Public Law

The public law program at Rutgers focuses on the role of law, legal institutions, and judicial politics in governance.  In a methodologically diverse array of scholarship, members of the field examine the functioning, the effect, and the legitimacy of a wide variety of legal institutions.  Research focuses on the law itself; citizen mobilization and participation in legal forums; social reform movements’ use of legal language and institutions; policy development and implementation by and through the courts; criminal justice institutions; state and federal trial and appellate courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court; the processes and products of constitutional doctrinal development; and the jurisprudence of rights.  These investigations are tied together by a self-conscious effort to understand law and its relation to politics, and constitutionalism and its relation to democracy.

Strong links exist between the intellectual interests of the public law faculty and members of other fields within the Department, particularly American Politics, Political Theory, Women and Politics, and Comparative Politics.  Faculty encourage graduate students to explore a wide variety of approaches and methods and invite them to integrate normative and empirical research in the study of public law.  Likewise, faculty encourage graduate students to build on the strength of the different fields within the Rutgers Political Science Department by exploring our shared interests in federalism, democracy, citizen participation, identity construction, conflict resolution, institutional structures and efficacy, and regime legitimacy.

Looking beyond the department, Rutgers’ Public Law Program has links to the School of Law in Camden (by way of the Eagleton Institute) and to the School of Law in Newark (by way of joint research projects). Additional joint programs are not only possible but desirable in a graduate program committed to pedagogic breadth rather than narrow parochial attachments.  Members of the field also have established ties to the School of Criminal Justice in Newark and to the Administrative Office of the Courts of New Jersey.  The New Jersey Bar Association and the Institute for Continuing Legal Education are located adjacent to the Rutgers Campus on Ryders Lane, providing additional opportunities for collaborative work.


Heumann, Milton
Lawrence, Susan
Miller, Lisa L.


Formal Requirements

Students majoring in public law are required to complete l5 credits in the area, including the proseminar.  Students who enter without having taken course work in basic case analysis will be encouraged to enroll in 790:40l and/or 790:406.

Students minoring in public law are required to complete the proseminar and two additional courses within the subfield, for a total of nine credits.



16:790:556  Proseminar in Public Law

An introduction to the major literature of the field; critical examination of recent theories and methods in the study of the judicial process.


16:790:505  Constitutionalism and Judicial Politics

An assessment of the role of the federal courts in the American system of democracy.  Normative and empirical assessments of the foundations of judicial review and the alleged counter-majoritarian problem; interactions between courts and the other electorally-accountable branches; the role of litigants and mobilization processes in the judicial development of doctrine and policy.

16:790:506 Contemporary Constitutional Issues

Current public policy questions explored in the judicial forum, both national and state.  A variety of research methods employed.

16:790:560 Seminar in Doctrinal Analysis

A critical survey of contemporary issues before the Supreme Court, the federal district courts, and the state supreme courts; modes of conflict resolution with a dual emphasis on substantive law findings and judicial craftsmanship; the interplay of forces at different stages in the adjudicatory process.

16:790:605  Philosophy of Law and Jurisprudence

The nature of law and its relation to other normative systems; major legal philosophies.  Other topics will include legal reasoning, the enforcement of morality, and the justification of punishment.

16:790:613 Law, Courts, and the Politics of Social Reform

This course examines the role of law and courts in the politics of social reform in the United States.  It surveys various ways of understanding and investigating the interplay of law and politics in reform projects, with an emphasis upon recent developments in the legal academy (e.g. feminist legal theory; critical race theory) as well as in political science.

Research Seminars:

16:790:612  Seminar in Law and Politics

Intensive study of selected problem areas that may include issues in criminal justice, law and society, and judicial decision making.

16:790:614  Advanced Topics in Public Law

An advanced research seminar for upper-level Ph.D. candidates in public law intended to provide an opportunity for the design of doctoral research projects and the investigation of their feasibility.   

16:790:623  Seminar in Constitutional Law

An advanced seminar with emphasis on individual research projects assessing judicial craftsmanship and doctrinal lines of inquiry.