Constitutional Transitions Clinic and Colloquium (for JDs)

LW.12144 / LW.12145 (Fall only) / LW.12263 (Spring only)
Professor Sujit Choudhry
Professor Katherine Glenn Bass
Open to 2L and 3L students
Maximum of 9 JD students

Not offered 2014-15
Year-long course for JDs (See Semester-long clinics for LLM info)
10 credits*
Prerequisite: U.S. Constitutional Law


The Constitutional Transitions Clinic and Colloquium is sponsored by the Center for Constitutional Transitions (Constitutional Transitions) at the NYU School of Law. Constitutional Transitions, launched in March 2012, supports constitution building through generating and mobilizing knowledge. The Constitutional Transitions Clinic and Colloquium is a joint project of Constitutional Transitions and the Cairo office of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA), an intergovernmental organization that supports sustainable democracy worldwide, with 28 member states. International IDEA’s mission is to support sustainable democratic change by providing comparative knowledge, assisting in democratic reform, and influencing policies and politics.

Course Description

The clinic and colloquium will blend clinical education and the generation of research of direct and immediate use to constitutional processes currently underway in the Middle East and North Africa. The overall goal is to provide support to constitutional processes in response to local needs, by providing technical support drawing on comparative examples in post-authoritarian states. Students will build important skills (policy analysis, contextualization of advice, presentation and advocacy) in a way that is sensitive to the volatile political context of constitutional transitions in the Middle East, in a culturally sensitive manner.


Students will work under the direct supervision of Sujit Choudhry and a Fellow, and will be divided into three teams, each tasked with the production of a research report on an issue of central importance to constitutional transitions in the Middle East and North Africa, where there is a need for comparative, in-depth research on a spcific issue that is on the constitutional agenda in the region. These topics will be identified by International IDEA.  Potential topics include security sector oversight, anti-corruption frameworks, and natural resrouce management. Research will include the constitutional status quo for a limited number of constitutional frameworks in the Middle East and North Africa, including the reasons for their historical development, as well as the constitutional experiences of other transitional democracies such as South Africa, as well as those in Eastern and Central Europe and Latin America, and successful post-colonial experiences (e.g. India).  In addition, there will be regular, sustained student contact with the Cairo office of International IDEA.  

The Colloquium

During the fall semester, in lieu of a traditional clinical seminar, students will attend a colloquium on authoritarianism. The Constitutional Transitions & Global and Comparative Law Colloquium: Emerging From / Sliding Back into Authoritarianism will be co-convened by Prof. Sujit Choudhry and Prof. Mattias Kumm. The Middle East and North Africa is only the latest region in which constitutional struggles are taking place to leave behind authoritarianism and reach a new, more democratic, more rights-respecting constitutional settlement. While some transitions from authoritarianism have succeeded, others have only been partially successful. Even among those countries where transitions appear to have succeeded, we can observe backsliding into authoritarianism in some cases. This colloquium will analyze and discuss cutting-edge scholarship addressing these and related issues to try to get a better understanding of these dynamics and the constitutional mechanisms that might enable or constrain them. Leading experts from North America, Europe and the Middle East will present works-in-progress focusing on countries  in the Middle East-North Africa region, Eastern and Central Europe, and other regions, centered around the following questions: What are the variables that influence whether a transition will be successful or stall? What are the factors that determine whether a democratic constitutional settlement will remain stable or be susceptible to backsliding? Are even mature constitutional democracies susceptible to authoritarian backsliding?

In the spring, students will participate in a weekly seminar with Sujit Choudhry and Katherine Glenn Bass to discuss their research and the drafting of their reports.   Students may also participate in occasional meetings with representatives from think tanks focusing on the Middle East-North Africa region and/or constitutional design.

Qualifications for Applicants

JD students are expected to have previously taken U.S. Constitutional Law, or to take it concurrently with the clinic. 

Application Procedure

Students should submit an application, resume and transcript on-line via CAMS. Jennifer Canose will contact you to schedule an interview with Sujit Choudhry. If you have questions, please direct them to Katherine Glenn Bass.

Student Contacts

Interested students may want to contact current Clinic students, including:

Bieta Andemariam
Hannah Bloch-Wehba
Sam Chaffin
Kuntal Cholera
Jennifer Ebling
Christine Ernst
Lisandra Fernandez
Daniel Hanna
Lauren Katz
Alex Kerchner
Morgan Miller
Johanna Peet

* 10 credits include 4 clinical (fieldwork) credits and 2 colloquium credits in the Fall semester and 2 clinical (fieldwork) credits and 2 seminar credits in the Spring semester.