Comparative Judicial Politics

Course Information

Registration Information

Meeting Times

Day Time Location
TUE 3:30 - 6:30 pm BAT 5.102

Evaluation Method

Type Date Time Location


Courts around the world are becoming more powerful and more deeply involved in setting public policy, deciding important political and social questions, and constraining democratic politics. What is behind this global trend? What are courts doing with their newfound powers? Perhaps more importantly, is this “judicialization” good, bad or indifferent? And good for whom? Whether you are interested in law, courts, the executive, legislatures, or democracy more generally, it has become increasingly important to understand how law and courts impinge on other political actors and on public policy. This course examines the role that courts and law play in political systems around the world, including the United States. We begin with an examination of the basic logic of courts and law, and cover such topics as the differences across legal traditions, the creation of constitutional courts, the nature of judicial decision-making, judicial independence, the capacity of courts to produce social change, etc. The ultimate goal is to understand the conditions under which courts are or become consequential actors within the overall social and political system. Along the way, we will address a number of important questions about the nature and impact of all this judicial activity: Who benefits when courts become more important? Who is really behind increases in judicial power? Can we realistically expect courts to act on behalf of minorities, and if so, which minorities? The course should be especially relevant to those with an interest in comparative law and legal systems, comparative judicial behavior, the role of courts in politics and social change, and the rule of law around the world. Given the course’s strong institutional focus, the course should also be relevant to those interested in comparative institutional analyses more generally. The readings will include materials on courts around the world, from the US and the rest of North America, to Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Europe.

Textbooks ( * denotes required )

Materials list will be provided on first class day. It will include a course pack and several paperback books, which you should be able to purchase inexpensively online. *


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