Legal Studies in the Department of Government

The study of law and politics has had a long and distinguished history in the Government Department. 
Our predecessors, for example, include such important scholars and teachers as Woodrow Wilson and Clement Vose, both of whom made major contributions to the study of law as an essentially political practice. Their legacy continues to inform the study of law at Wesleyan. We begin with the premise that the study of law is an integral part of an education not only in political science, but in the liberal arts more generally. We thus eschew the narrow pre-professionalism of the typical pre-law program in favor of a wide variety of courses that situate law in the larger social, cultural, political, and economic contexts in which it resides. Like most law schools, which take a similarly dim view of formal "pre-law" programs, we share Justice Frankfurter’s belief "That the best way to prepare for the law is to come to the study of law as a well-read person."

Although the University does not  have a formal pre-law program, many of our students do go on to law school, and more than a few are admitted every year to the nation’s most prestigious law schools.  Professor Finn has a J.D. and can be an invaluable source of guidance in pursuing law school. There are also a wide variety of helpful resources and publications available through the Wesleyan Career Center.

One member of the Department, Professor Finn, offers a variety of courses on law and politics.  In addition, the Department offers a number of other courses, in all four of the Concentrations, that any serious student of the legal process should consider.

In most years the Department offers courses for majors and non-majors in constitutional law and civil liberties. We typically offer also one or two introductory courses on the judicial process or the constitutional system, and one of three or four advanced seminars, which include such topics as  Jurisprudence, Comparative Constitutional Interpretation, and American Constitutional Theory.

Legal Links

I.  Cases This archive contains (or will soon contain) all opinions of the court issued since May of 1990.   In addition, a collection of 610 of the most important historical decisions of the Court is available on CD-ROM and (with reduced functionality) over the Net.  This is an excellent source for finding cases, both at the federal and the state level.  This useful site includes a wide range of materials about landmark cases, including secondary sources, and a helpful glossary.


II. The Supreme Court & the Justices  This is the official site of the Supreme Court. It has information about the history and operation of the Court, links to cases, as well as biographical information about the justices.  This is the official site for the Historical Society of the Supreme Court. It is an excellent resource for information about the Court. Its resources include a timeline, biographies of the justices, and information about including landmark cases.  This is a superb multimedia site. It includes audio transcripts of oral arguments in major cases, a virtual tour of the Court, as well as biographical information for sitting justices, information about pending cases, and news items about the Court. 


III. News & Press Coverage This site carries news about the Supreme Court and other federal courts.  This site provides news and commentary about the Supreme Court. This comprehensive site includes news about the Supreme Court, as well as links to blogs and others sources of information and commentary about the Court.


IV. Academic Centers/Journals  This is a comprehensive database of academic journals and law reviews. This site allows students to do full text searches of on-line law reviews.  This is a list of on-line law reviews.


V. Blogs This well-established blog is dedicated to discussions about the Court and its cases. This blog includes information about pending cases.


VI. Other Resources  Hyper-links to the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, later amendments, the Federalist Papers, and other materials.  The Declaration of Independence.  A Comprehensive, annotated on-line guide to the Constitution.  This site includes secondary information about the Constitution.  The Federalist Papers.  The Federalist Papers, Annotated.  Links to other Constitutions