This course examines selected legal institutions in Latin America, covering the fields of both public and private law. The study of Latin American legal institutions is aimed at discovering the way in which the law functions in practice, identifying commonalities, emphasizing what the legal system of a Latin American country shares with other legal systems in the region, and reflecting on what distinguish those legal institutions from their U.S. counterparts.
The first part of the course focuses on the civil law tradition shared by all Latin American nations, providing an overview of Latin American legal system and the formative three hundred years of colonial heritage contributing to the development of a unified legal tradition throughout the entire region. The focus then turns to review the sources of Spanish and Portuguese law influencing the early codification movements and the post-independence period culminating in the adoption of modern constitutions.
The second part of the course elaborates on the notion of Latin American constitutionalism, focusing on a government structure characterized by strong presidents and weak judiciaries. The study of classical civil and political rights is accompanied by an examination of the procedural mechanisms available to vindicate those rights ("amparo" and "habeas corpus"). Modern constitutionalism in Latin America emphasizes second and third generation entitlements, and the study of these economic, social, and political rights is made in light of an abstract system of judicial review.
The third part of the course focuses on the drafting, interpretation, and application of the civil codes. In order to provide the student with a real sense of Latin American law in theory and action, these classes examine how gender bias and stereotypes influence the judicial process in terms of sexual discrimination and gender bias.