Course Descriptions

Please select the courses you would like to review from the list below.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Courses are graded unless indicated as Pass/Fail. Unless otherwise indicated, all courses will employ one or more evaluation methods, such as a final examination. Students are encouraged to speak with instructors for more details about course coverage and requirements.

Perspective Courses

Fall Semester


Bioethics & the Law LAW 655 3 Hours
This course examines the interaction of ethics, medicine and law. Topics vary from year to year, but may include: defining death; "the right to die"; doctor-assisted suicide; informed consent; defining life; human reproduction, including abortion, sterilization, artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, surrogacy and genetic screening; and access to advanced technology. The focus is on an examination of the law covering these issues and the relationship of various ethical framework for analyzing these issues to this law. Examination.

Comparative Law LAW 420 3 Hours
This Perspectives Block course provides an introduction to other legal systems and legal orders in the world (not only in the West but also elsewhere, including the Far East and the Islamic world) and explores appropriate ways of relating to those who inhabit these other legal systems. Such knowledge is of great value to U.S. lawyers, both in their roles as legal practitioners and in their roles as leaders in society. Learning to “think like a comparativist” produces a breadth of outlook and habits of mind that enhance the general quality of lawyers= professional work and professional lives in both types of roles. It is also central to helping lawyers in both types of roles meet the mounting challenges posed by growing U.S. involvement in an increasingly interdependent world, including challenges posed, for example, by expanding economic relations with other countries, expanding immigration from countries with radically different cultures, and expanding national security concerns. With these considerations in mind, we will cover the following topics : (1) Introductory Perspectives (including an introduction to basic concepts and the comparative method, as well as an overview of legal systems in the world today and their classification within different civilizations and legal traditions); (2) Uses and Misuses of Comparative Law; (3) The Comparative Method, Tools, and Techniques, and the Importance of Context : General Considerations; (4) The Comparative Method, Tools, and Techniques, and the Importance of Context : Particular Considerations – History, Sources of Law and their generating Legal Structures, Legal Actors, and Legal Processes. The course is graded. There is a take-home exam, the logistics of which will be determined in consultation with the members of the class. Not offered fall 2014.

Critical Race Theory/Critical Race Feminism LAW 1005 3 Hours
This course introduces students to Critical Race Theory and Critical Race Feminism. The class will explore three major questions during the semester: What comprises Critical Race Theory and Critial Race Feminism? Do these areas of study remain relevant? If so, what can legal scholars, educators, and practitioners draw from them to effect social justice through legal institutions? Each student is required to complete 3 short papers, including a formal written critique of a scholarly article. All paper topics are subject to professor approval. Additionally, each student must facilitate a class discussion on required readings and keep a journal reflecting their reactions to readings and class discussions. This course is graded. Grading will be based on the quality of the papers, class facilitation and participation, and the completion of regular journal entries. No prerequisite.

International Law LAW 481 3 Hours
An introduction to public international law. The substantive coverage of the course includes peaceful settlements of disputes, international agreements in international and domestic law, the evolving law of the sea, human rights, and international attempts at controlling the use of armed force. Particular attention is paid to the differences in the evolution and enforcement of rules in decentralized systems.

Law & Economics LAW 498 3 Hours
This course explores current issues in the interplay between law and economics. For example, who "owns" wildlife, natural resources, pollution, DNA, body parts, fetuses, art, trademarks, discoveries and ideas? Are contract, tort and criminal law principles efficient? Should government regulate sports leagues, banking, cable t.v., and the professions? No economics background required.

Race, Racism & American Law LAW 667 3 Hours
This course explores the way in which law is used both to combat and to legitimate racism in American society. It will trace the relationship between racism and American law from the colonial period to the beginning of the 20th century. It will cover the Houston/Marshall legal strategy to dismantle separate but equal as an equal protection standard, and focus on current racism issues in the contexts of the criminal justice system, voting, education, housing, employment and domestic relations. There will be special attention to the theory of affirmative action and related remedial concepts. Reading will consist of three chapters from Higginbotham's, In the Matter of Color, selected court opinions, Professor Derrick Bell's treatise, Race, Racism and American Law, and selected articles. Each week of the semester, the last class hour will be devoted to a Race, Racism and the American Law hypothetical. Each hypothetical will highlight the topic discussion for that week through the vehicle of a lawsuit, an administrative hearing, or some other forum where at least two sides will be heard. For that hour, students will be assigned to prepare for the hypothetical. Preparation and presentation for the hypotheticals will count for 1/3 of the course grade. A paper for the course will count the other 2/3 of the grade.

Spring Semester


Gender and the Law LAW 434 3 Hours
During the past century, government in the U.S. has taken many steps to reduce inequalities between the sexes. Nevertheless, we still live in a society in which men and women tend to be differently situated. To give just a few examples: women who are employed full-time still earn considerably less, on average, than men who are employed full-time; after divorce, women’s standards of living typically decline whereas men’s generally improve; women, far more than men, are victims of sexual harassment, domestic violence, and rape. The disadvantages, furthermore, are not solely women’s. For example, men, more often than women, lose child custody disputes. This course will critically examine the ways in which law in the U.S. treats sex and gender in a variety of contexts, most notably, the workplace, the family, the reproductive sphere, and in various areas of sexual exploitation. Among the topics discussed will be workplace equity, marriage, parenthood, abortion, sexual harassment, pornography, prostitution, and rape. Moreover, the course will explore various, often competing, theories about how law should approach issues of these sorts. For example, should it focus primarily on notions of equality, autonomy, or non-subordination? Included among the issues addressed will be problems raised by the intersection of gender with race, class, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. A short paper is required with a take-home final exam.

Islamic Law in Comparative Perspective LAW 1002 3 Hours
This course explores a major historical civilization and its legal tradition and their manifestations in the contemporary world. Muslims make up almost one quarter of the world’s population. They are the majority in approximately one quarter of the countries of the world (i.e., nearly 50 countries across Asia and Africa) and a significant minority in many other countries, including the United States. Study of Islamic Law, then, invites comparisons with the other monotheistic religious faiths (Judaism and Christianity) and with other legal traditions (including the treatment of thorny “church-state” issues); contributes to a more informed and constructive relationship between actors in the United States, including U.S. lawyers and their clients, and actors in the increasingly volatile Islamic world; and promotes awareness of the heterogeneity across the contemporary Islamic world and the dissolution of simplistic stereotypes about Islam, Islamic Law, and Muslims. The course is divided into three main parts (1) Islamic History and Islamic Civilization (including the Sunni-Shi’ite Schism); (2) Foundations of Classical Islamic Law (Sources of Law; The Four Sunnite Schools of Law); (3) Substantive Law (The Five Pillars of Islam, and a selection from the following: Family Law and Women; Family law and Children; Inheritance Law; Criminal Law; Commercial Law, Capitalism, and Global Trade; Banking Law, Capitalism, and Global Finance; International law). There will be a final take-home examination, subject to a 15-page limit to be returned within a specified time. The exact timing will be determined following class discussion. The take-home exam and the course will be graded on a numeric basis. As part of the course, students are also asked to prepare a 10 page country report on one of the 50 or so majority Muslim countries. Students will research the history of that country and the extent to which Islamic Law, in one of its classical forms or in a modified form, is applied in that country, including recognition by the official state legal system. These reports will be shared with the rest of the class, and this component of the course will be graded on a Pass/Fail basis.

Jurisprudence LAW 492 3 Hours
An overview of the major concerns of legal theory, the validity of law and the legitimacy of legal systems, and the relative merits of hierarchical legal structures as opposed to decentralized, customary systems.The topics that are usually covered include: natural law, positivism, American and Scandinavian realism, Marxism, and the historical and anthropological schools of jurisprudence. Second-year students only.

Law and Religion LAW 215 3 Hours
A study of the interaction of government and religion focusing upon the religion clauses (Free Exercise and Establishment) of the First Amendment. After an historical introduction to the subject, the course addresses issues of free exercise, accommodation of religion, religious discrimination, cultural establishment, government funding of religion, public education, and the regulation of religious speech. The course is taught primarily through in depth discussion of cases and problems, role plays of counseling clients with concerns related to the interaction of government and religion, and occasional lectures. Grades are awarded on the basis of an essay exam. Not offered spring 2014.

Law, Genetics & Neuroscience LAW 308 3 Hours
The course will explore the four major areas in which law and genetics now intersect: (1) prediction, the ability to anticipate or forecast human disease and behavior based on powerful new techniques in neuroimaging; (2) litigation, which includes DNA testing, lie detecting, evaluating memory, and so on; (3) confidentiality and privacy, which includes but is not limited to the use of genetic data by insurers and others; and (4) patents–specifically, patenting biological findings related to genetic materials. Other topics that will be reached include reproductive technologies and behavioral genetics.