Lee Epstein
Lee Epsteing Ethan A.H. Shepley Distinguished University Professor

Law 579B
Political Science 533

Description. For several decades now, members of the socio-legal community have been investigating the role constitutional courts play in their systems of government. That this topic engages social scientists is not surprising. After all, we, as citizens, are bombarded with press reports of constitutional courts generating major policies. And, we, as social and political observers, acknowledge the expansion of judicial power (what some call the "judicialization of politics") throughout the world. That the American legal community also takes an interest in courts abroad is as understandable as it is undeniable. It is understandable, as lawyers and judges believe they have much to learn from their counterparts elsewhere. It is undeniable, as a mere glance at the legal literature would attest. The 1990s (into the 2000s) witnessed the emergence of important law journals and the publication of influential case books, scholarly volumes, and essays all devoted to courts and law abroad.

What these developments suggest: The time is ripe to offer a course devoted to learning about and comparing constitutional courts in various societies.

My goals for the course are as follows:

  1. Introduce students to the "state of the art" in studies of comparative courts. We accomplish this via readings and weekly discussions.
  2. Touch upon a series of specialized topics, major nodes of controversy in the field. These include judicial selection, access to constitutional courts, and decision making.
  3. Help students develop theoretical and empirical skills, as well as substantive knowledge, by having them amass data on critical features of constitutional courts.

Books: Please pick up a reader (in the law school mail room).

Grading: I base grades on the quality of your research projects (90 percent) and class participation/attendance (10 percent).

Click here for the course outline.
Click here for the research projects.