Comparative Constitutional Law
Why do we have a constitution? In what ways is our constitution different than those adopted in other nations? Are there things our constitutions could do better? This course explores questions like these in a comparative perspective. We will explore the different ways nations have addressed the common problems constitutions attempt to solve, such as the structural organization of governments and the protection of individual rights. In doing so, we will consider the relationships between constitutions and judicial review; the significance of written versus unwritten constitutions; and the pros and cons of comparative consideration of such questions. In doing so, we will study constitutional arrangements in the United States, and in other countries including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Israel, Japan, and South Africa. Specific topics of study will include (1) the relationships between elected branches of government and courts under constitutional regimes that permit legislative override of constitutional decisions, (2) presidential compared to parliamentary systems of governance; (3) different forms of constitutional federalism, (4) approaches to protecting minority groups (for example, federalism, affirmative action for racial/ethnic/linguistic minorities, or group-based rights), (5) gender equality; (6) freedom of religion, (7) freedom of speech, and (8) positive social welfare rights.
The course will be graded through a combination of class participation, occasional written or in-class assignments, and a take-home exam. There are no prerequisites for the course, although a familiarity with U.S. constitutional law would be helpful.