Understanding the Legislative Process: American Legislative Institutions in Analytical Perspective


Course Code:
LAW 532
Law Honors/Pass/R credit/Fail


Statutes are central to the legal system in the United States and virtually every other country, but they are generated through an intricate legislative process that is often poorly understood and has in recent years been subject to intense criticism. The primary goal of this course is to explore certain categories, procedures, and norms used in the U.S. Congress. The class will also consider how the U.S. legislative process functions relative to approaches in other countries (particularly advanced industrialized countries with mature legislative and executive institutions), and will critically examine some of the concerns that have been raised among scholars and commentators about the efficacy of the U.S. legislative process. Specific topics covered in the course will include the legislative budgeting and appropriations process; legal (including constitutional) interpretation in the legislature; oversight of executive and administrative action; legislative agenda-setting and other counter-majoritarian features of the lawmaking process; and the division of labor between legislative chambers, committees, and subcommittees. Students will have an option of either choosing between writing 4 short response papers (4-5 pp. each), or one longer paper for writing "W" credit for 3Ls only. After the term begins, students accepted into the course can transfer from section (01) into section (02), which meets the W requirement, with consent of the instructor. Special Instructions Writing (W) credit is for 3Ls only. Elements Used in Grading: Class participation, attendance, four short response papers or final paper.

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