Ch. 01: Kinds of Laws Key Terms Criminal Laws Felonies Misdemeanors Civil Laws Plaintiff Defendant Prosecutor Beyond A Reasonable Doubt Preponderance of the Evidence
Ch. 01: Kinds of Laws: Why Do I Need To Know This? 1.Because there are key differences between civil laws and criminal laws, and these differences make the difference between winning and losing a lawsuit or going home or going to jail. 2.Because as a citizen or resident of this country, you need to know what your rights and responsibilities are under the law. 3.Because you can be found not guilty of a crime and still have to pay money (like OJ)!
Kinds of Laws—Criminal Laws Criminal laws are what most people think of as “the law”. Criminal laws involve the government telling the people what they may and may not do. Criminal laws are always brought by the government who are represented by the District Attorneys who are the prosecutors. The criminal trial process usually begins when the police arrest someone. The criminal in a trial is called a defendant and if s/he cannot afford a lawyer will get a Public Defender.
Kinds of Laws—Civil Laws Civil laws are laws passed by the government to regulate between people, businesses or groups. Civil laws result in lawsuits and are brought by one person or group against another person or group. The person bringing (or filing) a civil lawsuit (or action) is called the plaintiff. The person responding to the civil lawsuit is called the defendant. Civil laws regulate marriage, divorce, contracts, real estate, insurance, fraud and negligence. Usually if a person’s behavior results in a criminal action, a lawsuit can be filed as well.
Kinds of Laws--Differences Criminal Laws You HAVE the right to a jury for a FELONY. The government WILL provide a lawyer for you if you cannot afford one. The case is brought by a PROSECUTOR. The prosecutor must prove the case to the jury BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT. Civil Laws You do NOT have the right to a jury. The government will NOT provide you a lawyer if you cannot afford one. The case is brought by a PLAINTIFF. The plaintiff must prove his case by a PREPONDERANCE OF THE EVIDENCE.
Burden of Proof—Criminal Law In all trials or lawsuits the prosecutor or plaintiff must prove his/her case to a certain level in order to win. In almost every trial the side that starts the lawsuit has the burden to prove his/her case. –In a criminal trial, the burden of proof is almost always on the government. In a criminal trial, the prosecutor must prove the case BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT. –This means that it is 99.99999% likely that the person accused of the crime committed the crime. –While a juror may have a doubt about whether the accused committed the crime, the doubt cannot be reasonable (hey, aliens could have done it, right?)
Burden of Proof—Civil Law In a civil trial, the standard is called a PREPONDERANCE OF THE EVIDENCE. –This means that in order to win the lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove that it is more likely than not that the defendant injured him/her. –That means that the plaintiff must prove it to the 50.1%! If the plaintiff does not prove this, then the defendant wins. –However, if the defendant never shows up to court to defend the lawsuit, and the plaintiff does show up, the plaintiff will win on default.
Burden of Proof—Combined Since many criminal violations can result in civil lawsuits, it is possible to have both a criminal and civil trial. If the prosecutor fails to prove his/her case beyond a reasonable doubt, the jury in the criminal trial should NOT convict the defendant. However, if the plaintiff uses the same evidence, and proves his/her case by a preponderance of the evidence, then the judge/jury in the civil trial should make the defendant pay money. This is what happened to OJ— he was found NOT GUILTY of the crimes, but was ordered to pay money in the civil lawsuit.
Ch. 05: Trial Courts Key Terms Trial Courts Adversarial System Voire Dire
Ch. 05: Trial Courts: Why Do I Need To Know This? 1.Because if you ever are arrested for a crime, your case will begin in a trial court. 2.Because if you ever need to sue someone for money, your case will begin in a trial court. 3.Because only the trial court can determine the issues of fact in the case.
Trial Courts All trials begin at a trial court. Trial courts are the deciders of fact. If the trial court rules on an issue of fact (such as whether or not a traffic light was red) that is the ultimate decision on the issue. Trial courts are adversarial. –The plaintiff and defendant are not there to share information with the court to get to the absolutely “right” decision—they are there to win a case. –There are, however, rules that require plaintiffs and defendants to share information. –Because of the risks and costs involved, most trials settle long before the trial ever begins. A District Attorney can NEVER bring a trial against a person that s/he knows is innocent of that crime.
Jury Trials The right to a jury is a limited right. –Only a defendant in a criminal trial for a felony has the right to a jury. –Therefore, only a defendant in a criminal trial can decide whether to have or not have a jury. In a civil trial, the decision by the jury does not have to be unanimous. –There only needs to be a substantial majority. In a criminal trial, the jury’s decision has to be unanimous. There is no set number of people who must be on a jury, but it is usually 6, 9 or 12 people with one or two alternate jurors.
Jury Duty In order to serve on a jury, a person must be: 1.18 years old. 2.A citizen. 3.A resident of the state or federal district. 4.Able to understand English. A jury must be made up of a representation of the people in the community. –People cannot be excluded from serving on a jury because of their age, race, sex, disability, etc. All citizens have a duty to serve on a jury, and can be brought into court and punished for not serving on jury duty.
Jury Selection At the beginning of the trial, both sides are able to ask the potential members of the jury questions in a process called voire dire. The goal of voire dire is to find out if the potential jurors have any bias or special knowledge about the case. During voire dire, both sides have an opportunity to remove potential jurors that they do not want. –If they can show that the potential juror has a bias, then that is called removal for cause. –If either side wants to eliminate a juror for any reason, they can use one of their very limited peremptory challenges to exclude that potential juror. However, neither side can eliminate potential jurors simply because of race, religion, sex, age, etc.
Ch. 05: Appeals Courts Key Terms Appeals Court Error of Law Precedent
Ch. 05: Appeals Courts: Why Do I Need To Know This? 1.Because if you ever file a lawsuit and lose, you will want to know how to appeal your case to try and get the judgment overturned. 2.Because if you are ever found guilty of a crime and did not do it, or had your rights violated, you will need to know how to appeal your case. 3.Because if you ever want a judge to review your case to make sure that there were no errors of law committed, you will need to know how to appeal your case.
Appeals Courts Appeals courts exist to see if the trial court made an error of law. Appeals courts CANNOT change the outcome of the case simply because it does not like the outcome. –The judges on the appeal must find a legal error in order to change the outcome. An error of law can occur at any point a judge makes a ruling. –An example is when an attorney says “I object” and the judge rules on the objection. In a civil trial, either side can appeal. In a criminal trial, the defendant can appeal on any issue (including the ruling). –The prosecutor can only appeal judicial rulings.
Appeals Courts—Precedents Appeals courts are considered “higher” courts than trial courts. –There are far more trial courts than appeals courts. –One appeals court may take appeals for 50 or more trial courts. Therefore, if the appeals court finds a mistake of law, the trial court MUST do what the appeals court says. When an appeals court finds an error of law, it can: 1.Order a new trial with specific instructions to the trial court (retrial). 2.Overturn the decision of the trial court (overruled). 3.Decide that the error was harmless and allow the lower court’s decision to stand as is.
Appeals Courts—Precedents When an appeals court rules on issue, it establishes a precedent. –A precedent is a legal ruling that is binding on all lower courts and helps shape the future of the law. –This is how most laws are developed over time and is very controversial. When lawyers and judges look to research the law on an issue, they are looking for the precedents that have been established in order to determine how a court will rule on an issue. Since appellate court judges have lifetime appointments, their precedents can be very controversial.
Appeals Courts—Precedents In order for a ruling to become a precedent, a majority of the appeals court must agree with the decision. –There are usually 3 judges on an appeal, but can be more. In an appeal, one judge writes an opinion for the majority of the appeals court. –This is the legal ruling of the court. Those who disagree write dissenting opinions. Sometimes, when judges agree with the outcome, but disagree with the legal reasoning, they write concurring opinions. –Concurring opinions do not establish precedent.
Ch. 05: The Supreme Court of the United States Key Terms Precedent Petition For Certiorari
Ch. 05: The Supreme Court of the United States: Why Do I Need To Know This? 1.Because if you ever want to have your last hope on getting your case overturned, you have to pray that the U.S. Supreme Court grants certiorari. 2.Because any decision made by the U.S. Supreme Court is binding on every other court in the U.S., including all state courts. 3.Because the ultimate authority on the law is the U.S. Supreme Court, and in many ways, the judges on that court are more powerful than the President or Congress.
The U.S. Supreme Court The U.S. Supreme Court is located in Washington, D.C. There are 9 justices who serve on the Supreme Court, and they have lifetime appointments. Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. –President George W. Bush appointed 2 Justices –Barack Obama has appointed 2 Justices. This has become very controversial in recent years because the U.S. Supreme Court has ended up deciding most of the difficult decisions in today’s society.
The U.S. Supreme Court Most cases never get to the U.S. Supreme Court. Every year, over 10,000,000 cases get started in trial court (combined civil and criminal). Only about 1,000,000 actually go to some aspect of a trial. Only about 200,000 are appealed. Only about 8,000 cases a year request an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court hears only about 300 cases a year. In order to get into the U.S. Supreme Court, the Court must decide to take the case and grant a petition for certiorari.
The U.S. Supreme Court The U.S. Supreme Court exists for 2 main purposes: 1.To interpret the U.S. Constitution. 2.To make broad institutional review. Because the U.S. Supreme Court is the highest court in the country, any precedent established by it applies to everyone in the U.S. –As a result, the U.S. Supreme Court only takes those cases that will have the greatest impact on the country. Broad institutional review means that they want to take those cases where different states or different districts have ruled on the same issue and ruled differently. –By ruling on the issue, the U.S. Supreme Court settles the issue.
Ch. 05: State and Federal Courts Key Terms None.
Ch. 05: State and Federal Courts: Why Do I Need To Know This? 1.Because the laws in different states are very different. 2.Because the laws on federal property are different than the laws of the state in which they reside. 3.Because if you use any federally regulated system, you are subject to federal law. 4.Because if you violate both state and federal law, you can be tried by both the state and the federal government (like Timothy McVeigh).
State and Federal Courts Our laws are divided between state laws and federal laws. In our system of government, each state has the authority to make and pass laws that are applicable just in their state. –Neighboring states can have totally different laws. –This is much like cities within the county—some cities allow fireworks and others do not. Also, in our system of government, the federal government has the authority to make and pass laws that are applicable on federal land or on federally regulated systems. –Federal laws are the same everywhere in the U.S. –The federal government (Congress) can only pass laws that relate to the 18 powers granted to it in the U.S. Constitution. Most states have constitutions that guarantee rights just within that state. The U.S. Constitution guarantees rights to everyone within the entire United States. The rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution cannot be broken by any state law.
State and Federal Courts State Courts Certain issues are entirely State Court matters. –These include Family Law (Marriage, Divorce and Custody), Traffic, Criminal Law, Probate, State Constitutional issues and Property Issues. For state courts, the most trial begins in Superior Court. –There are some special courts in most states for family law matters, probate, traffic and for very small civil lawsuits (small claims courts—say up to $5,000.00) After the trial is over, an appeal can be filed in the State Court of Appeals. After the appeal is over in the State Court of Appeals an appeal can be filed in the State’s Supreme Court. –Any ruling from the State’s Supreme Court is binding on every part of that state. After the appeal in the State’s Supreme Court, an appeal can be filed in the U.S. Supreme Court. –Any ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court is binding on every court in the country.
State and Federal Courts Federal Courts Certain issues are entirely Federal Court matters. –These include U.S. Constitutional Issues, Federal Crimes, Federal Property Issues and Diversity Cases. Diversity occurs when the plaintiff is from one state and the defendant is from a different state. –In order to prevent a bias for or against a plaintiff/defendant in state courts, the U.S. Constitution allowed civil lawsuits to be filed in federal courts when there was diversity. –In order to use the federal courts for diversity, the plaintiff must prove that: 1.There is diversity; 2.The amount of the lawsuit is more than $75,000.00. All trials in the federal court system begin in the District Court. After the trial is over, an appeal can be filed in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. After the appeal is over in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the U.S. Supreme Court. –Any ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court is binding on every court in the country.
Federal Court Circuits Congress has divided up the United States into 12 Circuits. Each circuit has its own trial courts and appeals courts. –Therefore, each circuit establishes its own precedents. We live in the 9 th circuit which is one of the most divided circuits that many people want to split up.
Wrap-Up What is the difference between criminal and civil law? How many people have to agree to a decision in a jury trial in criminal court? Civil court? Why state and federal courts? What is a court of appeals? How many justices sit on the Supreme Ct?