Law and Social Change
Law 550A
Political Science 524

Description: Many law-related classes emphasize the processes that lead to court decisions or the content of those decisions. But for legal specialists concerned with the relation of law to society, the most interesting aspect of the judicial process begins after a high court issues its mandate. How will lower courts interpret it? Under what circumstances will they comply or defy with the decision? Will authorities and other actors implement it? Do individuals directly affected by the decision actually receive benefits or suffer costs? In what ways will other segments of society respond to it? And, ultimately and most critically, can courts-via their decisions- generate serious social, political, or economic change?

To address these and other questions, we consider the vast legal and social-scientific literature on the implementation and impact of court decisions, as well as the decisions themselves. We end the course with two case studies (on race discrimination and pay equity), both of which allow for the explicit consideration of whether courts can generate change.

Books: Please purchase the following books:

  1. Canon, Bradley C. and Charles A. Johnson. 1998. Judicial Policies: Implementation and Impact, 2nd edition. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press.
  2. McCann, Michael. 1994. Rights at Work : Pay Equity Reform and the Politics of Legal Mobilization. University of Chicago Press.
  3. Rosenberg, Gerald. 1991. The Hollow Hope: Can Courts Bring about Social Change? University of Chicago Press.

Grading: I base grades on the quality of your written work (75%) and class attendance/participation (25%).

Click here for the course outline.
Click here for information about the writing assignments.