NYU Law Courses

We are proud to offer a variety of courses at NYU Law, taught by our Faculty Director, Executive Director, NYU Law Professors and Visiting Professors. Below is an assortment of recent classes that we have offered for the past several years.


Comparative Criminal Justice: China, Japan, and the United States - Professors Ira Belkin & Takashi Maruta

China and Japan share many things but also diverge in many ways, each having followed its own path of development. In terms of their culture and politics in 2018, it seems that they could not be more different. Japan is a vibrant democracy with a constitution that has been heavily influenced by the United States and is fully integrated with the global community. The People’s Republic of China is a one-party state dominated by the Chinese Communist Party. The PRC opened up to the rest of the world in 1979 and is still in the process of a great transition to a global economic and geopolitical power. How does each country deal with criminal justice? How do Japan and the PRC balance the protection of individual rights and the need for law and order? What does a comparison of criminal justice in China and Japan tell us about those societies and about the state of criminal justice globally? To what extent do culture and politics determine the way a particular country deals with crime and with the rights of individuals when confronted by state power? This course will analyze and compare the criminal justice systems of Japan and the PRC with occasional reference to criminal justice in the U.S. and Taiwan and other countries. Through this analysis and comparison, we hope to address several questions. To what extent do culture and political structure influence criminal justice? How is it that both China and Japan still heavily rely upon confessions in criminal investigations and provide ample opportunities for the police to obtain confessions by giving police the power to detain suspects for lengthy periods and subject them to repeated interrogation without the presence of a lawyer? Is this a product of culture, history, politics or other factors?


Chinese Attitudes Toward International Law Seminar  - Professors Jerome A. Cohen & Ira Belkin

This seminar introduces the attitudes and practices of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) regarding public international law and its institutions in a variety of contexts. After briefly reviewing China’s traditional dominance of the East Asian order and the gradual intrusion of Western powers and their international law into the Sinocentric world, we consider contemporary PRC views regarding such basic issues as the recognition of governments and establishment of diplomatic relations, the definition of Chinese territory (especially relating to the Taiwan, East China Sea and South China Sea disputes), the law of the sea as it applies in East Asia, and other issues of contemporary international law including the protection of human rights. We will devote special attention to the UNCLOS arbitration launched by the Philippines against the PRC that may have profound implications for China’s practice of international law and major impact on the world community. Students will not be expected to have background knowledge of China or international law. Guest experts will join us on a number of occasions. 


Law and Society in East Asia Seminar  - Professors Jerome A. Cohen & Frank Upham

This seminar is a necessarily idiosyncratic survey of the history and development of law, legal institutions, and legal thought in East Asia from the origins of political philosophy in early China to the dynamics of contemporary legal reform in the region. We begin with the competing philosophies of ancient China -- Confucianism, Legalism, and Taoism -- and the underlying assumptions about law, human nature, and society of each. We then trace their influence on the growth of legal institutions in imperial China and feudal Japan, with specific reference to the legal processes of Qing dynasty China (17th-20th centuries) and Tokugawa Japan (17th-19th centuries). We are especially interested in the extent to which Japan and then China chose to incorporate Continental European and Anglo-American models in their modernization efforts. With this historical and intellectual foundation, we then examine the contemporary legal institutions of the People's Republic of China, Taiwan, and Japan (with some attention to Korea and Vietnam). Throughout the seminar we will be attentive to the question of to what extent, if at all, East Asian legal systems share common features and whether they themselves now offer a distinctive model for contemporary world legal systems.


Law and Society in China Seminar  - Professors Jerome A. Cohen & Ira Belkin

As has often been the case since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the country is at a cross-roads, and law is again at the intersection. Now, however, because of China’s new-found power, decisions regarding its legal system are of world-wide significance. Today a struggle is under way in Beijing to give concrete meaning to the term “rule of law”. Defining law’s relation to government and people is a challenge that has confronted Chinese thinkers and rulers for over two millennia. Indeed, Xi Jinping and his dominant group within the Communist Party, in an effort to combat the influence of what they label pernicious Western legal concepts and practices, have recently sought support in China’s pre-imperial and imperial legal traditions in addition to Marxism-Leninism and nationalism. This course will analyze the PRC legal system in light of this contemporary struggle. Are China’s dictatorial leaders the prisoners of their country’s authoritarian legal history? Or does Taiwan’s startling progress during the past generation toward democracy, constitutionalism, judicial independence, civil liberties and adversary trials suggest that Chinese political-legal culture is capable of supporting the development of “rule of law” as it is generally understood internationally? China now has over 200,000 judges, a similar number of prosecutors, over 250,000 lawyers and a huge number of government and Party legal officials, legislators and law professors. Until recently at least, their formal legal education has emphasized Western legal values while their post-graduation ideological indoctrination has stressed a “socialist rule of law with Chinese characteristics”. How have these different professional interest groups responded to the Party’s encouraging assurances that its policies will produce justice and fairness and to the gradual legislative improvements designed to make those assurances credible, on the one hand, and to Party controls over the entire legal system, the harsh repression of human rights lawyers and the other distorting impacts of “local protectionism”, personal connections and endemic corruption, on the other? In order to present a balanced survey of China’s contemporary legal system and Taiwan’s counterpart, we have invited a range of leading experts to join us for individual sessions that will cover topics as diverse as torts, property, constitutional law, criminal justice, the environment, antitrust law, dispute resolution and the roles of lawyers. 


Law and Society in China: Criminal Justice in American Perspective Seminar - Professor Ira Belkin

This seminar examines and critiques core issues in China's criminal procedure through a comparative and international lens. We will discuss the imposition of extra-legal and administrative deprivations of freedom as well as the formal criminal process. Our focus will be on police interrogation and investigation, the right to counsel, police and prosecutorial discretion, pre-trial detention, the powers and independence of judges and courts, trial rights, sentencing, appeals and post-appellate relief. Particular attention will be paid to death penalty cases. Students will be required to submit twenty-page, double-spaced research papers in lieu of an examination, and writing credit will be awarded for those who wish to produce more substantial papers. Attendance and participation will count in the students' grades. We will benefit from the participation in various sessions of several experts from China, and teaching materials will reflect the latest empirical research in China. The Spring 2015 semester's course will give particular attention to legal reform in Taiwan. We anticipate that several prominent experts will be guest speakers on these topics.