Studying Law at Roma Tre

Academic Year 2020-2021

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Spring Semester (March 1 - May 31, 2021)


Introduction to Comparative Legal Systems 2021

Prof. Vincenzo Zeno-Zencovich

IMPORTANT NOTICE: This syllabus is for students enrolled in the “Studying Law at Roma Tre” programme. It is shorter than the “Comparative Legal Systems” course which is part of the “Global Legal Studies” programme which, instead, carries 9 ECTS.

Course description:
The course cuts across traditional – and by now outdated – divisions between public law and private law, between substantive law and procedural law, and between the so-called civil law/common law divide. The course is focused on the Western Legal Tradition and explains the pitfalls of comparisons with non-Western systems. The course is divided in eight modules with the following content:

I MODULE: DEMOCRATIC SYSTEMS US presidentialism. - British parliamentarism. - Semi-presidential models. - EU concentration of powers. – Electoral systems.

II MODULE: VALUES Constitutionalism. - Bill of rights, fundamental rights, human rights. - Constitutional adjudication. - Rule of law. - Universalism vs Relativism. - The religious factor

III MODULE: GOVERNMENT The structure of Government. - Administration. - “Independent Agencies”. - Public participation in administrative procedures. - Judicial control over Government

IV MODULE: THE ECONOMIC DIMENSION Private autonomy. - Legal entities. – Insolvency. – Regulation. - State aid

V MODULE: THE “WELFARE STATE” Taxation. - Social services. - Labour relations and legislation

VI MODULE: REPRESSION OF CRIMES Substantive law vs. Procedural law. - What is a crime? - Who establishes crimes? – Sanctions. - Investigation, prosecution, trial. - Offenders and victims

VII MODULE: JUDGES AND JURISDICTION Status of judges. - Judicial organization. - Rules of procedure. - Judicial power. - Legal education. - Judges and/as literature

VIII MODULE: MODELS FOR A GLOBALIZED WORLD International conventions. - Uniform laws. - Lex Mercatoria. - International institutions. – Comparative international law.

Class schedule
Lessons will be held in Classroom 3, starting on Monday, March 1st, every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 4 pm to 6 pm, excepting public holidays and when academic activity is suspended, following the topics listed in the course description (above). Owing to the current health restrictions, lessons will be held in the following way:
- On Mondays and Tuesdays lessons will be blended: in presence, in classroom 3, for the students that will have reserved their access (you are reminded that capacity of classroom 3 is, maximum, 52 students). And online, in streaming, for those who are not attending in presence. Please excuse, in advance, any technical inconveniences and glitches that you may encounter. This blended procedure is being experimented this semester and needs to be fine-tuned.
- On Wednesdays lessons will be online. The platforms that will be used is the Teams platform on which students will be automatically registered.
- Lessons will be recorded and made available on the YouTube platform.

The course aims at introducing students, with a holistic perspective, to what a legal system is, what are the main differences between them, how to compare them. They main aim is that of showing the extreme complexity of contemporary legal systems and the continuous circulation of models between them.
Course Learning Activities
The course consists of lectures on the main aspects of a legal system. Each module will be supported by seminar on specific topics, using legal material (legislation, decisions, statistical data, legal writings).

Assessment tools
The final exam will consist in a written essay in which students will be asked to answer to one hypothetical case (out of a choice of several) which draws on the topics presented during the classes. Attendance policy Attendance is compulsory. Students are allowed up to a maximum of seven absences.

Course textbook:
V. ZENO-ZENCOVICH, Comparative legal systems. A short and illustrated introduction (second editon), Roma TrE-Press, 2019 (volume in open access is downloadable from the Roma TrEPress website:


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