Foundations of American Law (an undergraduate course)

This is the first draft of an undergraduate introduction to law and legal systems. Its basic purpose is to help you understand our legal system and the means and merits of legal argument. You will learn to appreciate the distinction between rhetorical argumentation on disputed issues, as might appear in editorial writing, and legal argumentation. Each weekly reading consists of an explanation of legal concepts paired with one or more important cases that either illustrate the concepts directly or provide a basis on which to discuss the concepts. The course culminates with a few weeks’ discussion concerning pending or recently decided Supreme Court cases so that you can appreciate the legal disputes of our time from the legal perspective.

The current version of the textbook for the course is here, hosted on ssrn. Each reading is covered in a podcast download and then discussed in a seminar session. Audio can be accessed at You can subscribe to these episodes in a podcast app on your phone by adding the following URL in your app:

A suggested weekly schedule:

Meeting 1: Overview of the U.S. Legal System
Meeting 2: Legal Systems and Arguments
Meeting 3: What Is Good?
Meeting 4: Law and Economics
Meeting 5: Collective Action and Human Behavior
Meeting 6: Fairness and Distributive Justice
Meeting 7: Review and Midterm Test
Meeting 8: Courts and Precedent
Meeting 9: The Administrative State
Meeting 10: Interpretation
Meeting 11: Deference and Scrutiny
Meeting 12: Discussion of a case on the current Supreme Court docket
Meeting 13: Discussion of a case on the current Supreme Court docket
Meeting 14: Review and Final Test