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Washington Semester Program - Justice & Law: Public Law


Sample Syllabus


This course focuses on the process of public law making. The class deals with a myriad of highly controversial public law issues and is intended to give each student some insight into how the law developed. The students meet as a class three days a week and serve internships in a myriad of public and private organizations two days a week.

The fundamental topics which are covered each semester are:

1. The structures, rules and processes of the major policy making and interpretive institutions of the U.S. and local governments
2. The interrelationship of those institutions
3. The role of non-governmental organizations on public law making, and
4. Major issues of public law and the institutions which created them, and their effect on the American people.

This is a course designed for pre-law students so classroom discussions are conducted in the Socratic Method. This enables the students to consider new arguments and theories about issues by changing the fact patterns to stimulate analytical thinking and discussion. By structuring the program with a diverse amalgamation of subject matters and fact scenarios (legislative, executive rule making, and judicial) as well as other types of classroom exercises, each student has the opportunity to become knowledgeable in at least one area of the process. For some it is active participation in the classroom lectures, discussions and debates. For most students it is the extraordinary opportunity to travel around Washington and meet with and ask questions of some of the people who make or influence decisions about government policy including current and former Members of Congress, Federal and local Judges, high level Executive Branch officials and non-government stakeholders. Other students thrive on the opportunity to participate in a mock committee legislative markup held in a Congressional hearing room or witness judicial proceedings including a Supreme Court argument. For some students the most interesting part of the program was the opportunity to observe government in action by attending Congressional hearings and debates as public laws were created.

At the beginning of the semester three key skills are outlined for each student to enhance while in Washington:

1. Analytical thinking
2. Persuasive public speaking, and most importantly
3. Clear and cogent writing