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

Spring 2010

GOV 331L • Law and Society

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
38795 TTh
5:00 PM-6:30 PM
PAR 203
Millstone, J

Course Description

This class introduces students to the law by examining how law intersects with society and politics. For many Americans, the law provides the means and substance for debating the most significant and difficult issues of our time (e.g., When is a collection of cells a human being? Should the state be allowed to kill its' citizens? What rights do citizens have in a time of war?). It is often the first place we turn for protection and relief and, at other times, something we seek to avoid at all costs. It continues to be a central focus of groups struggling to achieve equality and redistribute power in society; yet it is a conservative institution, governed by age-old traditions and customs, with a power structure and tightly controlled boundaries. Its’ rules pervade nearly every facet of human existence from business to sports and, increasingly, to the intimate details of our "personal" lives. It is an arbiter of truth in society, deciding what is real and what is not. It envelopes our consciousness, makes us see relationships and disputes in “legal” terms. It mystifies, confuses, and lures us. Important issues are at stake that concern not only elected officials, judges and lawyers, but ordinary citizens as well. Some of the topics we will focus on this semester include the following: Examine the underlying philosophy and development of American law, the main kinds of law, and the functioning of the courts and the chief participants in the American judicial system—the judge, lawyer, jury, and police. Analyze various issues, emphasizing themes such as the ambivalence with which Americans view their legal system, the broad range of functions that the legal system is called upon to perform in American society and the tension between stability and change that so often characterizes American law. Critically evaluate the manner in which the American legal system functions by analyzing the chief actors and the civil and criminal trial processes. Explore (1) popular attitudes toward American justice, (2) increasing problems affecting judges, lawyers, jurors, and police, and (3) the prospects for reforming the legal system. Probe the limits and potential for courts as policy makers and agents of social change To shed light on these issues, we will turn to works from a variety of disciplines, including law and political science. Our framework for understanding will place the law within the context of society and politics. Accordingly, our analysis will be from the perspective of the social sciences, with special attention given to studies on the politics of the legal process.

Grading Policy

1. EXAMINATIONS: Three (3) in-term exams will be given. Each will count 100 points. 2. MAJOR WRITTEN ASSIGNMENT: A term paper on a field research project (8 to 10 pages) worth 100 points will be due. More details about this assignment will be posted on the class Blackboard site. 3. GRADING WRITTEN PAPERS: Let me warn you at the outset that I am a demanding grader, particularly on papers. I have high expectations for your papers because writing is one of the most essential skills you are expected to have upon graduation. For those involved with the law, good writing is the difference between getting a job and not, between winning a case or not. 4. EXTRA CREDIT Extra credit options totaling a possible 10 points will be announced in class throughout the semester. Every extra credit option will have a due date that must be met in order to receive extra credit for that assignment. No late extra credit options will be accepted. No extra credit will be offered on an individual basis. All extra credit options will be offered on a class wide basis. EXTRA CREDIT POINTS WILL NOT COUNT IN CALCULATING THE SEMESTER POINT TOTALS UNLESS YOU HAVE TAKEN THE THREE (3) IN-TERM EXAMS AND HAVE TIMELY SUBMITTED THE WRITTEN ASSIGNMENT.


READING MATERIALS (The required texts are available at the University Co-op located on Guadalupe, aka the "Drag.") · Friedrich, David. 2006. Law in Our Lives. Boston, Roxbury Press. · Bonsignore, John J. 2006. Before the law: An Introduction to the Legal Process. 8th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. · Carter, L. and T. Burke. 2006. Reason in Law. 7th ed. New York: Pearson. · Cochran, A. 2004. Sexual Harassment and the Law. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas. Additional Readings: Court decisions and other readings will be placed on the course Blackboard web site or handed-out in class. In addition, you are required to read either (i) a national daily newspaper (e.g. The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal or The Washington Post) or (ii) a weekly magazine (e.g. Time, Newsweek, The New Republic, The National Review, or The Weekly Standard) since we will discuss current legal issues, you need to stay informed and be knowledgeable about major current events, issues, and controversies. You can read these news sources either in print (by subscribing or reading at the library) or via the web.


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