Justice and Legal Thought
Analyzing the role of law to advance social justice
Law has almost always been talked about in relation to justice. Countless examples throughout history show, however, that law not only can be a catalyst for social change—but sometimes an obstacle to it as well.
Justice and Legal Thought (JLT) examines the connections between law and social justice, challenging students to ask: “What is the right thing to do?” Along the way, students study how people collectively seek to do the right thing through social action. Using critical thinking, legal analysis and persuasive communication, students:
- Explore the interactions between social movements and legal doctrine;
- Interrogate social movements as they struggle from the margins to the mainstream of society; and
- Consider the means by which we can create a more just and robustly democratic society.
Students, who are taught by faculty in the government, philosophy and history departments as well as law faculty from University of Maryland (UMD) Carey School of Law, will gain research experience and develop important skills in argumentation and problem solving.
JLT welcomes students of all majors who believe strongly in the possibilities of creating change.
Colloquium and Lecture Topics
- What is law? What is justice?
- To what extent does law advance or impede justice?
- How do substantive law, procedural law, constitutional law and international law interact to promote or compromise justice?
- What can students do to advance justice?
My JLT courses on philosophy, social justice and theory taught me the historical and modern context of the criminal justice system. My education from my majors would not have been nearly as colorful and complex if I had not taken JLT courses in complement.
Other Learning Opportunities
UMD's location near Annapolis, Baltimore and Washington, DC, provides unique opportunities for students to investigate justice as it pertains to real-world situations. Students:
- Take field trips to the Supreme Court of the United States, Georgetown Law Center, Carey School of Law and the Holocaust Museum;
- Participate in mock trials, debates and StarPower, a simulation about the use and abuse of power; and
- Enjoy access to special events and lectures and networking opportunities with law school faculty through JLT’s close relationship with the MLaw Programs, UMD’s undergraduate law programming.
Students further engage in service-learning experiences and law-related internships of their choice for the practicum requirement. Past JLT students have interned for:
- Members of Congress and the Maryland General Assembly;
- The U.S. Department of State;
- The Office of the Public Defender;
- The Pretrial Services Agency of the District of Columbia;
- The Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault; and
- The Prince George's County Police Department.
Over the two-year program experience (four semesters), students will complete a 3-credit supporting course that will count toward their JLT Scholars citation. In most cases, this will also fulfill General Education requirements. Note that your Scholars courses—colloquium, practicum and supporting course—will generally be in addition to any courses you take to satisfy major requirements.
The following table represents a typical two-year curriculum, but individual schedules may vary. Details about courses and requirements can be found on the JLT Citation Checklist.
|Freshman Fall||Scholars Colloquium||1 credit|
|Justice and the Law||3 credits|
|Academic Writing||3 credits|
|2–3 courses toward degree and major requirements (including possible supporting course)||6–9 credits|
|Freshman Spring||Scholars Colloquium||1 credit|
|Law in a Just Society||3 credits|
|3–4 courses toward degree and major requirements (including possible supporting course)||9–12 credits|
|Sophomore Fall||Scholars Colloquium||1 credit|
|4–5 courses toward degree and major requirements (including possible supporting course)||12–15 credits|
|Sophomore Spring||Scholars Practicum||2–3 credits|
|4–5 courses toward degree and major requirements (including possible supporting course if not already completed)||12–15 credits|