The big question in comparative law today-and one that is of key importance to anyone interested in international law-is whether we are currently witnessing a convergence of national legal systems. This course examines this question, as well as the related problem of American exceptionalism, by exploring key aspects of contemporary Western European legal systems. We will study a range of legal institutions and practices, including such topics as legal education, the role of judges and judging, the function and meaning of codes versus precedent, constitutional courts, judicial review, and criminal procedure and punishment. In contrast to the traditional comparative law course, we will also devote substantial time to such pressing public-law questions as racial equality and affirmative action, gender equality and sexual harassment, church and state, and the relationship between European institutions, on the one hand, and national legal systems, on the other. Elements used in grading: Class participation and exam.