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Litigation
Temple University School of Law
Shellenberger, James A.

COURSE INTRO

Litigation:
-process by which disputes are resolved in court sys.
-Civil
-Two parties suing each other re: injury to one
-Criminal
-State or gov. bringing suit against individual or company re: crime against state

CASE LAW, STARE DECISIS, ANALOGICAL REASONING, HOLDINGS

3 CATEGORIES of gov. bodies w/ authority to make law:

LEGISLATURE ADMIN AGENCIES COURTS
(congress, gen. assembly) (FCC, NLRB, F&D)
\ / \ /
2 types of law: “Legislation” “case law”

-Congress passes laws
-Admin agencies have adjudicatory power equal to case law
-Courts
-“common law” – no case law to rest on, just the law created by courts
-case law of statutes – courts have to interpretate statutes

COURT SYSTEMS

PA NJ US
1. Territorial/
Jurisdictional CCP Superior District Court ß Trial

2. Federalism Superior Appellate Court of Appeals ß Intermediate
Commonwealth Division (Error Correcting)

3. Hierarchical Supreme Supreme Supreme ß Highest (law/policy
structure
making)

-Federal courts have limited subject jurisdiction (can’t hear all cases)
incl. -all disputes arising under fed. law (treaty)
-diversity of citizenship jurisdiction (if two parties are citizens of different states and $>75K)

-Territorial courts divided by geographic boundry

-Federal level is divided by states

-Intermediate Appellate Courts
-hear challenges to trial court judgment and correct errors (can remand, reverse)

-Highest Courts (supreme) make law and policy

STARE DECISIS

-The rule of binding, mandatory authority: A court is generally required to follow its own decisions and those of higher courts within same territorial jurisdiction in deciding cases with same or suff. similar facts

-Courts have some authority to overrule prior decisions

-Court must follow own decisions and those of higher courts

-Courts are bound only to follow decisions in territorial jurisdiction in like cases
-those from other states have persuasive authority
-like cases depends on material facts (are they suff. similar?)

-Fed courts sometimes required to apply state law and vice-versa

EXAMPLE: Betts v. Brady

-Totality of circumstances: deciding by individual facts of case
-Judge could have determined Gideon’s circumstances were diff and allow him to appoint counsel

STARE DECISIS (cont.)

-Most of law operates by flexible standards or legal precept requiring fact evaluation (not hard and fast rule)
-Hard and fast rule = speed limit
-Standards are always arguable; barely a “right” answer

-Decision by court becomes law to the extent that decision controls future cases

-Prior decisions allow public to gauge whether something is legal

-There is a flexibility to change “bad” law

ARSON

Stewart

-Holding: Unoccupied structures that are substantially separated from an inhabited structure are not part of or parcel to a “dwelling house” as is required for the burning of those structures to qualify for the crime of arson.

McGowan:

-Holding: A building was not a dwelling house, such that burning it was arson where, though in construction and purpose it was intended to be a dwelling house, the building was unfinished, not yet ready for habitation, and never occupied.

Toole:

Holding: The separate portion of what was originally one house and which was occupied by a single family, without any internal communication with the other separately occupied portions of that house, was a separate “dwelling house” the burning of which would qualify for the crime of arson.

[Because the defendant in Toole made more than one argument in support of his request for a new trial, we could have more than one issue and holding statement]

Cochran:

Holding: The evidence was sufficient to find that the defendant “entered or remained unlawfully in a building,” for purposes of burglary, where the statute stated that a “separate building” includes “separate units … not occupied by the actor” and where the defendant entered a separate, locked bedroom occupied solely by a person who did not give defendant permission to enter.
[This Cochran holding only relates to defendant’s argument that the evidence was insufficient to support the verdict, not to his claim that the trial judge erred in her instructions to the jury.]

Thomas:

Holding: No reasonable jury could find that defendant entered or remained “unlawfully in a building,” for purposes of burglary, where defendant entered and remained in a store that was open to the public and where the area he entered behind the counter was not a “separate unit, such as but not limited to separate apartments, offices or rented rooms,” as stated in the definition of building.

Baker:

Holding: An automobile is a “building”under the statutory definition, which states that “[b]uilding in addition to its ordinary meaning, includes any … vehicle,” and therefore when defendant set fire to his car the evidence showed that he “intended to destroy or damage a building” as required to be convicted of arson in the second degree.

[key words of the statute + material facts + the “ultimate” question / conclusion]

Stewart Hypos

Assume the Supreme Court in Stewart reversed the judgment of conviction and entered a judgment of acquittal on the grounds that the evidence was legally insufficient for any reasonable jury to find the defendant guilty of arson. [Recall that what the Court actually did was reverse and order a new trial on the grounds that the jury verdict was against the weight of the evidence.]

1. A week later a Connecticut court hears case in which the defendant (Abe) is charged with arson for burning down a barn belonging to Victor that was 18 rods away from Victor’s dwelling house and separated from it by a highway. If Abe files a motion for judgment of acquittal, how should the court decide? Why?

Same as Stewart and acquit

2. A week after the Stewart decision a Connecticut court he

ally Slater or Smith.

> Does the appeal court accept these arguments? Why not?

Arson is crime against persons not property. Maynard’s case makes clear occupancy is rule for whether it is your dwelling.

House separated into two dwellings is treated as two separate dwellings. Court says that Toole’s apartment was part of Slater’s dwelling house and therefore Toole burning it was threating Slater dwelling à arson. Like venn diagram, all of Toole’s dwelling is part of Slater’s so Toole burning own is burning Slater’s.

> Can we synthesize the decisions in Stewart, McGowan, and Toole and articulate “rules” that these cases stand for as a group?

1861, Connecticut.

Arson is willful and malicious burning or firing of an inhabited and finished dwelling house of another, and all parcels sufficiently close to dwelling thereof

Statutory Interpretation

-Courts are supposed to be effectuating will of lawmakers; implement and apply words used by legislature and apply legislative intent

-Issue and holding statements w/ statutes need to include precise words of statutes that are being interpreted, the material facts to which they are applied and ultimate question of significatnce

-Need to consider textual context as well as just text in question
-sentence structure, order of words, punctuation important in interpretating

e.g. Conneticcut Arson Statutes

Elements of Arson
1. w/ Intent to destroy or damage
2. a building
3. he starts a fire or explosion

AND (must meet one of the following):
-building is inhabited or D. has reason to believe it is
-any other person is injured directly or indirectly
-purpose of fire was to collect insurance proceeds
-peace officer is subjected to substantial risk of bodily injury at scene

-Differences between old definitions
-building instead of dwelling
-arson can be burning your own building if one of elements above are met
-more specific expansions to protect people
-generally more nuanced and detailed

FRCP and FRCrP govern proceedings in trial courts (not appellate)
-are like statutes but not formally adapted as statutes
-congress has period to approve, if they don’t within 90 days they are as good as law

JMT as Matter of Law = JMT Notwithstanding the verdict
JMT of Acquittal = in arrest of JMT

MTN New Trial