Legal Conflict in Modern American Society


Thousands of lawsuits are filed daily in the state and federal courts of the United States. The disputes underlying those lawsuits are as messy and complex as the human, commercial, cultural and political dynamics that trigger them, and the legal processes for resolving those disputes are expensive, time-consuming and, for most citizens, seemingly impenetrable. At the same time law and legal conflict permeate public discourse in the United States to a degree that is unique in the world, even among the community of long-established democracies. The overarching objective of the course is to prepare our undergraduate students from any academic discipline (and with any post-graduate plans) to participate constructively in that discourse by providing them with a conceptual framework for understanding the conduct, mode of analysis and resolution of legal conflict by American legal institutions, and the evolution of - - and values underlying - - the substantive law American courts apply to those conflicts. This is, at core, a course in the kind of legal or litigation "literacy" that should be expected of the graduates of first-tier American universities. Some of the legal controversies that will be used to help develop that "literacy" include those surrounding the permissible use of lethal force in self-defense, the constitutionality of affirmative action in university admissions, contracts that are unconscionably one-sided, sexual harassment in the workplace, the extent of a landlord's (or university's) duty to prevent criminal assaults on its tenants (students), groundwater pollution alleged to cause pediatric cancers, the use and abuse of class action lawsuits, and warrantless searches of cellphone locator data by police. Prerequisite: sophomore standing or higher. It is most definitely not a prerequisite to be intending or even thinking about going to law school. No more than two excused absences during the semester.
Course Attributes: EN H; BU Hum; BU Eth; AS HUM; FA HUM; AR HUM