This course introduces students to the institutions, methods, and practices at the core of the American common-law legal system. During the first half of the course we will focus on the Judicial Branch of the Government. We will examine the structure and boundaries of judicial power; the procedural mechanisms through which that power is exercised; and the ways in which common-law courts make (or decline to make) law. We will pay close attention to the political and social contexts in which the cases that we study arise, and we will consider how changing contexts affect the judicial decision-making process. During the second half of the course, we will turn our attention to the Legislative Branch of the Government, with special attention to problems of statutory construction. We will examine the tools—both legal and linguistic—that common-law courts employ when called upon to determine the proper interpretation of a statute.