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

Spring 2005

GOV 365N • Judicial Politics at Home and Abroad

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
36455 MWF
2:00 PM-3:00 PM
BUR 136

Course Description

Course number may be repeated for credit when topics vary. Upper-division standing required.

This course carries out a comparative study of the nature of courts and law, and their position in political systems around the world. The course is fairly theoretical, and organized thematically rather than focusing on one country or legal tradition at a time. The main themes of the course include the following: the political and regime logic giving rise to judicial power, the differences among legal traditions, 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.


Students will not read pre-digested summaries or textbooks, but original social science research. As a result, we will be engaging critically with the readings. We will test authors' claims against the evidence they present, challenge the logic of their arguments, and question their conclusions. The readings are often quite challenging, ranging from qualitative to econometric analyses, and containing both historical discussions of the evolution of legal systems and more philosophical discussions about what the law is and the function it serves. You do not need to know statistics to take the course, but some of the readings will be more intelligible if you do. Some of the readings are also quite long. Class time is devoted primarily to critique and discussion of the readings. I will assume that students come to class prepared. I expect to test that level of preparation with frequent questioning during class and occasionally with short written questions administered at the beginning of the class. The readings are cumulative and students are expected to apply what we learn earlier to subsequent materials.


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