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Course Descriptions

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.

Courses Primarily for Undergraduate Students

Title – Course Title

LEGAL_ST 206-0-20 – Law and Society (also SOCIOL 206)

Law is everywhere. Law permits, prohibits, enables, legitimates, protects, and prosecutes citizens. Law shapes our daily 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 (including sociology, history, anthropology, political science, and psychology) in order to explore the sociology of law and law's role. 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 important questions about law including: How do culture, structure, and conflict explain the relationship between law and society? Why do people obey the law? Why do people go to court? How does the legal system work? What is the role of lawyers, judges, and juries? How does law on the books differ from law in action? How do social problems become legal ones? How can law create or constrain social change?

LEGAL_ST 207-0-20 – Legal Studies Research Methods (also SOCIOL 227)

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. (Pre-Req: Legal_St 206 "Law & Society")

LEGAL_ST 305-0-20 – American Immigration (taught with HISTORY 305)

This course introduces students to the social, political, legal, and cultural history of immigration in the United States. In addition to exploring the history of southern and eastern European immigrants, it uses a comparative framework to integrate Latin American and Asian migrants into our understanding of immigration since the late nineteenth century. The course is an exploration of major themes in immigration history rather than a comprehensive examination. Issues students will consider include immigration law, acculturation, community, racial formation, victimization vs. agency, the transnational and international context of immigration, and competing notions of citizenship, among others.

LEGAL ST 308-0-20 – Sociology of Law (taught with SOCIOL 318)

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 318-1-20 – Legal and Constitutional History of the United States (taught with HISTORY 318-1-20)

This course explores some of the major questions and problems of American legal history from the colonial era to 1850. First, we will examine how and why the colonies developed their laws and legal institutions, and how these evolved over time. Next, we will explore the legal, political, and social forces that led to the American Revolution, and we will look at how Americans drew on their legal experiences in drafting a constitution. We will then examine how judicial and legislative action guided and enabled explosive economic growth in the nineteenth century. Not everyone was able to participate in the new economy, however; we will explore how the law created separate categories for women, American Indians, and African Americans that limited their participation in law, politics, and society. By the end of this course, you should be able to: read, understand, and analyze different kinds of legal texts; understand a variety of legal concepts and doctrines and their meaning in historical context; understand the distinct roles played by different actors (judges, legislatures, lawyers, litigants, voters, etc.) within the constitutional system; and make cogent, evidence-based arguments about these core themes in law and legal history.

LEGAL_ST 320-0-20 – The Fourteenth Amendment (taught with HISTORY 320-0-20)

The Fourteenth Amendment’s role in defining and protecting citizenship, privileges and immunities, due process, and equal protection from its nineteenth-century origins to the present.

LEGAL_ST 331-0-20 – Politics of the Supreme Court (also POLI SCI 331)

Operation of appellate courts, with emphasis on the US Supreme Court. Decision making by appellate courts and the development of public policy. Prerequisite: POLI_SCI 220-0 or POLI_SCI 230-0.

LEGAL_ST 332-0-20 – Constitutional Law I (also POLI SCI 332)

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 333-0-20 – Constitutional Law II (also POLI_SCI 333)

Consideration of US Supreme Court decisions dealing with civil and political rights, including equality, freedom of speech and religion, and criminal procedures.

LEGAL_ST 340-0-20 – Gender and the Law (also GNDR_ST 340)

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 347-0-20 – Comparative Race and Ethnicity

Comparative history of Latinos, Asian Americans, African Americans, and white ethnics in the 20th-century United States; role of law, politics, and society in shaping and being shaped by racial and ethnic categories.

LEGAL_ST 356-0-20 – Constitutional Challenges in Comparative Perspective (also POLI_SCI 356)

Constitutional controversies and resolutions in liberal democracies. Constitutional traditions and governance, rule of law, legitimacy and authority in diverse societies, human rights, social transformation.

LEGAL_ST 394-0-20 – Lawyering: Education and Practice

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 394-0-20 – Human Rights & US Refugee Law

The objectives in this course are: 1) to learn about international human rights conditions and refugee law mechanisms in the United States, through ongoing research related to asylum claims that will be presented at the end of the quarter in a trial; and 2) to become familiar with the diverse work of refugee-related professionals, including individuals who perform documentation-gathering, advocate for legal and public policy, and provide health care for asylum-seekers in the United States. In this class, you will be introduced to fundamental tenets of international human rights law and its domestic counterpart, U.S. asylum law. You will build upon this foundation for the remainder of the course by researching two asylum claims involving refugees from two countries, which you will present in mock hearings at the end of the course.

LEGAL ST 398-1 – Advanced Research Seminar (Majors Only)

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.

LEGAL_ST 398-2-20 – Advanced Research Seminar II

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. 

LEGAL_ST 101-0-20 AmLaw – History of the American Legal Profession

This First-Year seminar examines the American legal profession from its small and provincial origins in the eighteenth century to its enormous and influential presence today. It will explore topics including legal education, practice, ethics, and professional organization, and it will survey the influence of the profession in fields from politics and business to the civil rights movement. Students will gain an appreciation for the many roles that lawyers play outside of the courtroom and the way that the profession has shaped the development and application of American law.

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