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Maxwell School
Maxwell / Department of Political Science

Field Requirements

Law and Courts 

Field Coordinators: Keith Bybee, Tom Keck

Doctoral students may declare a minor field in Law & Courts. Learning the field requires successful completion of a number of substantive courses as well as significant additional reading outside of these courses. Under ordinary circumstances, students minoring in Law & Courts should complete at least three courses in the field during their first four semesters. Students will then sit for their Qualifying Exams in the August following their second year in the program. Deviations from this schedule require the approval of the Graduate Director.

Course Work

Students minoring in Law & Courts are required to take at least three of the following courses:

PSC 600/LAW 602 Constitutional Law I
PSC 600/LAW 699 Constitutional Law II
PSC 700/LAW 839/NEW 500 Law, Politics, and the Media
PSC 700 Comparative Law & Courts
PSC 711 American Constitutional Development
PSC 715 Judicial Politics
PSC 716 Foundations of American Political Thought
PSC 752 International Law and Organizations
PSC 800/LAW 854 Law and the Social Sciences
PSC 800/LAW 882 Judicial Decision-Making

With the approval of the Graduate Director, courses not on this list may be substituted for one or more of the three required courses. No more than one of the three courses credited toward the Law & Courts field may be counted simultaneously toward another field.

Qualifying Examinations

In addition to completing the required course work, all students minoring in Law & Courts should review the works itemized in the Law & Courts reading list. For students receiving summer stipends from the department, we expect the first two summers to be devoted in significant part to this activity. The reading list is meant to serve as a useful guide, not as a substitute for students’ own judgment and initiative in identifying and reading what they take to be the leading works in the field.

The written exams will be offered twice per year, typically in August and January. At least three months prior to their written exam, students should inform Candy Brooks of their intention to sit for the exam. The single-day written exam will be closed book, although students may bring one double-sided 8.5x11 inch sheet of notes to the exam. The exam will consist of five or more questions drawn from the range of substantive areas of inquiry within the field. Each student must answer two of these questions. Each essay will be weighted equally, and the faculty recommend that students devote roughly equal amounts of time to drafting each of them.

Roughly two weeks following the written exam, the student will sit for an oral defense, which will be conducted by the two Law & Courts field coordinators plus the student’s advisor, who shall act as chair. Upon completion of the oral exam, the advisor will notify the Graduate Director in writing that the student has passed with distinction, passed, or failed. In the latter case, the student may retake the exam during the following semester. This option may only be exercised once.

Last updated: February 21, 2013.