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Comparative Justice Systems


Admission requirements

Required course(s):



In some countries judges are openly associated with political parties, while in other countries they are ostensibly non-political. Some countries ratified UN human rights treaties, while others did not. Does this mean that the latter countries do not respect human rights? Why do these differences in laws and justice systems exist?

Justice systems are systems of creating and applying law, as well as of reviewing its application. They are constructed based on traditions, cultures, and dominant ideologies and as such they vary in different parts of the world. Additionally, national systems engage in a constant dialogue with international systems, whereby they influence or resist each other.

The course introduces students to different forms of law and characteristics of legal systems vis-á-vis different constructions of legitimate state governance. It takes into account different legal and constitutional traditions in their socio-economic contexts, the foundational differences in branches of law and divisions within legal systems. To illustrate the variety of laws and legal systems throughout the world, this course presents various case-studies from Euro-America, Africa and Asia with focus specifically on constitutional frameworks. Finally, it also discusses the role of supranational and international institutions, including their embeddedness in political-economic histories, in bringing different legal traditions together.

Comparative legal studies look at connections between legal systems or between rules of more than one system. Comparing differences and similarities between legal systems contributes to a better understanding of their role in society, and helps us to critically reflect on political and legal history and their impacts on our legal systems.

Comparative Justice Systems is a 100-level course offered for the International Justice (LUC) Major and the Governance, Economics & Development (LUC) Major.

Course Objectives

The course aims at introducing students to different justice systems, their components and their operation in practice. Students learn how to identify foundational aspects of different justice systems, how to categorise and compare these systems, and how to remain critical to these categorizations. Comparative law is introduced through the course as a research method and as an autonomous legal discipline.

By the end of the course, students are expected to have a more nuanced understanding of varying conceptions of law, law’s work in socio-economic context, and its variations from system to system. Students will also be able to expand their research skills by conducting independent research for an essay and in-class presentation on topics related to the course.

By completing this course, students should be able to:

Learning outcome 1

  • Understand the importance of comparing legal rules and justice systems;

  • Identify different sources of law;

  • Identify differences and similarities between legal systems;

  • Identify different branches of law;

Learning outcome 2

  • Explain the concepts of legal pluralism and rule of law, and the roles that law has in society;

  • Compare the strengths and weaknesses of different legal systems;

  • Critically engage with comparative categorizations and established similarities and differences.

Learning outcome 3

  • Develop writing skills, and employing appropriate and academically accepted referencing;

  • Independently engage with study materials, analyse them and use them towards own argumentation

Learning outcome 4

  • Independently research on legal topics, and frame facts into legal analysis;

  • Write and present orally a well-structured arguments, using different sources and literature.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2023-2024 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The course is taught in seminar format, including lectures, class discussion and student presentations. It is expected that students will engage actively in class discussions and debates.

Assessment Method

  • In Class Participation – 17%

  • Essay Workshop Group Work – 19% (Week 7)

  • Group Presentation – 19% (Week 6)

  • Final Essay – 45% (Week 8)

Reading list

A reading list will be made available before the course starts.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Nicole Stybnarova, email TBC