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Legal Issues. Chapter 1 Pages 2 to 58. Legal Rights and responsibilities Knowledge of everyday legal problems/issues Analyze, evaluate, maybe learn how to solve legal disputes. Topics of interest. What types of legal issues will we address?. Criminal Juvenile

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legal issues

Legal Issues

Chapter 1

Pages 2 to 58

topics of interest
Legal Rights and responsibilities

Knowledge of everyday legal problems/issues

Analyze, evaluate, maybe learn how to solve legal disputes

Topics of interest
what types of legal issues will we address
What types of legal issues will we address?
  • Criminal
  • Juvenile
  • Torts (civil, breach of obligation, causing harm to someone, etc…)
  • Consumer
  • Family
  • Housing
  • Individual rights and liberties
what is law
Many definitions exist.

Jurisprudence- the study of law and legal philosophy

What is law?
law is
Law is
  • Rules and regulations made and enforced by government that regulate the conduct of people within a society.
our legal system addresses
Our legal system addresses
  • The protection of human rights
  • The promotion of fairness 
  • The resolution of conflicts  
  • The promotion of order and stability
  • The protection of the environment
  • The representation of the will of the majority
  • The protection of the rights of minorities
values involved in laws
Values Involved in Laws
  • Moral: relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior
  • Economic: of, relating to, or based on the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services
  • Political: of, relating to, or concerned with the making as distinguished from the administration of governmental policy
  • Social: of or relating to human society, the interaction of the individual and the group, or the welfare of human beings as members of society
Problem 3. Page 7. For each of the following laws indicate whether moral, economic, political or social values are involved. Explain
  • All drivers must stop at stop signs .
  • It is a crime to cheat on your tax return .
  • All citizens may vote at age 18.
  • Special government programs lend money to minority owned businesses at low interest rates.
  • Government officials may not accept gifts from people who want them to pass certain laws.
kinds of laws

Civil (and criminal)

Kinds of Laws
criminal law
Criminal law
  • Involves a citizen or a business and the state. The rules of the federal government and all individual state governments are codified into statutes.
  • When an individual violates the rules, as listed in the statutes, then the federal government or the state will prosecute the individual.
criminal law1
Criminal Law

Divides into 2 categories

Felonies: Crimes punishable by a prison sentence of more than one year

Misdemeanors: Less serious than felonies, punished by a prison sentence less than one year.

civil law
Civil Law
  • Civil law suits are private suits between two or more citizens.
  • Civil law is the area of law by which private individuals resolve their differences with the help of the civil courts.
civil laws
Civil Laws
  • Regulates relations between individuals and groups of individuals.
  • A civil action (lawsuit) can be brought by a person who feels wronged or injured by another person.

What can one get out of a civil action?

civil laws regulate
Civil laws regulate…
  • Marriage
  • Divorce
  • Contracts
  • Real Estate
  • Insurance
  • Consumer protection
  • Negligence
remedies of the court
Remedies of the Court
  • The remedies available in civil courts are generally limited to money damages.
  • The remedies in criminal court may involve a money fine and/or a prison sentence
can a crime violate both civil and criminal law
Can a crime violate both civil and criminal law?
  • YES!

If Shannon attacks Katla, Shannon may have to pay Katla’s medical bills (civil) and may be charged with assault (criminal).

  • The different court systems have different burdens of proof.
  • To be found guilty in a criminal proceeding, the state must show beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of the crime charged.
  • Beyond a reasonable doubt requires a showing of guilt close to 100%.
  • In a civil case the plaintiff must show by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant is responsible for any damages.
  • Numerically, a preponderance of the evidence is a showing of a 51% certainty that the defendant is responsible.
the constitution
The Constitution
  • Law of the land
  • Supercedes all other laws
separation of powers
Separation of Powers
  • Executive (President & Federal Agencies)
  • Legislative (Congress)
  • Judicial (the courts)
  • Each branch is independent, but has the power to restrain other branches in a system of checks and balances.
executive branch
Is a lawmaker when it issues rules and executive orders, which often have the force of law.

May veto a law passed by Congress

Ex: In 2004 President Bush created an executive order to strengthen the sharing of information on terrorism.

Executive Branch
legislative branch
Legislative Branch
  • Uses lawmaking power when it issues laws (also called statues).
judicial branch
Judicial Branch
  • Establishes laws through its rulings, which may interpret a provision of the Constitution, a statute, or a rule issued by an executive agency.
judicial review
Judicial Review
  • Enables a court to void any law passed by Congress or any state legislature that conflicts with the Constitutional.
  • Ex: If Congress passed a law forbidding the media to criticize public officials, a court challenge would find the law unconstitutional.
limited government
Limited Government
  • Integral part of the Constitution
  • Reflects that the federal government should be limited by the power of the states
  • The division of power making between the states and federal government is know as federalism.
bill of rights
Bill of Rights
  • A principle of limited government
  • Defines and guarantees the fundamental rights of liberties to all Americans, including freedoms of religions, speech, and the press; the freedom from unreasonable searches and seizure,; and other rights
  • The Bill of Rights also limits the powers of the state and federal government
  • At both the state and federal level, legislatures are the primary law-making bodies.
federal legislature u s congress
Federal Legislature- U.S. Congress

Comprised of 2 houses…

Senate (2 members from each state)

House of Representatives (according to population of state)

u s congress continued
U.S. Congress continued
  • Passes laws (federal statutes) that are binding on the citizens of every state
  • Federal statutes deal with

environmental quality public health

national defense civil rights

labor relations econ. development

veterans’ affairs postal services

federal taxes

state legislatures
State legislatures
  • State statutes deal with


state taxes


marriage and divorce

powers/duties of state officials

supremacy clause
Supremacy Clause
  • Makes the Constitution the supreme law of the land
  • Holds federal law above state laws unless otherwise noted in the Constitution
  • Used by legislatures and other lawmaking bodies to enact new laws or amend/repeal old laws.
  • Even after a bill becomes a law it may be opened for interpretation.
  • Legislative intent is when a judge must determine what the legislature intended for the law.
what does drafting a bill mean
What does drafting a bill mean?
  • To write the actual language of the bill.
  • Intention is the make clear, easy to understand laws that are not too vague.

Example of a poorly drafted law: “It shall be illegal to gather on a street corner without a good reason.”

  • Initiatives are when voters propose laws and then submit them to their legislatures.
  • Referendums occur when a legislative act is referred to voters for final approval or rejection.
The following are proposals made in order to encourage people to vote. Do you favor or oppose each proposal? Why or why not?
Allowing students over the age of 14 to vote for and serve on the school board that governs the school
Allowing people to vote not just for representatives but directly for or against issues on the ballot that they care about


common law
Common Law
  • The result of courts establishing legal principles and rules.
trial courts
Trial Courts
  • Listens to testimony, considers evidence, and decides facts disputed in situations.

2 parties involved

Plaintiff- Party initiating legal action

In a criminal trial, the government (state or federal) serves as the prosecutor.

Defendant- The party responding to the plaintiff.

appellate courts
Appellate Courts
  • Used when one party presents arguments asking the court to reverse a decision made by the trial court.
  • The other party presents arguments supporting the decision of the trial court.
  • Only lawyers and judges are involved in the appellate process.
  • No juries, witnesses, or evidence.
can anyone who loses a trial appeal their case
Can anyone who loses a trial appeal their case?
  • NO
  • Must present a claim that there was an error of law- or when a judge makes a mistake as to the law applicable in the case.
  • Error of law is only valid when the error affects the outcome of the trial.

*Judge gives jury wrong instructions, judge permits evidence that should not have been allowed.

error of law example
Error of Law Example
  • Stephen left his key in his car. When he came back an hour later, he got into someone else’s car by mistake. This car also had a key in it.Stephen, who did not notice it was a different car, started it and drove away. He was arrested for auto theft.
error of law continued
Error of Law continued
  • At the trial, the judge told the jury it was not necessary for them to consider whether Stephen intended to steal the car. Instead the judge instructed the jury to only consider if Stephen was caught driving a car that was not his. Stephen was found guilty.
  • Auto theft requires intent. Stephen did not intend to steal the car. This guilty verdict could be reversed.
  • Are set when an appellate court write their opinion or ruling. The precedent then tells lower courts how they must rule in similar situations.
  • Justices, or appellate court judge, may issue dissenting or concurring opinions for the same case.
  • 1896 Plessey v. Ferguson upheld racial segregation in railroad cars on the basis facilities were, “separate but equal.”
  • Justice Harlan dissented because he felt segregation was unconstitutional.
  • 1954 Brown v. Board of Education set a precedent stating that segregation was unconstitutional and the Supreme Court accepted Harlan’s earlier dissent.
the u s supreme court
The U.S. Supreme Court
  • Sets most important precedents
  • 9 justices
  • Majority rules

How has the USSC changed our lives?

Ended segregation in public schools

Ended forced prayer in public schools

Upheld all-male draft registration

problem 17 page 36
Problem 17Page 36
  • How important is each characteristic?
  • Who would you eliminate?
  • 70 years old
  • Hispanic
  • Female
  • Smoked marijuana 10 years ago but was never arrested
  • Allegedly sexually harassed a female law clerk
  • Believes the Supreme Court should prohibit the use of racial quotas
  • Strongly favors a woman’s right to abortion
settling disputes outside of court
Settling disputes outside of court
  • Negotiation- typically informal, may involve attorneys
  • Settlements (civil cases)
  • Arbitration (decision made by arbitrator)
  • Mediation (third party mediates, does not resolve issue)
  • Ombudspersons- investigate complaints and help parties come to agreements.
adversary system
Adversary System
  • Means there is a conflict between two sides
  • The theory is that the trier of facts (judge or jury) will be able to determine the truth if the opposing parties present their best arguments and show the weaknesses in the other side’s case.
how is the u s courts system different than the european court system
How is the U.S. Courts System different than the European Court system?
  • Inquisitional System- judge is active in questioning witnesses and controlling court process, including gathering and presenting evidence.
beyond a reasonable doubt
Beyond a reasonable doubt
  • This is the burden of the prosecution in a criminal trial
  • Defendant must be found guilty b.r.d.
preponderance of evidence
Preponderance of Evidence
  • This is the burden of the plaintiff to prove his or her case in a civil trial
  • “Greater weight of evidence”
steps in a trial
Steps in a Trial
  • Opening statements by plaintiff or prosecutor (presents allegations)
  • Opening statements by defense (explain there will be evidence to disprove allegations)
  • Direct examination by plaintiff or prosecutor (witnesses, evidence)
  • Cross-examination by defense
  • Motions (if prosecutor or plaintiff’s case has not been established case may be dismissed)
  • Direct examination by defense (defense witnesses questioned)
  • Cross-examination by plaintiff
  • Closing statement by plaintiff
  • Closing statement by defense
  • Rebuttal argument (prosecutor or plaintiff may make)
  • Jury instructions (what laws apply to this case?)
  • Verdict (most states require a unanimous decision, if not it is a hung jury and the case may be retried)
  • Who can serve on a jury?
  • Voir dire- opposing lawyers question potential jurors to discover any prejudices or preconceived opinions concerning the case.
  • Removal for cause- attorney requests removal of juror
  • Peremptory challenges- Certain number each attorney has; removes juror without a specific cause
lawyers in the u s
Lawyers in the U.S.

65% private practice

15% gov’t lawyers

15% corporate/union/trade association

5% public interest, legal aid, professors, judges, elected officials

  • Most lawyers rarely go to court
  • Most law practice involves giving legal advice, drafting legal opinions, negotiating settlements, etc…
  • Litigators- Lawyers who go to court or trial attorneys
code of professional responsibility
Code of Professional Responsibility
  • Refer to the bottom of page 56
hiring an attorney
Always ask about fees, contracts, experience in the matter, correspondence

Retainer- down payment on total fee

Contingency fee- attorney gets % of winnings in the case. If you don’t win there is no fee assessed.

Hiring an attorney
in conclusion
In Conclusion
  • Lawyers must uphold attorney-client privilege and maintain all responsibilities set for in the Code of Professional responsibility (page 56)
  • Martindale-Hubble Law directory available in most public libraries
class home work
Class/Home Work
  • Problem 23, page 51
  • Problem 26, Pages 57-58