Comparative Law Syllabus

LAW 6250 (3 credits)
Professor Pedro A. Malavet
Spring 2015
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday
4:00-4:50 p.m.
Holland 359

General Rules

The Course. An introduction to the comparative method from the perspective of an American lawyer, focusing on methodology, rather than on substantive matters. Starts with a survey of Comparative Law, its history, current definition and scope, followed by practical uses of Comparative legal analysis in United States courts. The more substantial part of the semester studies the Civil Law tradition, the most common legal system in our world today. We start with foreign legal education and the legal professions, a critical matter for proper delivery of legal services to foreign clients and working effectively with international law partners. Then the Civil law system is placed in its proper context: historical roots; structure; approach to judicial review; judicial organization. We finish with a discussion of comparative constitutional law and modern legal systems.

Our class materials: The required materials are a collection of edited texts, The Comparative Method: Legal History and Culture in Comparison, that I will make available in regular handouts throughout the semester. I will hand out the materials as I update them throughout the semester. I will post our initial readings in PDF format in the main course page the week before our classes start.

Recommended Reading: John Henry Merryman and Rogelio Pérez-Perdomo, The Civil Law Tradition, An Introduction to the Legal Systems of Europe and Latin America (3rd ed. 2007).

Assignment Sheets. I will post weekly assignment sheets with specific assignments in the course website. I will attempt to structure assignments by class session. Students, especially those who sign-up for a particular class, should check with me to make sure what material will be covered.

Office Hours: I will have regular office hours, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. --starting outside my classroom and slowly moving towards my office. I will also have office hours on Mondays from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. My office is Room 337 in Holland Hall. You may also see me after class or schedule appointments, subject to my having available time. Take advantage of office hours as early as possible in the semester. Do not wait until the end of the course to review material and bring your questions to me. Review material regularly, at least as we finish different sections. Additionally, if you feel lost, or if you have doubts that cannot be resolved during class or during the period immediately following it, please do not hesitate to come and see me. Office time is also a good opportunity to explore matters that are not directly related to the material being discussed in class.

Office hours are also an opportunity for you to become more comfortable with my mandatory class-participation policy. You are encouraged to come by and talk to me during office hours before you sign up to participate in class, or in anticipation of your turn, to chat with me about the material. In the past, I have been pleased to see that students who dread class-participation have really done well by simply "talking it through" with me beforehand.

E-mail. You may communicate with me by E-mail, but only for administrative matters. My address is MALAVET@LAW.UFL.EDU. E-mail messages from students must include the student's full name, so that I may ensure that I am communicating with a member of the class. I rarely answer substantive questions by E-mail because I find it a very inadequate medium to discuss course content. I rarely reply to attendance-related messages, since I check that at the end of the semester.

Web Page and Canvas Course Page. This Syllabus and the currently-available weekly Assignment Sheets will be posted on my web site (http://nersp.osg.ufl.edu/~malavet). Additionally, I have created an area in the site for extensive evidence notes and will updated these class materials during the semester, as I deem appropriate. I will also post the Power Points I use in class and other supplementary materials on a Canvas page on the University's eLearning system.

Testing Score:

  1. One short essay project. This work will count for 10% of your testing score and will be graded on a pass/fail basis. I will meet individually with students to discuss your projects and will provide feedback on your performance. In order to make this administratively manageable, the class will be divided into several groups. Although students will work individually, the particular assignment, and the deadline applicable thereto, will be set for each group at different times during the semester. This project is just a creative-writing exercise. In the past, students have had a lot of fun with it, and I have greatly enjoyed reading them.
  2. An open-book, take-home, written final exam, this will cover the remaining 90% of your testing score. The completed exam will be due on the date set by the university for in-room exams. My approach to grading in this class is a bit different from Evidence and Civil Procedure; creativity becomes really important in this course.

Class Participation: When determining your final grades, I will consider class participation to adjust your testing score in two ways:

  1. Minimum participation (20% of the overall grade). Each student will be required to participate in class discussion a specified number of times during the semester in order to meet minimum participation requirements, the exact minimum number will depend on the size of the class and will be announced in class. Comparative Law is usually a small class, and that means that most students have to sign up every two or three weeks.
  2. Minimum Class Participation further includes:
    1. Regularly accessing the class materials made available online both in my webpage or in the class Canvas page.
    2. ONE visit to my office during office hours during the semester to ask a substantive class question.
  3. Class participation can occur in several ways: (a) I may call upon students at random during class; and (b) each student must sign-up to participate in class discussion; a set number of students will be allowed to sign up for each class session; each student must sign-up for the number of classes set for the minimum participation requirement; students who sign-up, are called upon, and answer correctly, get a participation credit, if they are unprepared, they will suffer a deduction.
  4. Quality of Participation. I will consider the quality of student participation and conduct to further adjust final grades, as I deem appropriate, accordingly, you are encouraged to volunteer to answer questions at any time, i.e., class discussion should not be limited to persons who have signed up or are called-on at random.
  5. Current Grading Scale. The University of Florida follows a letter grade and grade point average system with a maximum letter grade of “A” and a maximum GPA of 4.0. Please visit the University Registrar's site for information on the current grade scale. [https://catalog.ufl.edu/ugrad/current/regulations/info/grades.aspx]

Class Attendance and Conduct: Attendance is mandatory. Additionally, students arriving late or leaving the room during class are an undue distraction. I will take roll daily by passing around a sign up sheet. It is the student's responsibility to initial the sign-up sheet in the appropriate place whenever they are in class, i.e., the roll does not have to come to you, you must come to the roll. Failure to sign the roll will be treated as an unexcused absence. Each hour of class is treated separately for sign-up and attendance purposes, therefore, missing a two-hour meeting is treated as two absences. I will allow four (4) unexcused absences per semester on a no-questions-asked basis (provided however that none of them may occur during the last eight sessions of the semester). Additionally, I am willing to be flexible about allowing a few excused absences, late arrivals or early departures, for good cause —such as a doctor's appointment, child-care problem or job interview— provided that the good cause is brought to my attention beforehand or as soon as possible thereafter in the case of unanticipated occurrences. Excuses must be submitted in writing or via E-mail. Students will have no more than seven days after the time of the unanticipated occurrence to bring excuses to my attention, provided however that I will not accept any excuses offered after our last session of the semester. Signing an attendance sheet for a classmate, or having a classmate sign an attendance sheet for you shall result in administrative removal from the course. There will be seating chart for our course. Students are required to get their names on the chart and thereafter to abide by the seating arrangement designated therein.

Electronics in the Classroom. Pagers and cellular telephones should be turned off during class (unless you need to be "on call" for serious matters; in such cases, however, please put the phone or pager on "vibrate only" mode).

Laptop Use. Laptop computers are wonderful tools for class-related note-taking and reference, however, during class time it is inappropriate to use laptops for any other purpose. In addition to any other appropriate sanction, laptop use in class is a privilege and —pursuant to our faculty policy— I will suspend or rescind it, individually or collectively, if it is abused.

Professionalism in the Classroom. Naturally, you are all bound by the Regulations of the University of Florida, University Student Code of Conduct, the College of Law Honor Code and my rules. But more than obeying rules, classroom behavior is about showing proper professionalism. Proper conduct in the classroom is intended to encourage everyone to participate in, to derive benefit from, and ultimately to enjoy the class. It is perfectly acceptable, and indeed professionally required, that you demand professional behavior of your classmates in and out of class. If you see conduct that is unprofessional and that affects your quality of life in the classroom or at the college of law, you should privately approach the offending student and ask that they modify their behavior. If private discussion is impractical or unsuccessful, you should bring the matter to the attention of the instructor or an appropriate official at the College of Law or the University of Florida. You should do so privately, though not anonymously, but you are strongly encouraged to bring serious matters to my attention, or that of other pertinent authorities, as soon as possible, so that I, or they, may take appropriate measures.

Sanctions. Absences, tardiness and any other unprofessional conduct will be initially dealt with on a case-by-case basis as a matter of course grading, at the discretion of the instructor. The imposition of disciplinary measures will follow the process provided in the Regulations of the University of Florida, University Student Code of Conduct and the College of Law Honor Code. Serious class disruptions may result in expulsion from the disrupted session. Excessive absences -even if an excuse is offered*- may result in administrative removal of the offending student from the course or in a reduction of his/her grade. Absent waiver, other matters will be referred to the pertinent committee or administrative hearing, without prejudice to the instructor's normal grading discretion.

  • * While I would not reduce someone's grade for excessive excused absences, I might administratively remove them from the course, although I would ensure that this was done on a "passing" basis. I would do this if, in my judgment, the person has missed so much of the semester that he or she cannot really benefit from the course.

Religious Holy Days. Absences due to observance of a religious holy day shall be treated as excused absences. Please inform me via email.

The College of Law’s Policy on Religious Holy Days states: The College of Law respects students’ observance of major religious holidays. If an instructor has an attendance policy limiting the number of absences, reasonable alternative means shall be established by the instructor to satisfy the attendance policy and accommodate the religious obligations of the student.

The University of Florida Policy on Religious Holy Days is as follows: Students, upon prior notification to their instructors, shall be excused from class or other scheduled academic activity to observe a religious holy day of their faith. Students shall be permitted a reasonable amount of time to make up the material or activities covered in their absence. Students shall not be penalized due to absence from class or other scheduled academic activity because of religious observances. If a faculty member is informed of or is aware that a significant number of students are likely to be absent from his or her classroom because of a religious observance, a major exam or other academic event should not be scheduled at that time. A student who is to be excused from class for a religious holy day is not required to provide a second party certification of the reasons for the absence.

Exam Make-up and accommodation. Exam make-ups will be as authorized by the Professor Malavet. Exam accommodation is managed by the Levin College of Law’s Office of Student Affairs. Please visit theOffice of Student Affairs’ page to review the College’s policies in this regard: http://www.law.ufl.edu/student-affairs/current-students/academic-policies#11.

Classroom Accommodation. Students requesting classroom accommodation must first register with the Dean of Students Office. The Dean of Students Office will provide documentation to the student who must then provide this documentation to the professor when requesting accommodation. Students are strongly encouraged to communicate with their professor and with the College of Law’s office of student affairs to ensure that they receive proper accommodation.