American Legal Principles
- Equal justice under the law.
- Due process of law.
- Adversarial system.
- Presumption of innocence.
Substantive Due Process
- Deals with the question of whether the laws themselves are fair.
- Resolved by looking at the Constitution, mainly the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment.
- Ex. Blue eye'd people cannot ride motorcycles.
Procedural Due Process
- Concerns over whether the laws are fairly applied.
- Ex. Certain criminals are detained for a long period of time, despite "speedy trial".
- Concept of two opposing sides engaging in debate in order to resolve a conflict.
- Differs from the inquisitorial system, where on ly one party is in control of the argument.
- Deals with serious crimes that harm individuals or society.
- Suspect must be arrested and indicted.
- The government is ALWAYS the prosecutor, and must carry the burden of proof.
- Grand jury decides whether a trial should commence.
Group of 24 to 48 jurors who decide whether to try a person, but not to decide guilt or innocence.
- Once indicted, the accused may convince the prosecution to agree to a less serious crime and sentence, in order to avoid a trial.
- 95% of all criminal cases end in a plea bargain.
- Jury of 12 members who decide guilt or innocence in a crimminal case.
- A guilty vedict can only be carried if all 12 agree.
- A split jury results in a "hung jury" and results in mistrial.
- Concerns itself with disputes over contracts, property, custody of kids, issue of liability.
- Government can only be involved if it's the one being sued. Nearly all cases are plaintiff vs. defendant.
- A person complains in civil court, which must approve its merit before the case moves forward.
- Parties negotiate how much each party is willing to give up to end the lawsuit.
- Much like plea bargaining, this is used to avoid trial.
Preponderance of Evidence
- Concept of 51% or more is enough evidence to win a case.
- Illustrates the relaxed burden of proof in civil cases, compared to criminal cases, in which guilt must be proven beyond reasonable doubt.
The loser is forced to stop doing something that was annoying or harmful to the winner.
Levels of Federal Courts
- Federal District Courts (91): have original jurisdiction.
- Federal Circuit Courts of Appeals (13): hear cases on appeal from the District Courts. No jury. Panel judges. Appellate jurisdiction.
- Supreme Court: hears appeals of cases dealing with constitutional questions from original jurisdiction in cases involving foreign ministers, which is intended to prevent states from deciding such cases.
Can decide issues of the law, but never the facts of a case.
Fletcher vs. Peck
- Established the Supreme Court's right to apply judicial review to tstate laws.
- Was the first case to overturn state law upon constitutional grounds.
Marbury vs. Madison
- Chief justice John Marshall established judicial review.
McCulloch vs. Maryland
- Ruled that states did not have the power to tax the national bank.
- Reinforced the supremacy clause of the Constitution.
Gibbons vs. Ogden
- The Supreme Court ruled that the state of New York could not grant a steamship company a monopoly to operate on an interstate waterway, even though that waterway ran through New York.
- This ruling increased federal power over interstate commerce by implying that anything concerning interstate trade could potentially be regulated be the federal government.
Sumaries of arguments presented to the Supreme Court by both sides of the issue.
- "Friend of the Court"
- Interest groups affiliated with either side of the issue may submit their own briefs to the Supreme Court, as the decision may affect them as well.
Only allowed for the cases the Supreme Court decides to hear, lawyers for each party have a half-hour each to stand before the nine justices and present their arguments.
- Sencond-ranking member of the justice department (after the attorney general)
- Represents the federal government in Supreme Court cases, where it may take a stance with one side of an issue.
- Gets a portion of the half-hour argument time to argue on the government's behalf.
Types of Opinions
- Unanimous: all justices agree, carries the most force.
- Majority: opinion that decides the result of the case.
- Concurring: Vote with majority but take issue with its legal reasonings.
- Dissenting: questions the reasoning o fthe winning side.