with the requisite philosophy background. (I) and (III) M. Forster; B. Leiter
This class requires a major paper of (6000-7500 words).
For SRP credit students will have to do additional work in consultation with the instructors.
- Winter 2023: Brian Leiter and Michael N Forster
- Winter 2022: Brian Leiter and Michael N. Forster
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 6000-7500 words.
- Winter 2023: Jonathan Masur
- Autumn 2022: Jonathan Masur
- Spring 2022: Jonathan Masur
- Spring 2021: Jonathan Masur
- Spring 2020: Jonathan Masur
- Autumn 2019: Jonathan Masur
- Spring 2019: Jonathan Masur
- Autumn 2018: Jonathan Masur
- Spring 2018: Jonathan Masur
This is a special year-long seminar devoted to the production of ideas in the law. It should be of interest to future scholars as well as those interested in intellectually ambitious lawyering or public service.
During the Autumn quarter, students will read, discuss, and critique some of the most influential legal scholarship from the past, as well as some prominent contemporary scholarship. The readings will consist of a mix of public law and private law, and various scholarly methodologies. Students will discuss these readings, and also work together and with the faculty to identify a topic for a substantial research paper (6000-7500 words). 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 class participation and paper prospectus. 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.
Autumn quarter 3 credits Winter quarter 2 credits Spring quarter 2 credits
- Spring 2023: Adam S Chilton and William Baude
- Winter 2023: William Baude and Adam S Chilton
- Autumn 2022: Adam S Chilton and William Baude
- Spring 2022: Adam S. Chilton and William Baude
- Winter 2022: Adam S. Chilton and William Baude
- Autumn 2021: William Baude and Adam S. Chilton
- Spring 2021: Thomas J. Miles, Tom Ginsburg, and Hajin Kim
- Winter 2021: Thomas J. Miles, Tom Ginsburg, and Hajin Kim
- Autumn 2020: Thomas J. Miles, Tom Ginsburg, and Hajin Kim
- Spring 2020: Tom Ginsburg, Aziz Huq, and Thomas J. Miles
- Winter 2020: Tom Ginsburg, Aziz Huq, and Thomas J. Miles
- Autumn 2019: Tom Ginsburg, Aziz Huq, and Thomas J. Miles
- Winter 2019: Tom Ginsburg, Aziz Huq, and Thomas J. Miles
- Autumn 2018: Tom Ginsburg, Aziz Huq, and Thomas J. Miles
- Spring 2018: William H. J. Hubbard and Nicholas Stephanopoulos
- Winter 2018: William H. J. Hubbard and Nicholas Stephanopoulos
- Autumn 2017: William H. J. Hubbard and Nicholas Stephanopoulos
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. In lieu of taking the exam, there is an option to write a research paper (6000-7500 words) sufficient to fulfill the substantial writing requirement; LLM, second-year and third-year students can exercise this option freely but only a limited number of first-year students may avail themselves of it. Participation may be considered in final grading.
- Spring 2023: Tom Ginsburg
- Spring 2022: Tom Ginsburg
- Spring 2021: Tom Ginsburg
- Spring 2019: Tom Ginsburg
- Spring 2018: Tom Ginsburg
Issues of multiracial democracy have come to the fore in recent years in the United States and many other countries. This seminar starts with the premise that our particular way of doing things is not the only one. It will review the comparative literature on racial and ethnic formation, stratification and conflict. It will focus on the role of constitutional design in exacerbating or ameliorating conflict. Readings will examine the politics of race and ethnicity in most other major regions of the world, along with theoretical accounts on what constitutional design can and cannot do. Students will pick a country to focus on as we work through the material. This class requires a major paper (6000-7500 words). Participation may be considered in the final grading.
- Spring 2023: Tom Ginsburg
Students enrolled in the seminar will work as "courts" consisting of five "Justices" each. During each of the first eight weeks of the quarter, each court will be assigned two hypothetical cases raising issues under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. All cases must be decided with opinion (concurring and dissenting opinions are permitted). The decisions may be premised on the "legislative history" of the Equal Protection Clause (materials on that history will be provided) and on any doctrines or precedents created by the "Justices" themselves. The "Justices" may not rely, however, on any actual decisions of the United States Supreme Court. The seminar is designed to give students some insight into the problems a Justice confronts in collaborating with colleagues, interpreting an ambiguous constitutional provision, and then living with the doctrines and precedents he or she creates. Enrollment will be limited to three courts. Since the members of each court must work together closely under rigid time constraints, students must sign up as five-person courts. This seminar will not have regularly-scheduled classes (except for introductory and concluding meetings), but you should not underestimate the time demands. It is a very demanding seminar. If more than three courts sign up, I will select the participating courts by lot. To be eligible for participation in the seminar, students should send me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) by Friday, November 4, 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 Monday, November 7, to let you know whether your court has been selected.
Students in each court will write mock Supreme Court opinions in a series of eight hypothetical cases. On average, each student in this seminar writes opinions totaling approximately 50 single-spaced pages. This includes SRP papers.
- Winter 2023: Geoffrey R. Stone
- Winter 2022: Geoffrey R. Stone
- Winter 2021: Geoffrey R. Stone
- Spring 2020: Geoffrey R. Stone
- Winter 2019: Geoffrey R. Stone
- Spring 2018: Geoffrey R. Stone
This course provides an introduction to the U.S. Constitution. We will focus on the separation of powers and federalism, including Congress's enumerated powers, the scope of executive power, judicial review, and the ability of each branch to check the others. In the course of covering those substantive topics, we will also discuss constitutional interpretation, both by judges and by others. The student's grade is based on class participation and a final take-home examination.
- Spring 2023: William Baude
- Winter 2023: David A. Strauss
- Spring 2022: Bridget A. Fahey
- Winter 2022: Alison LaCroix
- Autumn 2021: David A. Strauss
- Spring 2021: Bridget A. Fahey
- Winter 2021: William Baude
- Winter 2021: Alison LaCroix
- Spring 2020: Aziz Huq
- Autumn 2019: Ernest A. Young
- Spring 2019: Alison LaCroix
- Winter 2019: Aziz Huq
- Autumn 2018: William Baude
- Spring 2018: David A. Strauss
- Winter 2018: Aziz Huq
This class provides an introduction to the foundational policy debates in corporate law, as well as some of the fundamental economic concepts that informs those debates. The key feature of the public corporation is Adolph Berle and Gardiner Means' insight concerning the separation of ownership and control: in many cases, the managers of the firm who run the business are not the owners. This separation creates organizational problems known as agency problems. As the readings indicate, much of corporate law is directed at mitigating agency problems, including by incorporating internal governance mechanisms (such as the board of directors and shareholder voting), as well as by facilitating external governance mechanisms (such as the market for corporate control). We will explore these issues, as well as other perspectives, in depth and make them concrete with discussions of real world events and issues. This class requires a series of reaction papers. Participation may be considered in final grading. This is a short class that will meet May 2, 4, 5, 9, 11 only.
- Spring 2022: Dorothy Shapiro Lund
This course provides an introduction to critical race theory through reading canonical works by critical race scholars; it explores a selection of current legal debates from a critical race perspective; and it contextualizes critical race theory through the study of related movements in legal scholarship, including legal realism, critical legal studies, and social science research on discrimination and structural racism. We will attempt to identify the ways in which critical race scholarship has influenced, or should influence, legal research and law school pedagogy. Requirements for this course include thoughtful class participation and completion of a series of short papers (6000-7500 words).
- Spring 2023: William H. J. Hubbard
- Spring 2022: William H. J. Hubbard
- Spring 2021: William H. J. Hubbard
Emotions figure in many areas of the law, and many legal doctrines (from reasonable provocation in homicide to mercy in criminal sentencing) invite us to think about emotions and their relationship to reason. In addition, some prominent theories of the limits of law make reference to emotions. (Thus Lord Devlin and, more recently, Leon Kass have argued that the disgust of the average member of society is a sufficient reason for rendering a practice illegal, even though it does no harm to others. J. S. Mill and Herbert Hart argue against this view, but preserve a role for some emotions in the law.) Emotions, however, are all too rarely studied closely, with the result that both theory and doctrine are often confused. The first part of this course will study major theories of emotion, asking about the relationship between emotion and cognition, focusing on philosophical accounts, but also learning from anthropology, psychology, and psychoanalytic thought. We will ask how far emotions embody cognitions, and of what type, and then we will ask whether there is reason to consider some or all emotions "irrational" in a normative sense. We then turn to the criminal law and select areas of constitutional law, asking how specific emotions figure in doctrine and theory: anger, fear, compassion, disgust, guilt, and shame. Legal areas considered will include self-defense, reasonable provocation, mercy, victim impact statements, sodomy laws, sexual harassment, shame-based punishments, equal protection, the role of constitutions in warding off fear, shame, and stigma. Other topics will be included as time permits. Requirements: regular class attendance; an 8 hour take-home final exam OR, if special permission is given, a 20-25 page paper.
- Note: this course counts as a 1L elective for law students, and is open to all law students without prerequisite. Undergraduates may enroll only with the permission of the instructor. All other students may enroll without permission.
- Spring 2022: Martha C. Nussbaum
This course examines the role of the federal courts in the U.S. federal system. Topics will include the power of Congress to expand or contract the jurisdiction of the federal courts, federal question jurisdiction, litigation against federal and state governments and their officials, direct and collateral review of state-court decisions, abstention, and related doctrines. Constitutional Law I is highly recommended. This class has a final exam.
- Winter 2023: Alison LaCroix
- Autumn 2022: Curtis Bradley
- Spring 2022: William Baude
- Spring 2021: Alison LaCroix
- Autumn 2020: Fred O. Smith, Jr.
- Spring 2020: William Baude
- Spring 2019: William Baude
- Winter 2019: Aziz Huq
- Autumn 2018: Fred O. Smith, Jr.
- Spring 2018: Aziz Huq
- Autumn 2017: Adam Mortara
This Greenberg seminar will examine the interaction of public health questions (broadly defined to include both the public health system generally and environmental determinants of health) and racial dynamics in the US and beyond. We will read five texts on different areas of this topic.
- Spring 2023: Daniel Abebe and Aziz Huq
- Winter 2023: Daniel Abebe and Aziz Huq
We will explore a series of works on crime, politics, policing, and race, with an emphasis on the City of Baltimore via the television show, "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. We will also examine the effects of declining blue collar jobs and weakening labor unions; the effects of race, incumbency, and corruption on local politics; the challenges and failures of education and child welfare agencies; and the role of the city newspaper in self-governance. Preference is given to 3L students. Graded Pass/Fail and is worth 1 credit which defaults to the autumn quarter.
This Greenberg will meet on the following days at 7:00pm:
October 27, November 17, January 12, February 16, and April 13.
- Spring 2023: Jonathan Masur and Richard Mcadams
- Winter 2023: Jonathan Masur and Richard Mcadams
- Autumn 2022: Jonathan Masur and Richard Mcadams
This Greenberg will explore the informal social ordering that takes shape in the shadow of the law and in law's interstitial spaces. We will begin with Robert Ellickson's influential book about how cattle ranchers in Shasta County, California settle disputes outside the governing property rules and in ways that deviate from them. Other topics may include: the informal IP of Roller Derby pseudonyms, extralegal agreements among diamond sellers, dispute resolution among tuna merchants, systems of social sanctions within prisons, and the use of textiles as informal property and currency among enslaved people, women, and others who lacked formal property rights. Graded Pass/Fail and is worth 1 credit which defaults to the autumn quarter.
- Spring 2023: John Rappaport and Bridget Fahey
- Winter 2023: John Rappaport and Bridget Fahey
- Autumn 2022: John Rappaport and Bridget Fahey
Effective Altruism is an important movement. In this seminar we will read books that favor saving human lives in the short and long run, but we will also question these goals and ask how and why we can do the most good after our law school experiences. Should we work hard and then donate money to good causes, or should we participate in a personal way? Should we care about the environment when it is at the sacrifice of caring about Malaria in parts of the world where people are suffering every day?
You must be free on Thursday evenings after 7pm (for 5 or 6 meetings) in the Autumn and Winter. We will be joined by Visiting Faculty, and we will have dessert or dinner at the Professors' home. Graded Pass/Fail and is worth 1 credit which defaults to the autumn quarter.
- Spring 2023: Julie Roin and Saul Levmore
- Winter 2023: Julie Roin and Saul Levmore
- Autumn 2022: Julie Roin and Saul Levmore
Greenberg Seminars: The Ethic of Aesthetics -- Examining the Interactions Between Law and Visual Art
The seminar explores ethical and legal problems that lie in the intersection of law and visual arts. The co-instructor, Laura Letinsky, is an artist and a Professor at the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Chicago. Topics include valuation of visual art, gender barriers in the art world, museological and related institutional practices and policies regarding ownership and sale of art, the manipulative uses of visual depiction in advertising, laws that prohibit visual recordings of animal agriculture, and more. Some background readings and films will be assigned prior to each meeting.
The seminar will meet five times during the Autumn and Winter terms, with the meeting alternating across the professors' homes. Each meeting will start at 7:30pm with a home cooked meal. Please block the following six dates: October 19, November 16 and 30, January 11 and 25, February 8.
Graded Pass/Fail and is worth 1 credit which defaults to the autumn quarter.
- Spring 2023: Omri Ben-Shahar and Laura Letinsky
- Winter 2023: Omri Ben-Shahar and Laura Letinsky
- Autumn 2022: Omri Ben-Shahar and Laura Letinsky
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 class will begin on Tuesday, September 27 (one day before the rest of the Law classes begin). Attendance for the class is required.
Method of evaluation: A seminar paper of 6000-7500 words and an in-class presentation for the class is required.
Admission by permission of the instructor. Permission must be sought in writing by September 15.
PhD students in Philosophy, Classics, and Political theory do not need permission to enroll.
Prerequisite for others: An undergraduate major in philosophy or some equivalent solid philosophy preparation, comparable to that of first-year PhD students, plus my permission. This is a 500 level course.
- Autumn 2022: Martha C Nussbaum
We will read from classic texts that influenced the way those who think and write about the police, as well as the police themselves, view the role of the police in American society. This class requires a major paper (20-25 pages). To earn SRP credit, papers will be 25-35 pages and include drafts and revision. Participation may be considered in final grading.
- Spring 2022: John Rappaport
A survey of the development of Anglo-American legal institutions. Among the subjects covered will be the origins and growth of the legal profession, the origin and use of royal writs, the growth of the court system and the nature of trials at common law, law reporting, and the development of the common law in the American colonies and the new Republic. This class has a final exam.
- Winter 2022: R. H. Helmholz
- Spring 2020: R. H. Helmholz
This class is an introduction to the economic analysis of law, an approach that has grown rapidly in the last thirty years and now exerts a profound influence on how law is taught and on how courts make decisions. The class will provide you with a set of tools for analyzing transactions and how they are shaped by legal rules, through systematic exposure to the economic way of thinking about law across a variety of legal contexts. These tools are intended to complement, not to challenge, the traditional doctrinal approach to law. The objective is to equip you to use economic reasoning in an informed and critical spirit to analyze cases and transactions of the sort you may encounter in practice. More generally, you should be able to understand and critically evaluate the use of economic analysis in legal scholarship, judicial opinions, and other legal contexts.
This course will have a final exam. Participation may be considered in the final grading.
The textbook is available at no cost at: https://lawcat.berkeley.edu/record/1127400?ln=en
You may also purchase a hardcopy version.
- Spring 2023: Dhammika Dharmapala
- Winter 2022: Dhammika Dharmapala
- Winter 2021: Dhammika Dharmapala
- Winter 2020: Dhammika Dharmapala
- Winter 2019: Dhammika Dharmapala
- Winter 2018: Dhammika Dharmapala
- Autumn 2017: Anup Malani
This seminar provides an introduction to the sources of Islamic law, its evolution over the centuries and its application in real-world cases. Although the focus of the seminar will be largely on the classical tradition, it will also introduce students to a variety of contemporary approaches to Islamic legal reasoning that guide the lives of Muslims today. Using a combination of historical and doctrinal approaches, the seminar will explore how Muslims over time have tried to understand God's commands laid down in the scriptures and how they have constructed from the rich sources of ethical speculations in Islam, bodies of positive, statutory law that reflect Islamic values. A significant part of the seminar will consist of several cases of the application of Islamic law in the contemporary Muslim world. We will cover case studies from Afghanistan, Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia and several other Muslim majority countries to highlight the continuous evolution of Islamic law and to underscore the diversity of interpretive approaches to Islamic legal reasoning that has created a diverse body of sacred rules. The goal of the seminar is to introduce students to the nature, scope and functions of Islamic law in the classical and contemporary contexts and to present a framework for understanding the institutional arrangements that apply existing Islamic law in the modern world and make fresh rulings in areas where Islamic law provides no guidance.
This seminar will require a series of short research papers. Participation may be considered in the final grading.
- Autumn 2022: Shamshad Pasarlay
An examination of classic jurisprudential questions in and around the theory of adjudication: the theory of how judges actually do decide cases and how they ought to decide them. These questions include: Do legal rules really constrain judicial decision-making? What makes a rule (or norm) a rule of the legal system? Are principles of morality legally binding even when such principles have not been enacted into a law by a legislature? (Relatedly, are there objective principles of morality?) When no legal norm controls a case, how ought judges to decide that case? Can there be right answers to legal disputes, even when informed judges and lawyers disagree about the answer? Are there principles or methods of legal reasoning that constrain judicial decision-making, or is legal reasoning essentially indeterminate, such that a skillful judge can justify more than one outcome for any given dispute? Is judicial decision-making really distinct from political decision-making of the sort legislators engage in? Readings drawn exclusively from major twentieth-century schools of thought - especially American Legal Realism (e.g., Karl Llewellyn, Jerome Frank), Natural Law (e.g., Ronald Dworkin, John Finnis), and Legal Positivism (e.g., H.L.A. Hart, Joseph Raz) - supplemented by other pertinent readings (from Leslie Green, Richard Posner, and the instructor, among others). No familiarity with either jurisprudence or philosophy will be presupposed, though some readings will be philosophically demanding, and the course will sometimes venture into (and explain) cognate philosophical issues in philosophy of language and metaethics as they are relevant to the core jurisprudential questions. Attendance at the first session is mandatory for those who want to enroll. This class has a final exam.
Participation may be considered in the final grading.
- Spring 2023: Brian Leiter
- Spring 2022: Brian Leiter
- Spring 2021: Brian Leiter
- Spring 2020: Brian Leiter
- Spring 2019: Brian Leiter
The class builds on topics first touched upon in Jurisprudence I, probing more deeply into the philosophical and jurisprudential issues; the class will be more philosophically demanding than Jurisprudence I. After a review of the Hart-Dworkin debate, we will consider the semantics underlying Hart's theory of the "open texture" of language as a source of legal indeterminacy, and a competing view of meaning that might eliminate indeterminacy. We then turn to the general problem of the normativity of law, before an extended investigation of Dworkin's jurisprudence, with particular attention to his different conception of jurisprudential methodology, and his treatment of questions about the objectivity of law (and morals) and the problem of theoretical disagreements. We will look at criticisms of Dworkin's views, including venturing into issues in metaethics, as well as alternative approaches to the problem of theoretical disagreements (esp. the Toh-Leiter debate). We briefly consider one other, contemporary anti-positivist approach to law that involves striking methodological assumptions. We conclude by examining the most famous work of Scandinavian Realism (Alf Ross's On Law and Justice), whose approach to the problem of the nature of law differs from Hart's and Dworkin's. Students who have not taken Jurisprudence I at the Law School must seek instructor permission to enroll (please supply detailed information about prior study of legal philosophy). This class has a final exam or students may choose to write a major paper (20-25 pages). Students who have already take Jurisprudence I can email the registrar's office at email@example.com to be enrolled.
- Spring 2022: Brian Leiter
Why do some nations perform better than others, whether measured by income, happiness, health, environmental quality, educational quality, freedom, etc.? What can be done to help the world's poor? We explore the proximate causes of inequality across countries, including the role of human capital, natural resources, technology and market organization. We also explore the root causes of long-term differences in wealth, including the role of geography (e.g., location in tropical areas) and technological development (e.g., the impact of plow agriculture). We spend a substantial amount of time on the role of institutions, broadly defined, on development. We will explore the value of democracy, the common law, and state capacity generally. We will study the impact of disruptions such as the slave trade, colonialism and war. Ultimately, we will try to understand the implications of each explanation for development policy. Importantly, we will also consider how the lessons law and economics offers for countries with weak state capacity and limited rule of law differ dramatically from those it offers for countries such as the US. A major paper (20-25 pages) is required. Students will be required to complete a review and critical analysis of the literature on a specific topic in development. The topic must be approved by the professor. Participation may be considered in final grading.
- Autumn 2021: Anup Malani
- Winter 2021: Anup Malani
This course examines the intersection of law and public policy and the lawyer's role in helping to formulate and defend public policy choices, using recent, real-world problems based, in part, on the instructor's experience as former Corporation Counsel and senior legal advisor to the Mayor of the City of Chicago. While the course will be conducted in a seminar/discussion format, a significant portion of each class will be devoted to hands-on role-playing in which students will play the role of legal advisors to an elected official, grappling with and proposing solutions to vexing issues of public policy.
While this course may be of particular interest to students who are interested in public service and public policy-making, its emphasis on developing students' analytical and problem-solving skills and on providing hands-on, practical experience in advising clients on complex issues should be of benefit to any student, regardless of interests and career objectives. Providing legal analysis and advice and counseling clients are a critical part of almost every legal career, whether as a litigator or transactional lawyer in a private firm or as in-house counsel for a corporation or not-for-profit.
Assigned reading will include press articles, proposed legislation, briefs and pleadings, and other materials concerning the case studies/public policy issues that will be examined. Students will be expected to identify and analyze legal issues, competing legal and policy interests, and possible policy alternatives, and advise their "client" accordingly. Grades will be based on class participation and performance in role-playing exercises and short (5 page) reaction papers concerning three of the case studies that will be examined.
- Autumn 2022: Stephen R Patton
- Autumn 2021: Stephen R Patton
- Autumn 2020: Stephen R Patton
- Autumn 2019: Stephen R. Patton
- Autumn 2018: Stephen R. Patton
Much legal work today involves the close reading and interpretation of statutes or similar texts. This class considers current theories and problems related to the production and interpretation of statutes. It aims to bolster students' ability to work with statutes in law school and beyond. At the end of the class, students should have a thorough grasp of the production of statutes by the legislative branch and their use by agencies and courts. The student's grade is based primarily on a final examination. Participation may be considered in the final grading.
- Spring 2023: Jennifer H Nou and Farah Peterson and Joshua C. Macey
- Spring 2022: Ryan D. Doerfler
- Spring 2021: Farah Peterson, Jennifer Nou, Ryan D. Doerfler, and Richard A. Epstein
- Autumn 2019: Jennifer Nou
- Spring 2018: Richard A. Epstein
This seminar will explore the various definitions and valuations of life across diverse areas of the law. Readings will include seminal cases in reproductive rights, assisted suicide, right-to-die, and capital punishment. Background readings in related areas, i.e., scientific journals, papers, etc. will also be required. The seminar will discuss policy decision-making including actuarial analysis and social, medical and religious values inherent, implicit or ignored in the legal analysis. Students will be required to write three response papers, co-draft a statute in one area of law, and participate in jury deliberations. Grade will also be based on class participation. This is a biddable class. Priority registration to 3L students.
- Spring 2023: Herschella Conyers
- Spring 2022: Herschella Conyers
- Spring 2021: Herschella Conyers
- Spring 2020: Herschella Conyers
- Spring 2019: Herschella Conyers
- Spring 2018: Herschella Conyers
India has made important contributions to political and legal thought, most of which are too little-known in the West. These contributions draw on ancient traditions, Hindu and Buddhist, but transform them, often radically, to fit the needs of an anti-imperial nation aspiring to inclusiveness and equality. We will study the thought of Rabindranath Tagore (Nationalism, The Religion of Man, selected literary works); Mohandas Gandhi (Hind Swaraj (Indian Self-Rule), Autobiography, and selected speeches); B. R. Ambedkar, the chief architect of the Indian Constitution (The Annihilation of Caste, The Buddha and his Dhamma, and selected speeches and interventions in the Constituent Assembly); and, most recently, Amartya Sen, whose The Idea of Justice is rooted, as he describes, both in ancient Indian traditions and in the thought of Tagore.
This is a seminar open to all law students, and to others by permission.
A major paper of 20-25 pages is required for this class.
- Winter 2022: Martha C. Nussbaum
This class evaluates the many changes to the legal landscape that the current pandemic has forged. We will explore the legal impacts of prior pandemics, as they were evidenced through case law and laws existing prior to the current pandemic. We will examine developments in different areas of the law, including commercial contracts, employment, privacy, and regulatory compliance. As to commercial contracts, we will consider the applicability and enforceability of force majeure clauses. With respect to employment and privacy, we will review the effect of the pandemic on the traditional notion of the workplace and the resulting legal implications of the work from home or remote work phenomenon. We will also consider the employment and privacy implications of vaccine mandates and testing requirements. We will explore the regulatory compliance changes arising out of the pandemic, including anti-price gouging laws and antitrust measures. We will consider what gaps remain in the legal landscape in light of the pandemic and which changes should remain after this pandemic has concluded. This class requires a major paper (6000-7500 words). Participation may be considered in final grading. The instructor's name for the course is Elizabeth Sheyn Brown.
- Autumn 2022: Elizabeth Sheyn
Theorists, judges, and lawyers have long debated whether the law is composed solely of man-made rules (positivist theories), or whether it includes broader moral precepts. That debate informs our understanding of what constitutes our law, why it is binding, and how it should be interpreted. The positive law includes the Constitution, statutes, regulations, and customary rules of common law. But is law limited to positive sources? What about the natural law or general principles such as justice and the common good? Can these serve as independent sources of law or as principles of legal interpretation? This seminar will examine the evolution of these debates about the nature of law in the Anglo-American legal tradition, beginning before the Founding and concluding with contemporary disputes. Considering positivism from the perspective of both theory and practice, the seminar will include sources drawn from philosophy, history, and legal theory, as well as judicial decisions.
Students will have the option of writing one medium-length final paper for two credits (around 3,500 words), or a longer final paper for three credits (around 7,000 words).
This seminar will meet:
Thursdays (4-6pm) and Fridays (9:45-11:45am)
March 23 - April 13, 14 - April 20, 21 - April 27, 28 - May 4 or 11.
This course will be co-taught by Jonathan Green and Judge Neomi Rao. Students who wish to enroll should send a brief, one-paragraph description of why they are interested in the course's themes, and any relevant past coursework (e.g., legal history, legal theory). Please email Jonathan Green firstname.lastname@example.org by February 20.
- Spring 2023: Jonathan Green and Neomi Rao
This mini-seminar will explore experimental work on psychological dimensions of criminal law theory and doctrine. Topics of discussion will include theories of punishment, elements of crime, and legal doctrines that impose and absolve criminal liability. This class requires a series of reaction papers. Participation may be considered in final grading. Pre-requisite: Criminal Law. This is a short class that meets on October 13,15,18,20, and 22.
- Autumn 2021: Avani Sood
This course focuses on the relationship between modern perspectives on voting and interest groups on the one hand and legislation and judicial interventions on the other. Public choice is essentially the science of group decision-making, and it comes with several well developed tools of analysis, including the difference between aggregating preferences and looking for right answers to questions. With these tools, and that perspective, we revisit the interactions between legislatures and judges, democracy's attempt to solve certain problems, and the roles played by a variety of legal doctrines and constitutional institutions. It is also an opportunity to think about everyday group decisions in law firms and other settings where this is group hiring, cost sharing, and so forth. As the course proceeds, we explore specific topics in law, such as the possibility of judicial vote-trading, the role of referenda in some jurisdictions but not others, and the role of precedent itself. Grades will be based on a final examination.
- Spring 2023: Saul Levmore
- Spring 2022: Saul Levmore
- Winter 2021: Saul Levmore
International law is the system of rules, principles and procedures that regulate activity at the inter-state level. The system plays a critical role in contemporary life, effecting issues of war and peace, the global economy, human rights, and the natural environment. International law is a complete system of law, distinctive from national legal systems. The main objective of the course is to provide a comprehensive overview of the system by introducing how international law is made, applied, and enforced. The course will also introduce the four major subfields. Additional objectives include:
• Learning about the nature and purpose of international law by comparing international law to other legal systems and by reviewing various theories of law;
• Understanding the relationship between the general principles and processes that characterize the system as a whole and the subfields of war/peace, economy, human rights, and environment;
• Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the systems as well as creatively considering how to enhance the effectiveness of the international legal system; and
• Preparing for the practice of international law.
This seminar will have a final exam. Participation may considered in the final grading.
The required textbook for the class is the 8th edition of "The International Legal System," by O'Connell which will be released in early October. The instructor will supply readings from the 7th edition until the 8th edition is available.
- Autumn 2022: Mary Ellen O'Connell
- Autumn 2021: Tom Ginsburg
- Autumn 2020: Tom Ginsburg
- Autumn 2019: Eric A. Posner
- Autumn 2018: Eric A. Posner
- Autumn 2018: Mary Ellen O'Connell
- Autumn 2017: James Gathii
This course will explore the role that race has played in the construction of United States law, and the role that United States law has played in the construction of race. It will survey the law across time and several substantive legal areas to excavate how the law's shifting treatment of race has both shaped and been shaped by what we understand race to be.
This course will have a final exam. Participation may be considered in the final grading.
- Winter 2023: Adam Davidson
The domains of racism, law, and the social sciences impact one another in myriad ways. At times, a system of racism is deployed through law, which in turn shapes questions asked in the social sciences. In other instances, the sciences articulate conceptual frameworks that lead to the creation of new forms of racism within society and law. Particular systems of racism have operated across a spectrum from incidents of overt violence to the daily impacts of implicit biases. Our readings and class discussions will consider a sample of case studies from across the globe in addition to past and present dynamics in the United States. Analyses of the social construction of racial and ethnic identities have facilitated studies of the ways in which social differences are created, maintained, and masked. Subjects to be addressed in this course include the interrelation of racial ideologies with other cultural and social dimensions, such as class, ethnicity, gender, political and legal structures, and economic influences. At an international scale, policy makers confront the challenge of balancing calls for multicultural tolerance with demands for fundamental human rights. We will also consider the related histories of biological, genetic, and epigenetic concepts of different races within the human species. This seminar includes a major writing project in the form of a seminar paper (6000-7500 words).
Participation may be included in the final grading.
- Winter 2023: Christopher Fennell
- Winter 2022: Christopher Fennell
- Winter 2021: Christopher Fennell
- Spring 2020: Christopher Fennell
- Spring 2019: Christopher Fennell
- Spring 2018: Christopher Fennell
Chicago is among the most racially segregated major cities in America and also has one of the greatest disparities in poverty rate by race. Racial segregation in Chicago is the product of governmental policies & socio-economic trends. Such segregation has in turn given rise to many social justice issues that impact Chicago communities.
This three-credit seminar is designed to examine social and legal problems in Chicago that are connected to racial segregation in the city. In doing so, the seminar will provide an opportunity to evaluate how different areas of law interact with and effect a complex web of social problems. This seminar will meet once a week, for two hours.
The introductory sessions will provide an overview of the historic drivers of racial segregation in Chicago, key contemporary racial, socio-economic, administrative and political dynamics in the City. Each subsequent session will be led by a different faculty member or external expert and focused on exploring the ways key laws, policies, and legal institutions within a particular area of law create or exacerbate social ills related to racial segregation. Sessions in prior years have focused on criminal law, policing, environmental justice, human rights, corporate law, education, & housing. Each session will present a tailored mix of legal doctrine, interdisciplinary insights, & practical perspectives on the way law and legal institutions redress or reinforce a particular social challenge in contemporary Chicago. Some sessions will feature guest speakers to convey the real-world effect of legal institutions on a community.
Students will be assessed in the following ways: 1) weekly reactions to the readings in advance of the week's seminar; 2) a final research paper (20-25 pages); and 3) class participation.
- Winter 2022: Robert A. Weinstock
- Winter 2021: Robert A. Weinstock
- Winter 2020: Robert A. Weinstock, Nino Guruli, and Amy Marie Hermalik
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 (6000-7500 words) and a moot court presentation.
- Autumn 2022: Sarah M. Konsky and Michael Scodro
- Autumn 2021: Sarah M. Konsky and Michael Scodro
- Autumn 2020: Sarah M. Konsky and Michael Scodro
- Autumn 2019: Sarah M. Konsky and Michael Scodro
- Autumn 2018: Sarah M. Konsky and Michael Scodro
- Autumn 2017: Sarah M. Konsky and Michael Scodro
This workshop, conducted over three sequential quarters, is devoted to the intensive examination of selected problems in the application of economic reasoning to a wide variety of legal questions. Workshop sessions will be devoted to the presentation and discussion of papers by faculty. In addition to workshop sessions, which occur approximately every other week, there will be discussion sessions, which will serve as opportunities for students to engage in in-depth, informal discussion of topics in law and economics with the instructor. Students may either write reaction papers across all three quarters, or write a single major paper of 6000-7500 words (students interested in academic writing in law and economics may use the latter option to develop their ideas). Students enrolled in the workshop receive three credits with either method of evaluation; one in Autumn, one in Winter, and one in Spring. Participation may be considered in final grading. Please note that the Workshop is open to anyone to attend on a non-registered basis. Only law students can take it for a grade (i.e., everyone else takes it P/F)
- Spring 2023: Adriana Robertson
- Winter 2023: Adriana Robertson
- Autumn 2022: Adriana Robertson
- Spring 2022: Dhammika Dharmapala
- Winter 2022: Dhammika Dharmapala
- Autumn 2022: Dhammika Dharmapala
- Spring 2021: Lee Fennell and Dhammika Dharmapala
- Winter 2021: Lee Fennell and Dhammika Dharmapala
- Autumn 2020: Lee Fennell and Dhammika Dharmapala
- Spring 2020: William H. J. Hubbard and Lee Fennel
- Winter 2020: William H. J. Hubbard and Lee Fennel
- Autumn 2019: William H. J. Hubbard and Lee Fennel
- Spring 2019: Todd Henderson and William H. J. Hubbard
- Winter 2019: Todd Henderson and William H. J. Hubbard
- Autumn 2018: Todd Henderson and William H. J. Hubbard
- Spring 2018: Omri Ben-Shahar and William H. J. Hubbard
- Winter 2018: Omri Ben-Shahar and William H. J. Hubbard
- Autumn 2017: Omri Ben-Shahar
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 post questions to the online discussion board. The Public Law Workshop will meet on alternating Tuesday afternoons throughout the year. Enrollment in the Public Law Workshop is compatible with enrollment in the Law & Economics Workshop, because the two will never meet on the same day. However, students enrolling in the Public Law Workshop should check to make sure that they do not intend to take other Tuesday afternoon courses during any quarter throughout the year that would overlap with the Workshop. A series of reaction papers will be required for this workshop.
- Spring 2023: Curtis Bradley, Tom Ginsburg, Jonathan Masur, Richard Mcadams and William Baude
- Winter 2023: Curtis Bradley, Tom Ginsburg, Jonathan Masur, Richard Mcadams and William Baude
- Autumn 2022: Curtis Bradley, Tom Ginsburg, Jonathan Masur, Richard Mcadams and William Baude
- Spring 2022: Ryan D. Doerfler, Sharon R. Fairley, Tom Ginsburg, Hajin Kim, Joshua C. Macey, John Rappaport, and Sonja Starr
- Winter 2022: Ryan D. Doerfler, Sharon R. Fairley, Tom Ginsburg, Hajin Kim, Joshua C. Macey, John Rappaport, and Sonja Starr
- Autumn 2021: Ryan D. Doerfler, Sharon R. Fairley, Tom Ginsburg, Hajin Kim, Joshua C. Macey, John Rappaport, and Sonja Starr
- Spring 2021: Richard McAdams, Ryan D. Doerfler, Aziz Huq, Sonja Starr, and Bridget A. Fahey
- Winter 2020: Richard McAdams, Ryan D. Doerfler, Aziz Huq, Sonja Starr, and Bridget A. Fahey
- Autumn 2020: Richard McAdams, Ryan D. Doerfler, Aziz Huq, Sonja Starr, and Bridget A. Fahey
- Spring 2020: Aziz Huq, Daniel Hemel, Adam S. Chilton, Jonathan Masur, and Tom Ginsburg
- Winter 2020: Aziz Huq, Daniel Hemel, Adam S. Chilton, Jonathan Masur, and Tom Ginsburg
- Autumn 2019: Jonathan Masur, William Baude, Adam S Chilton, Ryan D. Doerfler, and Tom Ginsburg
- Spring 2019: Jonathan Masur
- Winter 2019: Jonathan Masur
- Autumn 2018: Jonathan Masur
- Spring 2018: Jonathan Masur, R. H. Helmholz, Adam S. Chilton, Daniel Hemel, and Genevieve Lakier
- Winter 2018: Jonathan Masur, R. H. Helmholz, Adam S. Chilton, Daniel Hemel, and Genevieve Lakier
- Autumn 2017: Jonathan Masur, R. H. Helmholz, Adam S. Chilton, Daniel Hemel, and Genevieve Lakier