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POL S 367 A: Comparative Law and Courts

Summer Term: 
Meeting Time: 
to be arranged
* *
Joint Sections: 
LSJ 367 A
Waleed K. Salem
Full Term. Asynchronous.

Syllabus Description:

You may have noticed that courts have power.  This judicial power bears on questions big and small.  Courts have decided who qualifies as Jewish in Israel, determined whether wearing a headcover at universities was allowed in Turkey, and, in Hungary, derailed a government’s International Monetary Fund loan, to cite just three examples of many. This course introduces you to the sources and manifestations of judicial power, and how judicial power influences policy and politics.  It does so from a comparative perspective.  Understanding judicial power in one context or within one set of national borders shall illuminate the paths taken or avoided in another setting, or in a dramatically altered environment (as we will see with sovereignty-challenging “supra-national” courts at the end of the course).  The class is a core course in the Law, Societies and Justice program.

We begin by critically examining the (ideal) functions of courts: to provide for “order,” resolve disputes, and to enforce legal norms. We then turn to constitutional politics in democracies, asking whether and how constitutional courts have changed national policies and empowered individuals with new rights. Next, we study the development of constitutional courts in countries that are undergoing transitions to democracy, transitioning to some as yet undefined system, as well as those in non-democracies. The final section of the course is devoted to law and courts in supranational and international contexts. You will explore an increasingly powerful supranational court, the European Court of Justice, which we will compare with the European Court of Human Rights. The course concludes with an examination of a relatively young international court that is in the news a lot recently: the International Criminal Court.


Required Reading: All required readings will be posted for free on Canvas. There are no required textbooks.


DRAFT_Su-POLS-LSJ 367.docx

Catalog Description: 
Introduction to comparative judicial politics, focusing on the relationship between law and politics in cross-national perspective, as well as on the functioning of supranational and international legal entities in the international system. Offered: jointly with LSJ 367.
Department Requirements: 
Comparative Politics Field
International Relations Field
GE Requirements: 
Social Sciences (SSc)
Last updated: 
June 17, 2024 - 9:30pm