Department of Sociology at Ohio State Lima







Dr. Ted Houghton

Dr. Godwin  Ekechuku



This course is an introduction to the field of law and society.  We will examine the development of law, legal thinking and policy addressing many critical legal issues. Among the topics to be discussed are the origin and context of American law, the development of legal theory, comparative legal systems (Islamic and Socialist), the U.S. and international law, and controversial legal issues in such as areas as medicine and gender.  Emphasis is placed on issues that illustrate the interaction between law and social control and law and social change. The course will draw from a variety of perspectives including sociology, political science, history and philosophy. A major goal of the course will be to give students a practical foundation in the critical assessment of law and legal thinking as they interact with some of the major social issues of our time.  To this end, we will closely examine several major constitutional questions addressed in recent opinions of the U.S. Supreme Court.  This course provides a background for more advanced studies in law, criminal justice, politics and society.

 Required texts:

Samuels, Suzanne. Law, Politics and Society, Houghton Mifflin 2006.

Katsh and Rose. Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Legal Issues, 12th ed.

            McGraw Hill 2006.

 Class: Class time will be used in a variety of ways, including lecture, discussion, films and group activities. Lecture and discussions will presume and build upon the readings, so you should read and be prepared to discuss assigned reading. STAY CURRENT IN YOUR READING EACH WEEK.   Regular attendance and good note taking will be necessary.  Contribution to class discussions on a regular basis may influence grading. 

 Reading: Selections from the LEGAL ISSUES book will be accompanied by worksheets to help you digest the material; they also serve as useful sources for test review.  It is likely that you will encounter many new terms, ideas and references.  As you read and do the worksheets, keep a running list of those terms, ideas and events that you want clarified. Bring them up for discussion in class.  Time will often be allowed specifically for answering these kinds of questions. The worksheets will also be a focus for in-class group discussions and analysis. 

 Group work.  Involvement in in-class study and discussion groups will be a major part of your participation grade.  Analysis of Supreme Court cases will be a major focus of these.

 Debate Presentation Project.  Groups of 4 to 6 students will be organized to present a debate on a legal issue.  The issue will be chosen by the group and cleared by me. They can be topics from the LEGAL ISSUES book or others the group finds interesting. The debates will be held on the last week of class.  Specific guidelines on how to organize a debate will be given.  Each participant will hand in a typed outline indicating their specific role in preparation for the debate.

 Exams, debate project, and grading: There will be three exams. Exams will cover both lecture and reading material. Your grade will be weighted as follows:

Grading:            Three exams                 70%

                        debate project               15%

                        participation                  15%


(may be modified as course progresses)


Ch. 1: Introduction to American Law: Defining Law

Issue 11:  Does the “Cruel and Unusual Punishment” Clause of the Eighth Amendment Bar the Imposition of the Death Penalty on Juveniles?


Ch. 2: American Law and Legal Theory


Ch 3: The Foundations of American Law

Issue 8: Do Religious Groups Have a Right to Use Public School Facilities After Hours?


 WEEK 4 

Ch. 4: Comparative Context for American Law


Ch. 5: The United States and International Law


Ch. 9:  Chief Executive, Regulatory Agencies, Administrative Agencies and Lawmaking

Issue 1: Should Persons Who Are Declared to Be “Enemy Combatants” Be Able to Contest Their Detention Before a Judge?



Ch 8: Legislatures and Lawmaking


Ch 12: Law and Gender

Issue 2:  Is Abortion Protected by the Constitution?

Issue 16:  May Marriage Be Denied to Same-Sex Couples?


Ch. 14: Law and Medicine

Issue 3:  Are Restrictions on Physician-Assisted Suicide Constitutional?

 WEEK 10

Debate Presentations



Last Modified on 09/21/2006