Thomas Jefferson School of Law

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Course Descriptions (2015 Update Coming Soon)

Professor Susan Tiefenbrun


This course examines the global human rights movement that grew out of World War II and how international human rights laws, instruments and institutions respond to human rights violations.  International human rights include civil and political rights, economic rights, social and cultural rights, women’s rights and children’s rights.  These rights are reflected in legal norms, political contexts, moral ideas, international relations and foreign policy.  This course uses an interdisciplinary approach to examine the laws and policies of international human rights as applied to all individuals in general and to women in particular.  The course reviews applicable international human rights laws, instruments, U.N. treaty organs, regional and international tribunals, and the role of NGOs in the human rights movement.  The course analyzes state and international policies, practices, and attitudes in order to understand the causes and consequences of discrimination and abuse perpetrated on individuals.  Gender justice and the empowerment of women to facilitate full enjoyment of their human rights, accountability and enforcement is a central theme of the course.  Special attention is paid to the universal crime of sex slavery, human trafficking, and rape as a weapon of war in the development of massive human rights violations.  The Prevalent use of children as soldiers is also examined.  Students analyze the rules and standards of contemporary human rights as expressed in states’ constitutions, laws, practices, international treaties, customs, court decisions, investigative reports and recommendations of international institutions, and governmental and non-governmental actors in order to understand the ongoing development of international human rights laws.


Professor Madeline Kass


This course examines and compares regulatory approaches adopted by the United States (US) and the European Union (EU) to address major global environmental issues of our times.  The course starts with a comparison of environmental law frameworks, comparing and contrasting basic legal institutions and structures of the US and EU.  Students will then examine specific global environmental problems and study the different national regulatory approaches to address them.  Environmental topics covered will include some or all of the following:  global climate change, endangered species and habitat protection (e.g., species trafficking, deforestation), solid waste disposal regimes (e.g., packaging, e-waste, plastics), toxics regulation (dangerous chemicals), and food systems and security (e.g., genetically modified organisms).  If possible, a field trip to a local facility will be arranged. 


Professor Aaron Schwabach


The Internet is a medium for the transmission of information, and Internet law is the law of control of information.  This control can take forms as varied as censorship and copyright.  While the First Amendment and the Patent & Copyright Clause of the U.S. constitution define the limits of this control in the United States, other limits apply beyond U.S. borders.  The situation is complicated by the international nature of the Internet; content forbidden by U.S. law may be legal elsewhere, and content legal in the U.S. may expose U.S. web content publishers to civil or criminal penalties in other countries. This course will provide an overview of some of the areas in which the domestic and international legal system has been placed under the greatest stress by changes in information technology, including the regulation of obscenity and other offensive speech, defamation, anonymity, trademarks, copyrights, privacy, and territorial jurisdiction.


Professor Steve Semeraro


This course serves as both an introduction to European tort law and as a comparative inquiry into especially thorny areas of U.S. tort law.  First, we will gain a basic understanding of the nature of the tort law systems in three European countries (France, Germany, and England), focusing especially on standards for intent, negligence, strict liability, and liability for defective products.  Then, we will examine more deeply, and from a comparative perspective, how these three European legal systems have sought to resolve a number of specific issues that remain especially contentious in U.S. Tort Law.  Examples of the types of specific questions covered in the course include: whether liability should attach for not providing assistance in emergency situations (the no duty to rescue rule); the extent of the privilege of self-defense (the no duty to retreat rule); liability for stand-alone emotional distress; liability for wrongful conception (birth); liability for children; and liability for the mentally incapacitated.