Comparative Constitutional Law Recent decisions from the United States Supreme Court have discussed legal precedent in other countries, sparking a debate about the relevance of foreign judicial decisions to the interpretation of the United States constitution. This seminar will focus on what we can learn about constitutional values and choices by comparing the United States with western European civil law countries such as France and Germany and other common law countries, such as Canada, the United Kingdom, and South Africa. Using the United States constitution as a touchstone for comparing the other constitutional models, the course will examine elements of universality and difference and discuss the relative merits of the approaches. No previous study of constitutional law is necessary. Subjects covered may include the concept of constitutionalism, issues of comparative constitutional structure (including variations in the institutions and practices of judicial review), limits on constitutional rights (including political limits), judicial appointment, and various substantive constitutional rights, including freedom of speech and expression, freedom of religion, privacy rights, and differing conceptions of equality. The class will also examine how judges handle issues differently, based on the political context and their contrasting worldviews.
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