Course Syllabus: PDF here
This seminar course provides an advanced exploration of the theory, methods and empirical innovations in the study of comparative judicial politics. The course is both comparative and international in its scope. The course balances theoretical inquiry with the acquisition of applied research skills for examining the political effects of courts and legal institutions. Pol S/ LSJ 367 Comparative Law & Courts is a pre-requisite. Writing credit is optional.
Examining comparative and international courts: The interaction between law, courts and politics is increasingly gaining attention among comparative politics and international relations scholars. Similarly, public law scholars are beginning to open their eyes to the world beyond the United States and the U.S. Supreme Court. This research seminar is targeted at students who are interested in studying the intersection between law, courts and politics in comparative and international perspective. Drawing from public law, comparative politics, international relations and law & society scholarship, we will critically examine the alleged utility of various theories and methodology for conducting research on comparative legal systems and institutions.
The course will cover the interaction between courts and politics, at both the macro and micro levels, and will discuss research drawing from a wide array of geographical settings. In particular, this comparative exploration will examine the question of whether macro-structures, such as law and courts, are autonomous from an underlying social structure of power and interests – the micro level. We will explore this question by looking at the role of courts in political processes in various national legal systems, as well as at the supranational and international level. Further, we will examine in comparative perspective the impact of factors “from below,” such as social movement activism and public opinion in shaping political and legal outcomes.
Acquiring research skills: The course also places a strong emphasis on research, both individual and group, and the dissemination of research through presentations and web based platforms. Students must complete Pols/LSJ 367 before taking this course. The 367 research paper will form the foundation for one of the main assignments in the course. Students will dig deeper into their initial research with an eye towards creating an original research paper that could be published in an undergraduate student journal or presented at the UW Undergraduate Research Symposium. Beyond individual research projects, students will acquire research skills in building judicial decision databases and coding judicial decisions for political variables. Students will gain first-hand experience in case law analysis and judicial decision coding utilizing a National Science Foundation funded database examining the political impacts of the European Court of Human Rights.
There are no exams in this course and assignments will demand active participation in discussion and reading, writing and research. Students will be trained in using innovative judicial decision databases and will work in groups to present their findings. Students will also be required to write and present a final research paper (developed out of their 367 research paper).