The purpose of this course is to provide a basic description of the U.S. judicial system. Attention will be given to foundations of law, judicial selection, judges, lawyers, litigants, and interest groups. The course will also focus on criminal and civil procedure. Finally, there will be discussion of judicial decision-making and policy-making.
This course contributes to the political science program's learning objectives by helping students understand the role of the judicial system, by describing the political processes by which cases are brought to court, and the factors that affect the judicial decisions. It is beneficial for those students planning to attend graduate school because of the focus on the political aspects of the judicial processes and judicial decision-making. It is beneficial for those planning on attending law school because it provides a description of the legal system and legal process.
The class requires reading textbook chapters and notes for each topic covered. Participation in class discussions, written assignments, and studying for unit exams are also required. The expected time commitment for the class is about 10 to 12 hours per week.
Course Credits: 3
Prerequisites: There are no formal prerequisites for this course. However, one or more introductory American national politics and government and/or state and local politics and government course(s) would certainly be helpful.
Student Learning Outcomes
Tests, assignments, and discussions provide opportunities for students to:
- Demonstrate understanding of the concept of law and describe the structures and processes of the legal system (Assignment 1, Discussion 1, Test 1).
- Analyze the federal and state judicial selection systems, examine the characteristics of state and federal judges, and explain the relationships between judicial selection methods, judges' characteristics, and judicial decisions (Assignment 2, Discussion 2, Test 2)
- Analyze and describe criminal law and civil law processes and procedures (Assignment 3, Discussion 3, Test 3)
- Compare explanatory theories and use them to explain judicial decision making, judicial policy making, and implementation of judicial policy (Assignment 4, Discussion 4, Test 4).