Each quarter the Center for Legal Studies offers a number of courses. See below for our current or upcoming offerings.
Note that courses are subject to change. See CAESAR for most up-to-date lists.
Spring Courses 2017
LEGAL_ST 207-0-20 "Legal Studies Research Methods" (taught with SOCIOL 227)
Prof. Robert L. Nelson
Legal Studies Research Methods introduces students to research methods used in interdisciplinary legal studies, including jurisprudence and legal reasoning, qualitative and quantitative social science methods, and historical and textual analysis. The course is a prerequisite for the Advanced Research Seminar in Legal Studies, 398-1,- 2, and is intended to prepare students for the design of their own research project to be conducted in 398-1, -2. Through exposure to and engagement with interdisciplinary research methods on law and legal processes, the course will provide students with a deeper understanding of law in its historical and social context. The course will provide students with a set of research tools with which to conduct research on legal institutions. The course builds on content from Legal Studies 206, a prerequisite for 207. While part of the Legal Studies major sequence, the course will enrich the analytic skills of students from many fields who are interested in law or in interdisciplinary research methods. Prerequisite: LEGAL ST 206. Taught with SOCIOL 227; may not receive credit for both courses.
LEGAL_ST 276-0-20 "Japanese American 'Internment'" (taught with ASIAN_AM 220-0-3)
Prof. Shana Bernstein
Twice since 9/11 politicians have referred to the World War II imprisonment of Japanese Americans as a possible precedent for policies toward Muslims. Yet many Americans remain ignorant about this important and understudied episode in U.S. history. This course examines events leading up to the mass imprisonment of a group of people based on race, the role played by wartime emergency language, the experiences of Japanese Americans, and the consequences of this wartime policy. It focuses on the intersections between race, gender, nation, and law. Readings include secondary and primary sources, including related court cases, executive orders, documentary films, memoirs, and fiction. Note this is a discussion-based class.
LEGAL_ST 276-0-21 "The Age of Hamilton and Jefferson"
Prof. Susan Gaunt Stearns
The lives of Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson touched deeply on every aspect of the creation of the American state, but neither the man, nor the nation, sprang into being fully formed in 1776; nor did Hamilton’s death in 1804 or Jefferson’s retirement from public office in 1808 end the impact that these two men had on the nation. This course uses the years of Jefferson and Hamilton’s lives (1743-1826) to explore the world that created them and the world that they created.
LEGAL_ST 333-0-30 "Constitutional Law II " (taught with POLI_SCI 333-0-20)
Prof. Joanna Grisinger
This course investigates the civil rights and civil liberties protected by the Constitution and defined by the U.S. Supreme Court. It will also examine the many controversies over what, exactly, the Constitution means, who gets to decide, and how. We will discuss, among other topics, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, privacy, equality, and voting rights.
LEGAL_ ST 376-0-20 “Constitutional Challenges in Comparative Perspective” (taught with POLI_SCI 390-0-2)
Prof. Galya Ben-Arieh Ruffer
In this course we will be thinking about how and whether constitutions shape national values and offer a framework for legitimacy and governance to hold together diverse societies and resolve deeply rooted social tensions and ethnic divisions. We will consider the constitutional responses of countries such as the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Kenya, South Africa and Australia to the challenges of terrorist bombings, the rise of populism, hate crimes, legitimacy of public authority, and refugee crisis and examine the birth of constitutionalism that is currently underway in Africa where the peaceful exchange of power, a value that we have taken for granted, is still an aspiration for countries such as Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In learning about the varying traditions of written and unwritten constitutions, civil and common law and the foundations and structures of separation of powers and judicial review of the constitutionality of laws in these countries, students will learn to think critically about the U.S. Constitution and the different ways in which constitutional democracies provide for public order, counter-majoritarian governance, equality and protection of the rights of minorities through rule of law and question whether constitutional solutions can address the kinds of social and political problems we have today.
LEGAL_ST 376-0-21 “Mass Incarceration” (taught with SOC_POL 351-0-21)
Prof. Heather Schoenfeld
This course is designed for upper-level students interested in social policy, politics, inequality and law. It explores the “carceral state” or the institutions and policies that create a system of criminalization and punishment in the United States. Within the carceral state, the focus of the course is on the history and policies in the United States that led to the highest per capita incarceration rate in the world. The course examines and moves beyond various common explanations for mass incarceration, including crime, politics, public opinion, racism and the “prison industrial complex.” It then explores specific policies and practices that created and sustain high levels of incarceration, including sentencing, prison programing, and prosecutorial discretion. Finally, it addresses recent attempts at reform, including policies around re-entry, drug courts and prison conditions. Students read a variety of materials including statutes, policy reports, social science research, law review articles and case law. Assignments include a class presentation and fifteen page research paper.
LEGAL_ST 376-0-22 "Law and the Origins of American Capitalism"
Susan Gaunt Stearns
This course examines the intertwined development of American law and American capitalism from the nation’s founding until the turn of the 20th century. It will examine the relationship between law and economic activity in a variety of forms, from counterfeiting to slavery.
LEGAL_ST 376-0-23 "Development of American Indian Law and Policy" (taught with HISTORY 300-0-38, HUM 370-4-30, AMER_ST 310-0-22)
Prof. Doug Kiel
In this course, we will conceptualize Native peoples as nations, not merely racial/ethnic minorities. Students will learn about the unique legal landscape in Indian Country by charting the historical development of tribal governments and the ever-changing body of U.S. law and policy that regulates Indian affairs. We begin by studying Indigenous legal traditions, the European doctrine of discovery, and diplomatic relations between Native nations and European empires. We then shift our focus to treaty-making, the constitutional foundations of federal Indian law, 19th century U.S. Supreme Court decisions, and the growth of the federal bureaucracy in Indian Country. The course devotes considerable attention to the expansion of tribal governmental authority during the 20th century, the contemporary relationship between Indian tribes and the federal/state governments, and the role of federal Indian law as both a tool of U.S. colonial domination and a mechanism for protecting the interests of Indigenous communities.
Winter Courses 2017
LEGAL_ST 206-0-20 "Law & Society" (taught with SOCIOL 206)
Prof. Heather Schoenfeld
This course introduces the relationship between social, cultural, political, and economic forces on the one hand, and legal rules, practices, and outcomes, on the other. We focus on several of the most important sociological questions about law including: 1) What is the purpose of law in a modern society? 2) How is the legal system and legal profession organized? 3) How does politics shape the law? 4) What does the law look like in action? And 5) how can law create or constrain social change? In order to explore these questions, it focuses on a few legal issues in modern U.S. society, including same-sex marriage and race and gender discrimination. It also introduces research methods for the study of law and society.
LEGAL_ST 308-0-20 "Sociology of Law" (taught with SOCIOL 318)
Prof. Robert Nelson
This course examines the relationship between law and the distribution of power in society, with a particular emphasis on law and social change in the United States. Readings will be drawn from the social sciences and history, as well as selected court cases that raise critical questions about the role of race, gender, and sexual orientation in American society. Among the material we will examine are the documents made public in the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Students should be aware that some of this material is graphic and disturbing.
LEGAL_ST 332-0-20 "Constitutional Law I" (taught with POLI_SCI 332)
Prof. Galya Ruffer
This course investigates the structure of American government as laid out by the Constitution. It will also examine the many controversies over what, exactly, the Constitution means, who gets to decide, and how. We will discuss judicial review, the powers of Congress and the executive branch, and the relationship between the federal government and the states.
LEGAL_ST 340-0-20 "Gender and the Law"
Prof. Joanna Grisinger
This course is intended as a survey of how law has reflected and created distinctions on the basis of gender and sexuality throughout American history. We’ll look at legal categories of gender and sexuality that have governed (and, often, continue to govern) the household (including marriage, divorce, and custody), the economy (including employment, property, and credit), and the political sphere (including voting, jury service, and citizenship). Throughout the course, we will examine the relationship between legal rules and social conditions, and discuss how various groups have challenged these legal categories.
LEGAL_ST 376-0-20 "Alexander Hamilton: Bullets, Banks & Broadway"
Prof. Laura Beth Nielsen & Prof. Joanna Grisinger
This interdisciplinary course examines Alexander Hamilton (the founding father) and Hamilton: An American Musical (the Tony, Grammy, and Pulitzer-winning musical) from an interdisciplinary perspective. Taught in Legal Studies, with the help of faculty from Theater, African-American Studies, Communications, Political Science, SESP, English, and History, the course examines topics including Building a Constitution: Who’s Included and Not Included in Story of the Founding; Dueling Culture, Reputation, and Honor in Early America and Today; Founders’ Chic: What would Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison, and Washington Think if They Were Alive Today? And Should We Care?; Theater and Social Change: Cultural Output and Adaptation; Hamilton and the Building of the American Economy; and the Law and Economics of the Hip Hop Aesthetic: Sampling, Fan Fiction, and Fair Use. All students enrolled in the course will receive complimentary tickets to see the show in Chicago on January 12, 2017. Read more about registering for this course.
LEGAL_ST 376-0-21 "Paupers, Prostitutes, and Politics: Race, Class, Gender and the Law in Early America"
Prof. Susan Gaunt Stearns
This course examines how individuals’ social position permeated their interactions with others and with the law in the United States before the Civil War. In the process, we’ll examine how the law reinforced class, gender, and racial boundaries in order to maintain the social and economic status quo.
LEGAL_ST 394-0-20 "Lawyering: Education and Practice"
Prof. Seth Meyer
Attorneys are central to American life and popular culture, but the profession is undergoing dramatic change. For years, the supply of lawyers has vastly outstripped the demand for legal jobs and the resulting lawyer bubble has grown. Meanwhile, those who land law jobs have different challenges: recent surveys report many attorneys' growing disenchantment with their work and dissatisfaction with their lives. This seminar will examine the profession’s multidimensional crisis. What changes occur in attorneys, both individually and systemically, emerging from law schools and finding their roles in the legal realm? Why is working within the most lucrative big firms now regarded by many as the pinnacle of private practice? What other options are available? It will explore life after law school, examining the disparate places law graduates might find themselves. The course invites prospective law students to consider their potential places, as individual lawyers, in what remains a noble profession. It also invites those students in other undergraduate disciplines who may be curious about trajectories open to them in this post-graduate academic and, ultimately, career field.
LEGAL_ST 398-2-20 "Advanced Research Seminar II"
Prof. Joanna Grisinger
Fall Courses 2016
LEGAL_ST 101-6-20 “First-Year Seminar: Law and the Civil Rights Movement"
Prof. Joanna Grisinger
This course explores the relationship between law and civil rights in modern American history - in particular, African-Americans' efforts to secure their legal, political, civil, and economic rights. How and why did the American civil rights movement pursue legal change (in the courts, in the legislatures, and in administrative agencies)? How and why did legal actors (including judges, White House officials, members of Congress, and state governors) engage with civil rights reformers? What are the benefits of pursuing legal change, and what are the limits? In order to answer these and other questions, we will read and discuss material including court cases, statutes, speeches, memoirs, newspaper articles, photographs, and songs.
LEGAL_ST 206-0-20 ”Law and Society” (taught with SOCIOL 206)
Prof. Laura Beth Nielsen
Law is everywhere. Law permits, prohibits, enables, legitimates, protects, and prosecutes citizens. Law shapes our day to day lives in countless ways. This course examines the connections and relationships of law and society using an interdisciplinary social science approach. As one of the founders of the Law and Society movement observed, "law is too important to leave to lawyers." Accordingly, this course will borrow from several theoretical, disciplinary, and interdisciplinary perspectives (such as sociology, anthropology, political science, critical studies, psychology) in order to explore the sociology of law and law's role primarily in the American context (but with some attention to international law and global human rights efforts). The thematic topics to be discussed include law and social control; law's role in social change; as well as law's capacity to reach into complex social relations and intervene in existing normative institutions, organizational structures, and the like.
LEGAL_ST 347-0-20 "Comparative Race & Ethnicity"
Prof. Shana B Bernstein
This course explores the comparative history of various racial and ethnic groups in the twentieth-century United States. While tensions between and relations among African Americans and whites have shaped U.S. history in important ways, this course also recognizes the historical significance of multiple racial and ethnic groups, particularly Asian Americans and Latinos. We will consider the histories of the various groups alongside one another and U.S. History more generally, as well as intersections among the various groups, and will consider how law shapes (and is shaped by) the racial and ethnic categories in question. Students will write two short primary source analysis papers (3-5 pages) and one 6-8 page research proposal.
LEGAL_ST 376-0-20 "Politics of International Law" (taught with Intl_St 390-020 / Poli_Sci 343-0-20)
Prof. Karen Alter-Hanson
At its core international law is idea about how to use the tools of law to facilitate peaceful and mutually beneficial relations in the world. This course explores how the international legal system works from a legal and political perspective, shaping international relations today. The course provides an introduction to some aspects of the method and substance of international law, learning some key legal concepts like sovereign immunity, jus cogens, general principles of international law, principles of jurisdiction etc. But this is not a law course. We cover legal subjects to understand how politics and law interact in shaping international relations today. Substantively, the course examines international laws related to the oceans, the environment, human rights, trade and war. We read treaties, and use case studies to see how international law is made, why national governments and national courts at times contest international law, and why international law can be difficult to enforce. We explore the legal and political issues surrounding contemporary flashpoints in international relations: China's claims to the South China Seas, how civil conflict is fueling the poaching of elephants, the United States Supreme Court's ambivalence regarding international law, how international law regarding torture is and is not politically relevant.
LEGAL_ST 398-1-20 “Advanced Research Seminar 1” (for Majors only, department consent required)
Prof. Joanna Grisinger
Legal Studies 398-1,2 is a two-quarter sequence required for all Legal Studies majors. This seminar exposes students to a variety of theoretical and methodological approaches to law and legal institutions; over two quarters, students will develop their own research paper on a topic of interest.