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

Spring 2006

GOV 365N • Comparative Legal Systems- W

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
37925 MWF
10:00 AM-11:00 AM
BUR 224

Course Description

Contains a substantial writing component. Upper-division standing required. This course carries out a comparative study of the nature of courts and law, their position in political systems around the world, 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, 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. We will not read pre-digested summaries or textbooks, but original social science research. We will engage 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, not to long lectures. I expect students to attend class and will assume that students come to class prepared. I will test that level of preparation with frequent questioning during class.

Grading Policy

No less than four 2-page (type-written, double spaced) critical review assignments (20% total) One first draft of a 15 page (type-written, double spaced) term paper (20%) A second draft of a 15 page (type-written, double spaced) term paper, with substantial revisions carried out after detailed critiques offered by instructor and peers (40%) Class participation (20%)


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