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Robert G. Moser, Chair BAT 2.116, Mailcode A1800, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-5121

Fall 2008

GOV 365N • Comparative Legal Systems

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
39520 TTh
11:00 AM-12:30 PM
NOA 1.102
Brinks, D

Course Description

This course carries out a comparative study of the nature of courts and law, their position in political systems, and their potential impact on society. The course is very theoretical, and organized around key themes rather than countries. The main themes of the course include the following: the political and regime logic giving rise to judicial power, competing theories about how courts make decisions, the meaning of judicial independence and the extent to which it can be found in different systems, and the implications of all this for the potential effectiveness of courts as a tool for social and political change. Two modes of approaching the material will distinguish this class. First, we will not read pre-digested summaries or textbooks, but original social science research. We will engage critically with the readings, testing authors' claims against their evidence, challenging the logic of their arguments, and questioning their conclusions. Secondly, we will apply what we have learned to an imaginary country (Bevonia?) modeled roughly on Iraqs constitutional and ethno-political situation. The class will represent the various factions present in the Iraqi parliament, and will model debates about how the judiciary should be shaped in our imaginary country. The readings are often quite challenging and many of them are quite long. In order to participate in the debates regarding institutional design you will need to be very familiar with the readings. I expect that the class will demand a significant amount of preparation each week. You should not take this class if you are not able or willing to spend time on it outside of class hours. Attendance is mandatory and part of your grade.


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