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Law, Lawyers & The System

Alternate titles: The American Judicial Process\Law and the Legal System. Students learn about lawyering, judging, process and common legal transactions in trial courts from an inside perspective. Using hypotheticals, simulations and rules, students learn about evidence, procedure, common legal issues, how trial judging occurs, and the basic rules of torts, contracts, family law and criminal law/procedure.

There is a version of the class exclusively for criminal justice (alternate titles: Criminal Justice\Crime, Prosecution and The System). It focuses exclusively on criminal law and procedure from a participatory perspective. Subjects include: the definition of crime and defense, how lawyers defend the accused, discovery and procedure, trial judging, famous criminal trials, public defenders, prosecutors and sentencing systems.

Alternate titles: Supreme Court Decision Making\Philosophy & Development of Legal Judging. Course focuses on two subjects: how justices should decide (jurisprudence) and how they do decide (behaviorism). The first half of the course is the history of legal justification as told by legal culture and philosophers. The second half is an examination of the empirical evidence about judicial decision making, which culminates in a theoretical model that tries to harmonize philosophy with empiricism. Course has a multidisciplinary focus.

Course focuses on new trends in philosophy of law or legal theory. Current class is focused heavily upon the originalism movement and upon Wittgenstein & Law. It also includes critical legal studies and Dworkin.

American Constitutional Development

Alternate titles: American Constitutional Law\Development I (Powers of Government). Course focuses on the theory, history and, design of government power. Has a developmental concern: begins with the English revolution, moves toward American constitutionalism, and then examines the ascendancy of the federal organ and the evolution of separation of powers.


Alternate Title: Wittgenstein & the Post-Analytic Mind.Students learn who Ludwig Wittgenstein was, and why he is relevant. They learn to engage in intellectual behaviors that are described as “post analytic.” Through the biography of Wittgenstein's life, students learn about language meaning, philosophy as therapy rather than argumentation, aspect-seeing (insight), pictures of account, and dissolving confusions rather than “winning debates.” They also become exposed to the values of intellectual sincerity and shunning pretense, and see the terrible complexity of genius – including negative aspects of Wittgenstein's life, such as condescension and sexism. The final part of the course helps students apply the thinking techniques they have learned to selected topics in law and science. Ultimately, this class hopes to make students into more insightful thinkers.

American Presidency

Course is broken into three parts: (1) historical/developmental (the creation of the presidency through FDR); (2) institutional/behavioral (resources, capacity, selection, decision making, etc.); and (3) legal (the constitutional power of the presidency).

Struggle for Civil Rights

An examination of the struggle of various groups to attain the promise of the American experiment. Covers race, gender, sexual orientation, native North Americans, religious non-conformists, immigrants, illegal aliens, labor and even the fetus. As these stories are told, students consider the following questions: (1) what causes political movements; (2) what causes success or failure; (3) what role do courts play in the struggle; and (4) what relation does law have to society?

American Government

Alternate Title: Philosophy & Development of American Government. Focuses is upon the institutions of American government and their development. Care is taken to explore the colonial period and framing. The institutions are then developed through modernity, with particular emphasis upon how they work and how their functioning has changed over time. By the end of the course, students consider whether different institutions or processes (including election systems) would work better. Has America outgrown its plan of government?

American Political Development

Alternate Title: Government, Capitalism & Ideology in America. This is a course in American political development. The focus is upon three things: (a) the role of government in capitalism; (b) economic,fiscal and social welfare policy; and © the development of American political ideology concerning the same. These issues were selected because they constitute an entrenched & recurring conversation in American politics. We hear about them over and over again in presidential elections. The issues are traced across three historical epochs: pre-industrial America; the progressive era from 1890s through the New Deal; and contemporary politics from the Great Society through Obama. This places the issues in an appropriate context.

An alternate version of this course includes a broader issue set and cuts some of the development out. Alternate titles: Issues and Development in American Political Life\Political Life. Focus is on American political development, but only upon “issues,” not institutions (no duplication with American government). Common issues: economic philosophy, government spending, budget deficits, taxation, ideology, wealth distribution, sexual orientation, gender, civil rights – all with an historical (developmental) focus.