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Jacksonville University

PPOL 511: Political Institutions

This Masters in Public Policy course introduces students to the political and legal environment of policy-making in contemporary American government. This involves primarily a critical examination of the contributions supplied by legislative, executive, administrative, and judicial institutions to the policy cycle. Specifically, students will read foundational texts on the policy process in the United States that examine institutions including but not limited to national institutions such as Congress, the federal bureaucracy, the President, and the federal courts, as well as analogous lawmaking institutions in state and local governments.

Altogether, this seminar provides students with the tools to understand the political and legal context in which policy develops in the American state. This includes comparing and contrasting the relative strengths and weaknesses of various institutions as policy-makers, as well as whether some institutions versus others perform more capably at different stages of the policy cycle. The course therefore blends both positive and normative political theory regarding institutional design and function in U.S. policy-making to examine comprehensively the institutional environment of the contemporary policy state.

PPOL 521: Statistics and Research Design

This Masters in Public Policy seminar presents students with an overview of statistical methods as used in the empirical analysis of public policy and policy-making institutions. Students also receive an introduction to the scientific method as employed in policy analysis, and read foundational texts on the challenges involved in designing scholarship with plausible causal identification. They are thus introduced to central concepts in social scientific methodology such as the Rubin causal model, the comparative method, and causal pathways analysis.

Students receive an introduction to both quantitative and qualitative methods in policy analysis, including conventional approaches to multiple regression in observational research, experimental methods, and other observational methods that more readily allow for researchers to make causal inferences regarding the effect of policy choices on social, political, or economic outcomes, such as difference-in-differences, instrumental variable estimation, and regression discontinuity design.

North Carolina State University

PS 305: Criminal Procedure (The Justice System and the American Political Process)

This upper-division course introduces students to the constitutional rights afforded the criminally accused in the American legal system. Topics include protections for the accused during the course of investigation and prosecution of alleged crimes by the state. As such, students learn both the constitutional standards governing police practices, as well as constitutional provisions that bear on prosecutorial choices during the course of criminal litigation.


The course presents students with a case-focused examination of rights included in or implied by the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments, such as the right to due process of law; the freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures by the state; the right to counsel; the privilege against self-incrimination; and the right to trial by jury. In addition to learning or improving the skill of how to read and brief appellate litigation, students compose an original policy report comparing the approach two different state courts of last resort have taken to a particular doctrine in criminal procedure. This gives students the opportunity to learn introductory techniques in legal research as well.

PS 506: Constitutional Law

This graduate seminar presents students with a survey of United States Constitutional Law that approximates the experience of constitutional law courses taken by first-year law students. Students read case law that introduces them to the power and capacity of institutions in the U.S. government as well as the scope of economic liberties protected in the American state. In particular, students confront the manner in which courts have constructed the institutional capacity of the states, the Congress, the presidency, federal administrative agencies, and the judiciary itself; and consider critically the extent to which the U.S. Constitution permits for regulatory activity to constrain economic rights via constitutional provisions and legal doctrines such as the commerce clause, economic substantive due process, the takings clause, and public use/just compensation.

This seminar requires students to reexamine the conventional understanding of American government by emphasizing the degree to which institutional power in U.S. politics is the function of judicial activity. Further, the seminar format introduces students to examination via the Socratic method and thus incentivizes students to become careful thinkers who approach case analysis deliberately and choose their words judiciously.

Texas Christian University

POSC 34083: Constitutional Law, Civil Rights & Civil Liberties

This upper-division course presents students with a framework for understanding the judicial construction of civil rights and civil liberties in the American polity. Topics covered include constitutional guarantees to freedom of speech; freedom of religion; freedoms of assembly and association; freedom of the press; the right to keep and bear arms; and the right to vote.


The course encourages students to think critically about the role of the Supreme Court in determining the contour and scope of individuals’ civil rights and civil liberties.  In particular, students will consider carefully whether and how the individual rights of historically disadvantaged and vulnerable populations have been protected by U.S. Courts, as well as the countervailing notion that the extension and curtailment of rights and liberties by U.S. courts might have tended instead to favor socially and economically dominant subgroups.

POSC 34093: Judicial Politics

This upper-division course focuses on the mutual interdependence between judges and politics in American governance. Students will learn about the role of judges, courts, and law in the operation and administration of the American state, and in particular how judges may or may not be seen as coequal participants in the policy process alongside legislators and executive or administrative officials.


Topics covered include the constitutional and statutory origins of judicial power; the design of legal and judicial institutions; models of judicial decision-making and behavior; and the role of law and courts in the inculcation of social, political, and economic reform. Students confront headlong the inconsistencies between the prevailing normative ideals for the judiciary and the dominant empirical findings regarding judicial involvement in political and policy processes.

POSC 34013: Constitutional Law, Government Powers

This upper-division course elucidates for students the function of the Supreme Court in regulating the distribution and operation of powers enjoyed by institutions in the United States government. Topics to be covered include but are not limited to the capabilities of the three primary branches of government, the judiciary, the legislature, and the executive; the constitutionally-mandated division of powers across the three branches, including deliberately designed checks and balances against one another; the struggle over public authority between state and national governments in the federal system; and specific powers of the national legislature to regulate American economic and social life via the Commerce Clause.

The course involves a rigorous examination not only of Supreme Court jurisprudence as it exists in the law books, but also of how judicial decision-making and the role of courts in the American institutional landscape might be politically constructed. As such, this approach to constitutional law's role in regulating government authority takes an expansive look at the specific capacities for and limitations on exercises of discretion across American public institutions.

POSC 20403: Introduction to Public Law

This course introduces students to fundamental concepts in public law, including how law functions as a political resource and as a mechanism for social control. Over the course of the semester, students are exposed to competing philosophies of what law can and should do, as well as theories of how law advances or constrains the achievement of various political, economic, and social goals. Likewise, the course advances for students' consideration the notion of American courts as particularly robust policy-making institutions that accomplish policy change where other branches of government fall short, by situating the critical actors and component structures of the U.S. legal system within the study of American politics more broadly.

The course's approach to the study of public law is threefold: first, students examine both analytic and normative philosophies of law to develop a set of systematic criteria for evaluating specific features of law and legal institutions; second, students consider the organizational characteristics of the American legal system, including the importance of the common law tradition, the role of the Constitution in U.S. law and politics, the federal structure of American government, and the function of U.S. courts as venues for orderly dispute resolution; last, students survey a range of particular areas in American law - including criminal law, civil law, and administrative regulations - in order to assess specifically both (a) the suitability of U.S. courts as instruments of dispute resolution; and (b) U.S. courts' capacity for correcting political failures in other government institutions.

POSC 40970: Economic Rights and the Law

This course examines the regulation of economic rights in American law, and in particular, focuses on the judicial construction of contract and property rights. Students also consider how a variety of regulatory mechanisms and public policies constrain or support economic rights in the polity. The course begins by providing students with an overview of the history of American economic regulation, and specifically, how debates in the early republic over the regulation of economic activity shaped capitalist development well into the twentieth century. Then, the course advances students' understanding of core economic rights to contract and property by stipulating the scope of legal rights governing judicially enforceable agreements and the use, possession, and ownership of resources and economic goods. Last, the course focuses on how a host of legal and judicial institutions structure the contours of economic relationships by allocating burdens, benefits, rights, and obligations across stakeholders in the relevant political societies. Students read, engage, and criticize theoretical and empirical work, and the course encourages students to engage in original research on the topics considered.

California State University, Long Beach

POSC 414: Jurisprudence

This upper-division course introduces students to the major philosophical approaches to the law, including analytic and normative jurisprudence. After reading major texts related to the nature of law outlining legal positivism, naturalism, and interpretivism, students then consider a number of competing theories that evaluate the moral content of law and public policy. These lessons lead students to consider questions including but not limited to: What is law, and what are laws?; what is the rule of law, and why is it important?; under what conditions should laws be obeyed?; and what is the nature of the moral relationship between lawmakers, public policy, and democratic politics?

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