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. The name of the reading group along with a grade of "CR" (credit) in this ZERO credit opportunity will appear on the transcripts of those who participate in a group and attend its meetings.

A description and meeting details of each Upper-Level Reading Group is provided below. Reading Group descriptions are also included in the Spring 2024 online class schedule with the class titles: “Upper-Level Reading Group.”


Register for an Upper-Level Reading Group

  • The site will be available January 16 at 1:30 PM (NY EST) through January 25 at 9:30 AM (NY EST)
  • Log in using your netID and password – the same information you use to log in to Albert/ NYU Home
  • Click on “Registration” on the left sidebar.  The list of Upper-Level Reading Groups and a text box in which to list your choices will appear. Please indicate your first, second, third, etc. choices. You can rank as many groups as you wish. We will honor your preference to the extent possible, while limiting groups to no more than 12 students.
  • Registration results will be posted to your schedule in Albert on January 27.

Please note: After January 25th, registration for an upper-level reading group can be requested via an add request through the Law Registrar's Service Desk. When you log into COURSES, locate the blue "Law Registrar's Service Desk" button on the bottom right hand corner of the page. select "Add a Course" and provide all of the information requested on the form (please be sure to include both the full name of the reading group and course code with section number of the particular reading group you are requesting).

Justifying Border Control

JSD Leader: Anja Bossow

Mondays, 6:00-8:00 PM
Location: VH 206
Meeting Dates: 2/5, 3/11, 3/25, 4/8

What border control measures can governments of a liberal-democratic state justifiably resort to? 2023 has seen an escalation of restrictionist approaches within border control, with newly introduced asylum bans across a number of jurisdictions. Governmental justifications for these measures often resort to the language of security, necessity, emergency, or deterrence. This reading group will unpack these justificatory rationales to understand whether and if so why they can serve to justify both long-standing and new(er) border control measures. We will explore both why these measures might be objectionable, how governments have sought to justify them, and which legal rules and limits should apply to them. Taking measures such as deportation, detention, (temporary) bans on the right to asylum and asylum offshoring as an example, the Reading Group will allow participants to think more critically about both long-standing and novel border control measures.

Reimagining Property Law

JSD Leaders: Lauren PavliPatricio Kenny

Wednesdays, 6:30-8:00 PM
Location: VH 210
Meeting Dates: 2/7, 2/21, 3/6, 3/27

In this reading group, we will read four texts that challenge our ideas about property law — what it can do, who it serves, and how it might change. 

The examined texts are drawn from speculative fiction (van Neerven and Le Guin), personal accounts/philosophy (Plumwood), and Indigenous social studies (Watts).

These texts consider conflicts between property rights, Indigenous rights, animal rights, and different systems of law, and invite us to reimagine how property institutions can structure society. 

Through close reading and discussion, the group will engage with questions such as: can/do non-human entities such as animals or plants have property rights? How can property law institutions adapt to increasing scarcity and ecological disaster? How can we understand conflicts between claims to space that arise in different systems of law? Can/do legal systems operate without institutions for private property?

Experimental Jurisprudence: An Overview

JSD Leader: Xi Zhang

Thursdays, 6:30-8:30 PM
Location: FH 120
Meeting Dates: 2/1, 2/22, 3/14, 4/4

Experimental jurisprudence (also known as experimental philosophy of law or “X-Jur”) draws on empirical methods with experimental data to inform questions associated with jurisprudence and legal theory. As a unique empirical method and a novel interdisciplinary approach, experimental jurisprudence involves research projects at the intersections of jurisprudence and legal theory, experimental philosophy, and cognitive and social science. But the applicability and plausibility of this relatively recent field of research seems to be still opaque, and its implications and limitations for the nature of jurisprudence deserve further scrutiny.

This Reading Group aims to offer an overview of experimental jurisprudence. It will consist of the following four sessions along various dimensions. Session I will provide a general sketch of the past and future of experimental jurisprudence. Session II will start from the realm of general jurisprudence, and look into how the experimental approach may illuminate some persisting controversies in general jurisprudence, such as the relationship between law and morality and the normative force of law. Session III will delve into the realm of doctrinal studies of law, and look into how the experimental approach may elucidate our understanding of some ordinary concepts, such as causation, intent, and reasonableness, widely deployed in tort and criminal law. Session IV will switch to the judicial context, and look into how the experimental approach can be leveraged to unpack some factors underlying or influencing judicial behaviors, such as legal reasoning, statutory interpretation, and judicial decision-making.

Course materials for this Reading Group primarily cover the cutting-edge scholarship on experimental jurisprudence in the tradition of both experimental philosophy and Anglo-American jurisprudence and legal theory, such as those by Raff Donelson, Felipe Jiménez, Joshua Knobe, Karolina Prochownik, Scott J. Shapiro, Kevin Tobia, among others. No previous background of experimental philosophy or training of empirical studies would be expected or required. All are welcome to join.