Skip to:Main Content

Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee University
Washington and Lee University Campus Image

Law-related Courses




JOUR 280: Legal Reporting (3)

Prerequisites: JOUR 201 and at least sophomore standing. The principles and techniques of covering the United States justice system, with emphasis on courts and legal issues at the subnational level. Content includes study of the Constitutional basis for an organization of the state and federal court systems. Extensive practice covering local court cases and preparing multimedia news stories on deadline is required. Students may also cover cases in the several legal clinics associated with the School of Law. Staff. Fall, Winter


INTR 220:  Great Cases and Controversies in American Law

No prerequisites: From animal rights to abortion, this course will explore some of the most significant cases and controversies in American legal history. Topics of discussion will include but not be limited to eugenics, access to contraception, abortion, assisted suicide, the death penalty, the right of privacy, and school prayer. The course will have you thinking, reading, researching, and writing like a lawyer. It will help you understand how extralegal factors, such as the societal and historical context of a case, impact legal outcomes. It will also enable you to explore the "human story" underlying each "great case." Not offered in 2010-2011.

PHIL 341 (INTR 341): Special Topics in Medical Ethics:  Genetics, Law, and Policy (3)

From punnett squares to wrongful pregnancy, this course will explore the dynamic intersection of science, ethics, and the law, with special emphasis placed on issues arising in the context of biology and genetics. Topics of discussion will include eugenics, genetic discrimination, access to contraception, abortion, assisted reproduction, and the tort of wrongful birth. Course objectives include but are not limited to the following: Understand how science impacts legal and ethical outcomes; Explore the role that ethics and science play in legal decision-making and legislative drafting; and Understand the policies and societal factors underlying genetic legislation and rulings. Not offered in 2010-2011.

SOC 228: Race and Ethnic Relations

Our concern in this course is to examine racial and ethnic minorities as they help us to understand the social and cultural organization of groups in American society as well as ethnic sources of individual identity. Initially, we shall study various theories of ethnicity with special emphasis placed on recent changes affecting their applicability (e.g., black and African-American pride as related to middle class and underclass life situations). As part of this analysis, we shall focus on the comparative importance of race and class in the lives of African-Americans. Next, we shall examine the contro-versy surrounding supposed racial differences in intelli¬gence as formulated in The Bell Curve, focusing too on the heated debate involving the relevance of social class. As we move toward the end of the term, we shall study class and ethnicity, especially as these factors help us comprehend the behaviors and attitudes of Awhite ethnics@ and Native Americans. Our last topic will be an examination of the strategies employed by subordinate groups to bring about change. Novack.

SOC 280: Gender and Society

With changes in the roles of both women and men in American society, we are forced to examine such traditional patterns as the dominance of men and subordination of women. Moreover, we need to ask why and how the relationships between males and females are being transformed. To explore these issues, we must study the gender connection from an historical perspective. By focusing on human evolution and other cultures, we hope to enhance our understanding of associations between males and females in modern industrial and post-industrial societies such as America. Special attention will be given to the role of innate sexual differences, cultural variation, technology, and power in determining patterns of gender inequality. In which types of societies, for instance, are women and men most likely to be on a par and in which ones is gender inequality most pronounced? Further, do men actually rule over females or do women, at times, lead men to believe that they (the males) are dominant, thus perpetuating mythical male power? As we study these factors and questions, we shall attempt to understand changes in gender scripts in our society and to visualize the probable future form of female-male relationships and of gender identity for today=s young American adults. In addition, we shall examine gender diversity and sexuality with same and opposite sex partners as cultural constructions that vary between societies. Anthropological and sociological readings and films relevant to preliterate and modern societies will be utilized, and both lectures and discussions will be incorporated in the classroom. Novack.

SOC 270: Deviance

The course will seek to analyze the social meanings of deviance. Although behavioral causation is discussed, primary consideration is given to a study of the social processes utilized in generating concep¬tions of deviant behavior. In this context, the historical and related sociological development of deviance theories is stressed with focused applications to homelessness, Jews during the Holocaust, white collar crime (e.g., the Enron debacle and the current mortgage crisis), and the social meanings of mental illness. In general, the thrust of the course is toward an explication of the complex processes that people use in negatively evaluating types of behaviors and individuals through social interaction. Novack.

INTR 180: FS: Diversity and Discrimination in Employment and Higher Education (3)

This first-year seminar explores diversity and discrimination laws as they apply to students and workers, with a special emphasis on issues arising in higher education. Topics include affirmative action in admissions, lawful recruiting practices, sexual harassment, retaliation, diversity initiatives, discrimination, accessibility and accommodations for persons with disabilities, sexual stereotyping, and lawful grooming and appearance policies. The syllabus is primarily case-based and the class operates like a law-school course. The goal is to have you thinking, analyzing, arguing, and writing like a lawyer. Not offered in 2010-2011.



POL 295B: Special Topics in American Politics: Courts, Judicial Review and Democracy (3)

The tension between judicial review and majority rule is an enduring aspect of constitutional democracy around the world. In this course, we examine classic and contemporary writing on legal philosophy, the nature of judicial review, the role of the legislature, the nature of representative democracy, and the dialogues about rights and constitutional development that occur between courts and other political actors in both domestic and international law.  Politics 100 is a pre-requisite for this course. (SS2) Rush.





What is a law? Can a law be unjust and still be a law (e.g., Nazi laws)? Must I always obey the law (e.g., to not protest naked in order to highlight the mistreatment of animals on fur farms)? Ought there to be laws prohibiting me from harming myself (e.g., laws against not wearing motorcycle helmets)? Should society be permitted to make laws that prohibit consensual activities not harmful to others (e.g., Fight Club)? Should society be permitted to make laws that enforce its religion? Should law protect all speech -- for example, racist and sexist speech -- and all publications -- for example pornography and bomb-making manuals (e.g., the Anarchist Cookbook) and gossip websites (e.g., JuicyCampus)? Does the American Constitution guarantee a right to privacy? Does this right incorporate the right to have an abortion? Should there be laws that grant certain underprivileged, or unrepresented, groups in society preferential treatment? What is the justification for any legal punishment whatsoever? Is corporal punishment, or the death penalty, ever justified? Should I be held legally responsible for acts that were unintended? Is my state of mind in breaking a law relevant in determining my culpability? What principles should be used in the interpretation of laws to cover novel and unforeseen cases? In this course we will examine these and other related questions with a view towards arriving at a better understanding of law and its relationship to morality. Students will become familiar with some of the major theories about the nature of law and with problems raised by some of the most controversial intersections of law and morality. Students will learn how to critically evaluate the arguments of the philosophers, the Supreme Court justices, and the commentators they study, through class discussion and the writing of papers. Mahon.

NTR 231: Introduction to Jury Advocacy (1)

 Pass/fail basis only. Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor. Introduction to the jury system, federal rules of evidence, and trial practice. Participants are introduced to the legal, practical, and policy implications of jury advocacy in the United States, and put that learning into practice through role plays as both witness and advocate. Members of the intercollegiate mock-trial team are selected from those who complete the courses successfully. Belmont.

INTR 431: Tutorial in Trial Preparation and Procedure (1)

Pass/fail basis only. Prerequisites: Interdepartmental 231 and permission of the instructor. Preparation for and participation in intercollegiate mock-trial competitions. 186 Interdepartmental/Italian Participants prepare a case based on an assigned set of facts and assume roles of both lawyer and witness in the classroom and competition. May be repeated with instructor's permissions for a maximum of three credits toward degree requirements. Belmont.

Interdepartmental 423 & Law 391 Poverty: A Research Seminar
This seminar will examine the nature and extent of poverty in the U.S., its causes and consequences, and the antipoverty effects of existing and proposed government programs and policies. Our investigation will be interdisciplinary, drawing on insights from economists, sociologists, psychologists, philosophers, and public policy analysts. The types of questions to be addressed include the following: What is poverty? Who are the underclass? Why is poverty so persistent? Is there a culture of poverty? Why are poverty rates for minorities so high? What are the interrelationships among poverty, family structure, inner city neighborhoods, crime, labor market conditions and public policies? Is poverty passed on from generation to generation? How has welfare reform changed the playing field? What are the effects of neighborhood, housing, education, labor market and welfare policies on poor adults and children? How might these policies be better designed to improve the economic prospects of poor adults and children? The course will foster the development and use of critical thinking, effective writing, and oral presentation skills. Student evaluation will be based on preparation for class, participation during seminar meetings, and a paper project. Beckley.



PHIL 215: Social Inequality and Fair Opportunity (3)

An exploration of the different range of opportunities available to various social groups, including racial, ethnic and sexual minorities, women, and the poor. Topics include how to define fair equality of opportunity; the social mechanisms that play a role in expanding and limiting opportunity; legal and group-initiated strategies aimed at effecting fair equality of opportunity and the theoretical foundations of these strategies; as well as an analysis of the concepts of equality, merit and citizenship, and their value to individuals and society. (HU, GE4c) Bell. Winter

PHIL 216: Feminist Social and Political Philosophy (3)

This course critically examines the gender norms that pervade our identities, govern our everyday behavior, and organize our social life. Questions addressed may include: What is gender? In what ways does it affect the quality of women's and men's lives? Is gender difference natural? Is it valuable? Can it contribute to, or interfere with, human flourishing? Can a gendered society be just? What can any of us do to promote good relations among women and men? (HU, GE4c) Bell.
Fall 2010 and alternate years


PHIL 259: Philosophy of the Family (3)

 This course considers philosophical issues raised by family as a social institution and as a legal institution. Topics addressed include the social and personal purposes served by the institution of family, the nature of relationships between family members, the various forms that family can take, the scope of family privacy or autonomy, and how family obligations, mutual support, and interdependency affect individual members of families. (HU, GE4c) Bell. Winter 2009 and alternate years


PHIL 370: Roe v. Wade and the Abortion Question (4)

 Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor. This course considers the question of whether abortion should be legal in a modern state from the perspectives of contemporary moral philosophy and U.S. law. (HU, GE4c) Mahon. Spring 2010 and alternate years

REL 381: Islamic Law in Society (3)

This seminar introduces students to the Islamic understanding of shari'a ("Path," "law") and its role in Muslim culture, history, and society. To be examined are: the key sources of law in the Qur'an and the model of the Prophet Muhammad, the early development of Islamic legal theories and institutions, the roles of these institutions in everyday life, and the struggle to reimagine Islamic law and its place in contemporary Muslim communities. Case studies include the nature of political institutions, the rights and roles of women, and Islamic economics. (HU, GE4d) Hatcher. Not offered in 2009-2010

REL 335: Hindu Law in Theory and Practice (3)

This course introduces Hindu law, in both historical and comparative perspectives. We begin with introductory reflections on the nature and role of law in society and the relationship between religion and state in the law in general, and in India in particular. Other topics covered include the origins of Hindu law in priestly ritual codes, political theory, and local custom; Dharma as religious jurisprudence; premodern legal practice; British attempts to codify Hindu law; Hindu personal law in modern India; and the controversy over religion and secularism in the courts today, including the constitutional definition of "Hindu;" attempts to legislate against disapproved religious practices; and disputes over sacred spaces. We close with comparisons with legal reasoning about religion in America, Israel, and England, based on court cases. (HU, GE4d) Lubin. Not offered in 2009-2010

REL 222 (LAW 355): Law and Religion (3)

Open to undergraduates and law students. Drawing on examples from diverse periods and legal cultures, this seminar addresses "law" and "religion" as two realms of life that have much shared history and continue to intersect in the modern world. Several important topics in comparative law and jurisprudence are covered, including authority and legitimacy, the relation between custom and statute, legal pluralism, church-state relations, and competing models of constitutional secularism. A selective survey of legal systems and practices rooted in particular religious traditions is followed by an examination of how secular legal systems conceptualize religion and balance the protection of religious freedom with their standards of equity and neutrality. (SS4, GE6D) Lubin. Fall 2011 and alternate years


Journalism 280: Legal Reporting Locy.

Journalism 301: Law and Communications Locy.

Journalism 399: Contemporary Problems in Law and Journalism Abah and Murchison.

Hist. 201, "Europe in the Early Middle Ages," Peterson, analyzes portions of Justinian's Code of Roman Law and the Canon Law of the medieval church.

 Hist. 202, "Europe in the Late Middle Ages," Peterson, analyzes Thomas Aquinas's scholastic notion of Natural Law and the origins of the English Parliament.

Hist. 214, "Germany 1914-2000," Patch, analyzes the constitutions of the Weimar Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany.

Hist. 306, "Seminar on Medieval and Renaissance Political Thought" Peterson, contains readings in the medieval canon law of the Church and scholastic theories of Natural Law.

Hist. 242, "The United States, 1789-1840," Merchant.

Hist. 253, "Gay and Lesbian History," DeLaney.

Hist. 259-260, "History of the African-American People," DeLaney.

Hist. 262-263, "The Old South," Merchant.

Hist. 364, "Seminar on the Origins of the Constitution," Merchant.

English 413: Literature and Human Rights (1)

Contemporary literature is riddled with stories of genocide, war, and the mass migration of peoples across international borders. What can novels, memoirs, and creative non-fiction contribute to our understanding of such human rights crises? What ethical and aesthetic challenges inhere in an author's choice to speak on behalf of individuals, communities, and nations threatened by civil war, revolution, and foreign occupation? And to what standards of truth and art do we, as readers, hold this writing? In considering these questions, we will spend the first half of this course reading contemporary literary dispatches (both fiction and creative non-fiction) from Guatemala (I, Rigoberta Menchu); the U.S.-Mexican Border (Dying to Live); Libya (In the Country of Men), Iran (The Bathhouse), the Sudan (What is the What), and Guantanamo Bay (My Guantanamo). Documentaries, visual art, and readings about international human rights policy will enrich our classroom discussions. The second half of the course will be devoted individual research and writing projects, and students will have the choice to expand their inquiries in a creative work (fiction or creative non-fiction).

(2) Twentieth Century U.S. Immigrant Literatures

This class offers an introduction to the comparative study of U.S. immigrant literatures. Beginning in the early decades of the twentieth century and ending with writing produced in the post-9/11 period, we will read novels, memoirs, and poetry by a diverse group of first and second generation immigrant writers, considering their connections to both mainstream American and imported literary traditions as well as historical, legal, and cultural debates about immigration, assimilation, and citizenship. Winter 2010 300-level course in American Literature