Upper-Level Reading Groups

Upper-level JD and LLM students can enroll in reading groups led by our JSD students. The groups, of no more than 12 students, will meet four times during the spring semester to discuss readings or other materials related to a topic of special interest to the JSD convener(s).

The idea is to provide small groups of students the opportunity to get to know each other, in the context of discussing interesting topics that range well beyond the Law School curriculum.  Participation is, of course, entirely optional, and is not noted on Law School transcripts.

A description and meeting details of each Upper-Level Reading Group is provided below.

To sign-up for an Upper-Level Reading Group, please submit a response to the Spring 2023 Upper-Level Reading Groups Sign-Up form.

Law and Climate Catastrophe

JSD Leader: Carlos Andrés Baquero-Díaz

Wednesdays, 12:00-2:00 PM
Furman Hall 218
Meeting Dates: 2/8, 2/22, 3/29, 4/5

It is impossible to deny that the climate catastrophe is entering the legal field. From international discussions about the reduction of greenhouse gases emissions; through the definition of the loss and damages institutional agenda; including national rulings condemning states for the lack of action towards implementing their obligations, and the creation of a global movement that claims for urgent solutions. In all those scenarios, different actors are using the law as a tool to respond to the biggest human threat. What is the role of lawyers in the climate catastrophe? Which are the responses of states and civil society to this crisis? What does the law have to say in the face of the current extinction? In this reading group, we will explore some of the environmental challenges we are facing and the legal and political developments that different actors have created to respond to them. In this way, using an interdisciplinary collection of sources, we will ask ourselves about the ecological, economic, and political situation of the climate catastrophe and see how different actors translated into international and national regimes.

Sovereign Debt: Law and Political Economy 

JSD Leader: Mengjing Kong

Mondays/Thursdays, 5:00-6:30 PM
Furman Hall 120
Meeting Dates: 2/9, 2/23, 3/2, 3/9

Since the 2008 financial crisis and the following Eurozone crisis, both developed and developing countries have confronted high levels of public debt. Further, the COVID-19 pandemic has turned into a protracted debt crisis for many of them, in particular emerging markets. This reading group will discuss sovereign debt in the historical, political, economic and legal contexts, and explore new challenges facing the sovereign debt market. Session I examines sovereign debt from a historical perspective by reviewing the 2009 European Debt Crisis and the “lost decade” of Latin American countries in the 1980s. Sessions II & III discuss sovereign debt restructuring in terms of policy mechanisms and legal instruments respectively. In Session IV, we will explore new challenges including the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on the global debt market, and sovereign debt-related issues arising from the Russia-Ukraine war. In each session, the instructor would present in the first 20 minutes for a background overview of the related topic, and lead and join the discussion in the remaining session.

Reading assignment: 1. short articles or news reports will be shared before each session. 2. Participants are welcome to send me sovereign debt-related issues they are interested in. They will be incorporated into discussion and suggested readings.

Propertizing Intangibles in the Digital Age

JSD Leaders: Stav ZeitouniKatrina Grace Geddes

Wednesdays, 4:30-6:00 PM
Furman Hall 120
Meeting Dates: 2/1, 3/1, 3/29, 4/19

This reading group will explore the changes that laws dealing with intangibles have gone through in the digital age, focusing in particular on copyright. For example, digital rights management (DRM) emerged as a response to the erasure of physical constraints on copying brought about by digital technologies. More recently, data firms have found innovative ways to propertize and monetize data despite its intangibility and ambiguity around its copyrightability and patentability. These changes have long-lasting implications for how we think about property and how that’s reflected in the law and in its governance of intangibles. We will explore these themes through a mixture of academic and popular materials.

Methodological Issues in General Jurisprudence

JSD Leader: Xi Zhang

Tuesdays, 6:30-8:30 PM
Meeting Dates & Locations: 

  • 2/7 in Vanderbilt Hall 201
  • 2/28 in Vanderbilt Hall 201
  • 3/21 in Furman Hall 324
  • 4/11 in Vanderbilt Hall 201

Over the past two decades, discussions about methodological issues in the area of general jurisprudence of the Anglo-American tradition have been fruitfully advanced in terms of both the jurisprudential methodology and the nature of general jurisprudence. Specifically, the former is concerned with what kind of methods may properly facilitate our discovery of the nature of law, while the latter is concerned with how we shall conceive, evaluate and reflect upon the nature of such an enterprise from the meta-theoretical level. Among those methodological discussions, some persisting puzzles remain to be further elucidated. For instance, how is conceptual analysis actually deployed in the study of the nature of law? How are those so-called ‘essential’ and ‘necessary’ properties of law related to while different from each other? What is the nexus between general jurisprudence (sometimes identified interchangeably with analytical legal philosophy) and other branches of practical philosophy, such as moral, political and social philosophy? 

In this vein, this Reading Group aims to discuss some methodological issues in general jurisprudence divided into the following four sessions. Session I will start with the introductory literature illustrating both the paradigm of and some common critiques against those methodological issues in general jurisprudence. Session II will focus on Joseph Raz’s approach followed by some critiques against his methodology of conceptual analysis and in particular the Razian concept-nature nexus. Session III will ask whether law really has any necessary properties, how they are related to but different from essential properties, and what implications such a universal approach may have for general jurisprudence. Session IV will conclude with some reflections upon the nature of general jurisprudence. We will look into the debate between Enoch and Dickson regarding whether general jurisprudence is interesting. Besides, we will also envisage what general jurisprudence could learn from socio-legal studies and other relevant subjects. Reading materials for this Reading Group primarily consist of contemporary works on Anglo-American general jurisprudence, such as those by Brain Bix, Julie Dickson, David Enoch, Andrei Marmor, Gerald J. Postema, Joseph Raz, Brian Z. Tamanaha, among others.

(Un)Bordering the Nation-State: Rethinking the Right to Exclude

JSD Leader: Anja Bossow

Tuesdays/Wednesdays, 6:15-7:45 PM
Meeting Dates: 2/21*, 3/7, 3/28, 4/11
*The first session (2/21) will be held in Vanderbilt Hall 201 (locations for the following sessions are still TBD)

(Im)migration is one of the most pressing and most divisive issues of our time. Central to its governance has been an assumed right on behalf of every nation-state to police its borders, commonly referred to as the right to exclude. While immigration lawyers largely take this right for granted, recent decades have seen a burgeoning literature debating both its existence, underlying justification and permissible scope. The purpose of the reading group would be to equip participants with an understanding of the arguments that are advanced both in support and against the state’s exclusion power; the benefits and shortcomings of the different ways in which we may seek to justify, circumscribe or challenge such a right; and the different kind of exclusionary practices that might be licensed by such a right. Depending on th group's interest, ancillary themes could be the idea of border abolition; the relationship between exclusion and deportation; or the role the current legal framework, and the assumptions underpinning it, play in producing the injustice of current bordering practices and regimes. Reading materials would mostly draw from writings in critical and political theory and sociology as well as newspaper articles, documentaries, advocacy documents or court judgments that speak to the right to exclude or the permissibility of certain types of exclusion from several different jurisdictions (e.g. critical readings of US Supreme Court jurisprudence that speaks to the state’s right to exclude or ECtHR judgments on the interception of migrant’s boats).