SMNR: Comparative Judicial Politics

Course Information

Registration Information

Meeting Times

Day Time Location
TUE 9:30 am - 12:30 pm BAT 5.102

Evaluation Method

Type Date Time Location


Cross-Listing 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. At the same time, those who should know – and care – the most about this phenomenon, including lawyers, politicians, and political scientists, often operate under mistaken premises concerning courts and law, how politics affects them and how they in turn affect politics. In this course we will try to dispel some of these misunderstandings. We will ask questions like the following: What is behind this global trend? What are courts doing with their newfound powers? When do courts and law have more important consequences for politics and for social change? Perhaps more importantly, is this “judicialization” good, bad or indifferent? And good for whom? The 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. 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. Grading: Your grade in the course will be determined by your participation in class discussions (20%), two one- to two-page long discussion guides (10%), your reflection paper (20%), and your final paper (50%).

Textbooks ( * denotes required )

No materials required


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Important Class Changes

Date Updated
02/29/2016 Course is cross listed