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ILO L253: Comparative Constitutional Law

Course Description

This course explores topics arising in the comparative study of constitutional systems and constitutional questions of law. The course will start by examining the goals, methods, and practical relevance of comparative constitutional analysis.  Next, we will begin our engagement with some of the field’s most critical questions:


  • First, we will explore the role of international and comparative law in the interpretation of constitutions.
  • Second, we will explore the role of the judiciary and the judicialization of politics in various systems.
  • Third, we will examine the question of constitutional change, both how constitutions are amended and how new constitutions are written.
  • Fourth, we will look at the structure of the state, and how far a state may go to protect itself, including concerning emergency powers and limits on political speech.
  • Finally, we will explore the question of positive rights and how they are formulated and understood in various jurisdictions.


In engaging these questions and employing a comparative frame, the course has two overarching goals: first, addressing questions of comparative institutional design and comparative doctrine can aid in informing practice and policy in other countries; second, developing a thorough understanding of comparative practice, can enrich our understanding of our own respective systems.


Readings will cover what are sometimes termed ‘influential’ jurisdictions such as the US, France, Brittain, India and South Africa, as well as those often considered to be jurisdictions at the ‘periphery,’ with case studies from Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Middle East, among others.  Many of the sessions will include guest speakers who are experts in the respective constitutional system or thematic topic.

Course faculty: Christine Bustany
Course duration: Full semester
Credits/Units: 3.0

Spring 2020

Room: Isobe Room (Mugar 251f)
Day(s): Friday
Time: 10:30 am - 12:30 pm
SIS number: 24306

Final Exam

Consult instructor for exam details