Chapter 2


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Chapter 2

  1. 1. The Legal System in the USFederalism• One nnaattiioonnaall government, coexisting with ssttaattee governmentsThe Scope of Federal Law• Set forth in the federal Constitution• Should regulate only: issues that affect the entire country, interstatecommerce, conduct that occurs on federally owned property or concernsfederal employees, and federal crimes specified in the Constitution (treason,piracy, counterfeiting)The Scope of State Law• Much broader• More state laws than federal• Local issues that affect the state• Extremely broad with respect to criminal law• Can regulate for health, safety, and welfare of state citizens (police power inthe 10thAmendment)• 90% of all criminal laws are state• A crime can be both a state and federal crimeFederal Supremacy• The states cannot enact laws that ccoonnfflliicctt with federal laws• This violates the supremacy clause in the Constitution• If a state enacts a law that conflicts with a federal law, the state law will bestricken by the courts
  2. 2. • States can never enact laws that conflict with the Constitution (nor can thefederal government)Branches of Government• Set forth in the Constitution• The Constitution describes the federal government, but states generallymirror the branches of government at the state level• Legislative, executive, judicialLegislative Branch• Federal-called Congress• Senate and house of representatives• Duty is to create statutory laws• At the state level is called state legislatureExecutive Branch• At the federal level, president and all federal law enforcement• Duty is to enforce the laws passed by the legislative branch• At the state level, ggoovveerrnnoorr and all state law enforcementJudicial Branch• At the federal level, headed by the US Supreme Court; includes all federalcourts• Duty is to interpret the laws passed by the legislative branch and theConstitution• At the state level, headed by the state’s highest court; includes all state courts•• Very powerful branch because of jjuuddiicciiaall rreevviieeww
  3. 3. Separation of Powers• Each branch must stay within its designated role• If a branch tries to act outside its role, the courts can declare that it isviolating separation of powers• Each branch checks and balances (keeps an eye on) every other branch• Prevents power from being centralizedThe Court System• There are two: federal and state• Each court must have jurisdiction, or authority, to hear a matter before it.• Original jurisdiction: the power to hear a trial and accept evidence• Appellate jurisdiction: the power to review a trial, and reverse (change thedecision) affirm (uphold the decision) or remand (send the matter back to thetrial court)Federal Court System• Trial court: District Court• First level of appeal: US Court of Appeal (Circuit Court)• Highest court: US Supreme Court• Federal courts can only hear federal matters, unless citizens from differentstates are suing each other civilly for $75,000 (diversity jurisdiction)State Court System• Small claims court: civil court with a limit on damages• Trial court: often called superior or county court
  4. 4. • First level of appeal: court of appeals• Second level of appeal (some states): supreme court• Cases can go from the state high court to the US Supreme Court if they havea federal matter (federal statute or federal Constitution). Must petition for awrit of certiorariBurden of Proof• The obligation to prove a disputed allegation, charge, or defense• Has two components: burden of production and burden of persuasion• Production: must produce evidence• Persuasion: must persuade the trier of fact (decision maker at trial-either ajudge or jury) to a certain standardBurden of Proof in a Criminal Prosecution:• For the prosecution: beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the most difficultstandard• For the defense: to prove an affirmative defense, the defendant must eitherproduce evidence, then the prosecution disproves the defense beyond areasonable doubt or preponderance of evidence, or prove the affirmativedefense to a preponderance of evidence• Preponderance of evidence: more likely than not, 51% to 49%-much lowerstandard than beyond a reasonable doubtBurden of Proof in a Civil Litigation Matter• Preponderance of evidence for both the plaintiff and the defenseInference and Presumption• Help meet the burden of proof• Inference: a conclusion the trier of fact can choose to make
  5. 5. • Presumption: a conclusion the trier of fact must make. Presumptions can beovercome by evidence disproving them (rebuttable) or can be irrefutable(irrebuttable)• Inferences and presumptions are included in jury instructionsCircumstantial and Direct Evidence• Circumstantial: indirectly proves a fact. Blood evidence, fingerprints, DNA• Direct: directly proves a fact. Confession, video, witness testimony• Although circumstantial evidence is indirect, and therefore leaves room forreasonable doubt, it can be compelling and is not necessarily inferior todirect evidence. Criminal cases can be successfully prosecuted withcircumstantial evidence, standing alone