In this class we will delve into the whole idea of rights -- in contemporary American culture, in comparative context, and in their historic development in Anglo-American political theory and legal discourse. Then we will inquire how (whether) those ideas play out in current civil rights advocacy in our legal system. The course is not intended to be a doctrinal survey of civil rights law in the U.S. , or a doctrinal study of the law of any one particular area of civil rights. Instead, we will look at (1) the concept -- and history of the concept -- of rights, (2) some particular issues in civil rights doctrine today that run across substantive areas, e.g., intent, and (3) see how those ideas play out in an interactive practical situation, through a simulated case study, in which students will play the part of lawyers mediating a civil rights issue.
A secondary focus of the course is the combination of theory and practice. Does critical theory inform down to earth civil rights practice? If so, how? Sexual harassment or race discrimination are possible contexts for the interactive mediation part of the course (one will be chosen after the course begins). The reduced formality of mediation (as opposed to adjudication) should allow for a better simulation in a seminar setting and better accommodate some of the less doctrinal materials.