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Undergraduate Programs

"Scarcely any political question arises in the United States that is not resolved, sooner or later, into a judicial question."This observation came from Alexis de Tocqueville, the French philosopher, during his U.S. travels, early in our history. If we were a legalistic society then, what shall we call ourselves now? Laws have proliferated at an astounding pace, the courts are widely overcrowded with cases, despite the legal short-cuts we've devised. The threat of lawsuits lingers ever-present: we scheme about how to avoid them, and how to bring them.


Besides resolving disputes, we rely on the law to govern ourselves: to create our institutions, regulate our behavior, and make our policy. We believe the law provides fairness, and thus guarantees democracy. Most importantly, we rely on the law to solve our problems. While our confidence in the law, lawmakers, and lawyers ebbs and flows, we nevertheless believe that the law can change our society for the better. These are powerful myths, yet not everyone believes the law serves such benevolent objectives. Grant Gilmore, writing in the Yale Law Journal, argues:

 “Law reflects, but in no sense determines, the moral worth of a society.…The better the society, the less law there will be. In Heaven, there will be no law, and the lion will lie down with the lamb.…In Hell, there will be nothing but law, and due process will be meticulously observed.”

Others point to the many “unfulfilled promises” of U.S. law. Some view the law as biased, reflecting an ideology that helps the few at the expense of the many. Still others believe that lawyers do more to impede social change than to promote it. However one assesses the law, its extraordinary role in U.S. culture cannot be denied. Thus, the law ought to be studied widely, and not merely by those who want to practice the law.

Toward that end, the Department of Politics offers a Legal Studies minor, open to all USF students. The minor provides students a broad understanding of the U.S. legal system, including the role law plays in U.S. culture: what legal philosophies have we adopted and rejected, what is the law’s history, what practical purposes does it serve, how well does it work. We’re interested in the relationship between law and politics, and law and society. What can law contribute to improve society? What is justice? Can the law help to achieve it? Does the law help promote social change, or rather impede it? We’ll examine both U.S. law and international law, and study the judicial system from the trial courts to the Supreme Court. We’ll consider legal disputes over issues such as capital punishment, human rights, pornography, terrorism, corporate crime, affirmative action, privacy, flag burning, defendant’s rights, war powers, euthanasia, drug testing, school prayer, gun control, and so forth. Students will see the law in action, not merely in the classroom. Our fieldwork courses place students in law-related internships with organizations such as La Raza Centro Legal, the Legal Aid Society, the Prisoner’s Union, the Tenderloin Legal Clinic, the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, and the American Civil Liberties Union. Some will use Legal Studies as preparation for law school. Others may find our courses useful for other educational and career pursuits.



Under our 4 + 3 Law Program, USF students (in any major) will have the opportunity to gain automatic admission to USF's School of Law if they have a minimum 3.2 GPA, a minimum 56th percentile LSAT score, and complete either the Legal Studies or Criminal Justice Studies minor.

A Legal Studies Minor may be earned by students in any USF major. For the minor, students must complete five (5) courses (20 credits) (which may be double-counted for major, minor and core requirements), including the Overview course, one course in Domestic Justice, one course in Global Justice, one Field Placement, and one Elective. The elective can be satisfied preferably by choosing an additional course in either Domestic Justice or Global Justice, or by choosing a course from additional electives.

Summer/Fall 2015 Course Listings (CLICK LINK)




Students are required to take one of the two overview courses:

POL 322 Politics of American Justice (Elias/Weiner) or 
SOC 354 Sociology of Law (Santos/Richman)

Domestic Justice 

POL 301 Early American Political Thought
POL 302 Modern American Political Though, 1865-Present
POL 316 Law, Politics & Baseball (Elias)
POL 323 Legislative Process (Cook)
POL 327 American Reformers & Revolutionaries (Elias)
POL 335 Political Power & Constitutional Law (Elias)
POL 336 Race, Equality & the Law (Taylor)
POL 337 Women and the Law (Staff)
POL 339 Free Expression and the Constitution (Weiner)
POL 392 American Indian Politics (Kessler-Mata)
SOC 227 Violence in Society (Richman)
SOC 304 U.S. Inequalities & Social Justice (Raeburn)
SOC 357 Criminology (Richman)
COMS 336 Rhetoric of Law
HIST 259 Civil Rights Movement in History & Film (Nasstrom)
PHIL 372 Philosophy of Law (Cavanaugh/Vargas)
MEDIA 311 Communication Law and Policy (Barker-Plummer)
ENVA 363 Environmental Law 
ENVA 367 Environmental Justice
BUS 301 Business Law (Boedecker, et al.)

Global Justice

POL 345 Global Economic Justice (Zunes)
POL 350 International Law & Organizations (Zartner)
POL 352 Human Rights & Global Change (Elias)
POL 369 Asian Politics, Actions, Justice (Gonzalez)
POL 380/THRS 380 Social Justice and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (Hahn Tapper)
POL 381 Feminist International Relations (Wibben)
POL 390 Filipino Politics and Justice (Gonzalez)
SOC 233 Gender, Development, and Globalization
SOC 302 Global Inequalities & Social Justice (Santos)
SOC 322 Resistance to Corporate Globalization (Santos)
SOC 390 Sociology of Human Rights (Santos)
COMS 364 Communication for Justice & Social Change (Jacquemet)


Field Placement

Students must choose between a law-related placement in a government agency (Politics 396) or in some non-governmental organization (Politics 397 or Sociology 395):

POL 396 Public Administration Internship (Murphy/Gonzalez/Kessler-Mata)
POL 397 Fieldwork in Public Interest Organizations (Elias)
SOC 395 Fieldwork in Sociology (Gamson/Rodriguez)

Additional Electives

Students must choose one (1) elective by taking an additional course in either Domestic Justice or Global Justice (see above) or by taking a course from the following list (as periodically updated):

POL 315 Race, Ethnicity, & American Politics (Taylor)
POL 330 Crime, Law, and the Constitution (Lutomski)
POL 363 Public Policy: Homeless (Cook)
POL 367 Public Policy: Drug Policy (Murphy)
POL 368 Public Policy: Punishment (Taylor/McBride)
POL 392 Race, Civil Rights and American Presidency (Taylor)
POL 393 Boxing & Social Justice (Gonzalez)
SOC 325 Critical Approaches to Race and Ethnicity (Raeburn/Shin)
SOC 331 Social Stratification (Staff)
SOC 355 Deviance & Social Control (Richman)
SOC 356 Juvenile Justice (Richman)
SOC 390 Policing (Staff)
COMS 322 Advertising Public Relations Law and Ethics (Vannice)
HIST 322 The Holocaust (Staff)
HIST 363 Race & Ethnicity in U.S. History (Fels)
HIST 390 Radical Labor Movements/US History (Harrison)
HIST 421 Native Americans in U.S. History (Fels)
PHIL 370 Philosophy of Action (Cavanaugh)
MEDIA 204 Media, Violence, and Stereotyping (Juluri)
PSYCH 350 Perspectives: Forensic Psychology (Staff)
ECON 465 Law & Economics (Staff)
ANTH 390 Race & Environmental Justice in the Americas (Loperena)
BUS 311 Advanced Business Law (Scalise)
BUS 313 Employment Law for Managers (Boedecker)
BUS 314 Personal Law (Becker)
BUS 319 Entrepreneurial Law (Pierre-Louis)
BUS 482 Hospitality Law & Human Resources (Abrams)
BUS 491 Honors Section: Legal (Scalise)


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