INTRODUCTION TO LAW
We outline everything in law school – writing assignments, exam answers, and the topics covered in a full course.
Course outlines summarize legal concepts and rules. They are not a summary of case briefs or case descriptions. This integration and organization of rules will help you to respond to answer exam questions efficiently. But it is a lot more work to outline a course than an exam answer or a memorandum.
So how do you create a useful course outline without being overwhelmed?
1. Check the Table of Contents of the casebook to help you understand what topics the course is covering and how the cases fit together.
2. Check the Course Syllabus to see which units the course covers and how they are arranged. In this case, the Syllabus is closely aligned with the Table of Contents of the casebook, so that gives you a good idea of how to approach your course outline.
3. Consult your lecture notes to see if the professor stayed on the Syllabus. In U.S. Legal Systems, the lecture notes parallel the content of the Table of Contents and the Course Syllabus, confirming the organization of your course outline.
4. Consult class handouts and materials on Blackboard. A lot of information is posted on the Blackboard site for Introduction to Law. Most of the class handouts are also posted on Blackboard. These will help you fill in the blanks in your course outline.
5. In courses other than Introduction to Law – for example, Torts, Criminal Law, Contracts, Property, etc. — it may be useful to consult a commercial outline or Wikipedia article to better understand the lecture material and the cases in order to see how it all fits together. Alas, no commercial outlines are available for U.S. Legal Systems. That is why there are so many handouts in Introduction to Law – they take the place of commercial outlines.
6. Working with these materials and the cases we read, develop an outline of the major concepts and rules from the course. It should be concise and focus on the principles or law, with references to cases primarily serving the purpose of triggering your memory. Note that the outline emphasizes the legal principles we studied, and the order of the cases we read varies accordingly.
INTRODUCTION TO LAW
I. THE MIXED SYSTEM OF CODE-BASED AND COMMON LAW (Week One).
United States courts have dual, mixed, or “hybrid” authority to interpret existing law and to create their own law.
Cases illustrating these concepts: Filarsky v. Delia (S. Ct. 2012), Preiser v. Rodriguez (S. Ct. 1973), United States v. Jones (S. Ct. 2012), Tennessee v. Garner (S. Ct. 1985).
A. Judicial interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court and lower courts are constantly interpreting Constitutional provisions to see how they apply to specific circumstances as they arise. The federal courts have the authority to interpret the U.S. Constitution (“say what the law is”).
In United States v. Jones, the U.S. Supreme Court addresses the rights of a suspect under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which that provides that “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” The Court reads the Fourth Amendment reference to warrants to mean that a warrant is required in order to conduct a Constitutional search by attaching a GPS tracking device under a car. In Jones, there was no valid warrant (it had been issued but had expired by the time officers took action). Thus, evidence obtained by GPS tracking mechanism placed by the FBI on the suspect’s car must be excluded.
B. Judicial interpretation of federal statutes applying common-law principles. The federal courts have the authority to interpret a federal statute, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, by applying common-law (judge-made) immunity principles.
In Filarsky v. Delia, the Court considers interpretation by prior courts regarding the need to protect public officials or persons serving the government and concludes that immunity protects all persons working for the government — part-time or full-time – from lawsuits under this statute.
C. Judicial resolution of conflicts between statutes. The federal courts have the authority to decide which statute controls when two statutes provide different levels of due process rights. In general, it follows the traditional judicial principle of applying the narrower of the two applicable statutes.
In Preiser v. Rodriguez, the Court considered a prisoner’s request for release from prison based on credits for good behavior. It applied the narrower of the two applicable statutes. The habeas statute (28 U.S.C. § 2254) requires a prisoner to exhaust state remedies before bringing an action in federal court. The broader Civil Rights Act of 1871 (42 U.S.C. § 1983) applies to all persons, not just prisoners, and has no exhaustion requirement. The Court applies 28 U.S.C. § 2254, the narrower of the two, even though it places greater burdens on the prisoner.
D. Judicial interpretation of the language in the U.S. Constitution to resolve a dispute in state court. The federal courts have the authority to announce tests to determine the constitutionality of both federal and state statutes on their face and as applied. This principle of judicial interpretation applies to statutes and regulations adopted by the federal government, state governments, and local governments.
The federal courts, and particularly the U.S. Supreme Court, have authority to update and modify judicial interpretation of U.S. Constitutional provisions to both federal and state law.
However, if the court can avoid a Constitu
anges the test and narrows recovery. A plaintiff may recover damages for emotional distress caused by observing the negligently inflicted injury of a third person only if:
(1) plaintiff is closely related to the injury victim;
(2) plaintiff is present at the scene of the injury-producing event at the time it occurs and is then aware that it is causing injury to the victim. No recovery when P is unaware of harm at the time, even if it is impossible to perceive [Golstein (1990) (denying recovery), Wilks v. Hom (1992) (allowing recovery)];
(3) plaintiff as a result suffers serious emotional distress — a reaction beyond that which would be anticipated in a disinterested witness and which is not an abnormal response to the circumstances.
III. AMERICAN JUDICIARY AND JUDICIAL SYSTEMS: STRUCTURE AND JURISDICTION OF THE FEDERAL AND STATE COURTS (Week Three)
Cases illustrating these principles: Republican Party of Minnesota v. White (S. Ct. 2002),
Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins (S. Ct. 1938), Howlett v. Rose (S. Ct. 1990), Smith v. Colonial Penn. Ins. Co. (S.D. Tex. 1996), Republic of Bolivia v. Philip Morris Companies, Inc. (S.D. Tex. 1999).
A. Limited Subject Matter Jurisdiction of Federal and State Courts – presented in Article III of the U.S. Constitution.
B. Jurisdiction in Federal Cases Requires BOTH Subject Matter Jurisdiction and Personal Jurisdiction.
1. Subject Matter Jurisdiction over Cases is Based on (a) Federal Question or (b) Diversity of Citizenship.
Federal Question jurisdiction is available if the dispute concerns a federal statute, a federal regulation, or the U.S. Constitution.
Diversity of Citizenship jurisdiction allows citizens of different states to litigate in federal court if the amount in controversy is $75K or more. The opposing parties must be from different states or a state and a foreign country. Sometimes a defendant will join a new co-defendant from the same state as the plaintiff in order to defeat diversity.
2. Personal Jurisdiction over Parties Is Based on Domicile or Minimum Contacts.
If a person is domiciled (permanently resides or intends to return) in the forum state where the court is located, he is subject to personal jurisdiction. If a defendant is a non-resident of the forum state, jurisdiction in a federal court in that state depends on his minimum contacts within the state.