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PHILOS 2Q03 Justice,Political Philo & Law

Academic Year: Fall 2017

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Matthew Grellette

Email: grellemj@mcmaster.ca

Office: University Hall 308

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23462


Office Hours: TBA

Course Objectives:

This course provides an overview of key bodies of law and legal institutions, including the structure of Canadian government and court systems, Canadian constitutional law, criminal law, human rights law, and tort law. To obtain this overview, students will read some of the statutory material and court cases that define these areas of law. In addition, the student will read secondary material that critically evaluates the justice and value of the foregoing institutions and bodies of law. Thus, the course introduces the student to the larger mission of the Justice, Political Philosophy, and Law Program at McMaster University (JPPL):  to help the student develop (1) a sophisticated understanding of domestic and international law and legal institutions, (2) a command of the political and moral theories relevant to the assessment of the justice and value of these institutions, (3) and an informed critical view of these institutions’ shortcomings and worth.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

All Readings Posted on Avenue to Learn (AL)

Method of Assessment:

Cold Calls………………………….……………………5%

Weekly Response Papers………………………………10%

Take Home Exam..……………………………….…….20%


Final Exam……………………………..………………30%


Cold Calls:

During most classes, I will call on students at random. Each student will be called on at least once. I will ask questions about the course material that has been assigned for that day. The students will be graded on the basis of her demonstrated preparation for the day’s lecture. The student will receive a check plus (100), check (75) or check minus (55) for this portion of the grade.


Weekly Response Papers:

Students are required to hand in 8 response papers (300 words each) over the course of the term.  These should seek to raise a critical point or question concerning a given week’s reading.  These must be handed in at the beginning of the class to which they pertain.  No more than one response may be handed in per week.  More detail will be provided in class.


Take Home Exam:

Students will be assigned an essay style take-home assignment, based on the first month’s readings.  The assignment length is 1000 words.  More detail will be provided in class.



Students will be assigned a set of essay questions, of which they must answer only one.  The essay length is 2500 words.  More detail will be provided in class.



The final exam will cover all of the material not dealt with on the mid-term.  It will be comprised of both short answer and essay style questions.  More detail will be provided in class.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

1. 5 marks (out of 100) will be deducted from Essay grades for every 100 words in excess of the prescribed limit.

2. 5 marks per day (out of 100) will also be deducted for late Essays. Exceptions will be made only if you have a legitimate excuse.

3 . Essays must not be submitted to the Philosophy Department Office. They must be submitted directly either during class or during office hours.  You are required to keep copies (electronic or hard) of all work submitted.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

This syllabus is provisional, and may be adjusted due to changing circumstances.


Course Schedule:

Week 1: Sept 5,7                     Class introduction and Basic Legal Concepts

                                                1. Canadian Justice System

                                                2. How to Read a Legal Case


Week 2: Sept. 11, 12, 14          Basic Legal Concepts / The Rule of Law

                                                1. Canadian Justice System

                                                2.  Excerpt from Lon Fuller on the Rule of Law

                                                3.  A.V. Dicey ‘Law of the Constitution’ 107-122


Week 3: Sept. 18, 19, 21          Statutory Interpretation

                                                1. Rizzo & Rizzo Shoes (1998)

                                                2. Karl Llewellyn, ‘Canons of Statutory Interpretation’

                                                3. Herman Oliphant, ‘A Return to Stare Decisis


Week 4: Sept. 25, 26, 28          Constitutional Law

                                                1. Canadian Constitution - Distribution of Legislative Powers

                                                2. Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

                                                3. Wil Waluchow, ‘An Idiot Defends’


Week 5: Oct. 2, 3, 5                 Constitutional Law

                                                1. Wil Waluchow, ‘An Idiot Defends’


                                                Mid-Term Assigned (5th)



                        Mid-Term Break - Oct 9-15



Week 6: Oct. 16, 17, 19           Criminal Law and Punishment

                                                1. Canadian Encyclopedia: Criminal Law

                                                2. Canadian Criminal Code:  Sec. 718

                                                3. Bentham:  ‘Rationale of Punishment’


                                                Mid-Term due (19th)




Week 7: Oct. 23, 24, 26           Criminal Punishment

                                                1. Falls: ‘Retribution, Reciprocity, Respect’

                                                2. Morris: ‘Paternalistic Theory of Punishment’


                                                Essay Assigned (23rd)



Week 8: Oct. 30, 31, Nov. 2     International Law and Human Rights

                                                1. Universal Declaration of Human Rights

                                                2. Pogge, ‘Are We Violating the Human Rights of the Poor?’



Week 9: Nov. 6, 7, 9                Human Rights/Contract Law

                                                1. Patten, ‘Should We Stop Thinking About Poverty in Terms                                                     of Helping the Poor?’

                                                2. Canadian Encyclopedia: Contract Law



Week 10: Nov. 13, 14, 16        Contract Law

                                                1. Canadian Encyclopedia: Contract Law

                                                2. Thomas v Thomas

                                                3. Boots Cash Chemist



Week 11: Nov. 20, 21, 23        Tort Law

                                                1. Canadian Encyclopedia: Tort Law

                                                2. Crocker v. Sundance Northwest Resorts

                                                3. Cook v. Lewis

                                                4. Palsgraff v. Long Island Railroad



Week 12: Nov. 27. 28, 30        Tort Law: Law and Economics

                                                1. Crocker v. Sundance Northwest Resorts

                                                2. Cook v. Lewis

                                                3. Palsgraff v. Long Island Railroad

                                                4. Weinrib, ‘Understanding Tort Law’


Week 13: Dec. 4, 5                  Wrap Up and Review