The Judicial Process

POL & CR 403

Dr. Jim L. Riley, Ph.D

Regis University

Spring, 2010

Class Meetings:  MW 2:30-3:45,  ALC 214

Office Hours
 Monday & Wednesday:   10:30 - 2:00,
Tuesday &Thursday:  3:00 -4:00
Friday:  By Appointment  
Office: Carroll Hall 215
 Office Phone: (303) 458-4974

web page --

TEXT: American Courts ( 6th ed.), Lawrence Baum

The first sentence in the Regis Mission Statement reads:  "Regis University educates men and women of all ages to take leadership roles and to make a positive impact in a changing society."  Understanding the nature of politics in its broadest sense is crucial to this goal.  This course seeks to expand the political knowledge of students such that each of them is better able to become capable and responsible leaders in our society that is so deeply penetrated by things political.

1. USE AND SIGNIFICANCE OF SYLLABUS: This syllabus is a most important guide for you in understanding what it is this course is designed to accomplish and how it is organized to achieve its stated goals. Moreover, specific ground rules, obligations, and responsibilities are described below.  By a careful reading of the syllabus, you will obtain a clear idea of what we will be doing in this class throughout the semester. It serves as a series of guideposts enabling us to maintain some clear focus on the subject at hand.  The dates and deadlines contained below will be adhered to, barring unforeseen exigencies requiring modification. Daily assignments will not be given in class inasmuch as a complete semester's assignments is included at the end of this syllabus. It is your responsibility to familiarize yourself with each day's assignment and to complete it prior to class time.

2. COURSE PURPOSES: This course shall focus directly upon courts and the judicial process in the United States.  The overall goal is to impart within its participants knowledge of, interest in, and an appreciation for the judicial process in the United States. More specifically, students should, at semester's end, be sufficiently familiar with this subject to be able to write with accuracy and completeness on these topics pertaining and to be able to conduct in-depth research producing advanced knowledge at the undergraduate level.

3. COURSE OBJECTIVES: The specific objective of the course is to achieve knowledge levels within students such that they will be able to perform "satisfactorily" or better in the following areas: (1) examinations -- students will be expected to respond accurately and completely to questions covering course material; (2) out-of-class projects -- students will be expected to complete a research project utilizing concepts presented in class; and (3) in-class-discussions -- students will be expected to participate frequently and positively in class.     

The quality of work will be judged in accordance with the degree to which the following criteria are present in written work: accuracy of information, critical thought, clarity of message, organizational coherency, use of the intellectual tools presented in the course, technical precision and correctness (especially in our-of-class papers), sharpness of focus, presence of indicators of thoughtful consideration of issues examined, depth of analysis, and creativity.

4. NOTE TAKING: In order to achieve a desirable grade in this class (presumably reflecting one's level of achievement), it is necessary to take "good" notes of three types: class notes, text notes, and research notes. These should be in the form of full and complete sentences, organized in outline form (major and minor headings being present).

Class notes should summarize material presented in class so that you may later recall what was put before you there. Text notes should condense and summarize the material given to you by the author. Research notes serve the purpose of recording that which you have gathered through your out-of-class research.    

 Generally, the purpose of notes is to store, organize, and make information more readily available so that it can eventually become knowledge. It is utilitarian in nature, that is to say, it is designed to serve some larger purpose. If you find after a few meetings that your notes are not very accurate or helpful in organizing and understanding the material, meet with the instructor at your first opportunity.     

 One final point, you should review notes taken at the previous meeting before going to class on any given day. This five or ten minute review will prove valuable in various ways.

5. CLASS FORMAT:  The size of this class is ideal for making use of the lecture/discussion and seminar approach. Each member of the class will be expected to provide frequent in-class verbal contributions. The procedure will normally be one in which the Professor initiates the discussion and/or presentations by directing attention to matters under scrutiny. This may involve something of a brief "lecture" or visual presentation, but invariably with the expectation of student questions, observations, comments and criticisms. On other occasions, students may be asked to comment on topics covered in their reading and to explain phenomenon studied at some earlier point in the course. As will be seen below, the degree to which students provide positive in-class contributions will play a significant role in grade determination.

6. STUDENT-PROFESSOR CONFERENCES: You are invited and encouraged to come by my office whenever you would like. Although I can be found frequently in my office at times other than during regularly scheduled office hours, those scheduled hours are given above. Occasionally, I may be called out of the office during scheduled office hours, but for the most part I will be there when indicated.   

Certainly we should meet if any problems develop with regard to your participation in the course, but this should not be the only reason for getting together. Feel free to drop by for a visit for any reason. If my office hours are not convenient, arrangements can easily be made to meet at another time.


8. EXAMINATIONS: There will be two (2) examinations during the semester and a final examination at the end. The examinations will each count for 20% of the course grade.  40% will come from the two out-of-class projects outlined below.

It is the policy of this class to permit no make-up examinations. There are two exceptions to this policy: (1) instances where a particular student has a verified medical excuse or (2) a personal exigency recognized and approved by the Professor. No make-up exam will be permitted without a written request. Students missing a regularly scheduled examination and not meeting either of the exceptions will receive a Fail for that examination. A prior test will be made available for review.

You may bring to class on each examination day five 3" x 5" note cards on which any information may be written but may not be copied. Previous tests will be made available.  It should be noted that the examinations (and out-of-class papers) will be graded blindly. Each student will affix his/her student identification number to all papers. This will eliminate any personal factors from the grading process.


10. STUDENT RESPONSIBILITIES: Each member of the class is expected to read the assigned material prior to class time. A reading of the material must be accompanied by the taking of written notes on what has been read. These text notes will be supplemented with notes taken in class. Thus, it is necessary that students attend class regularly (see the attached policy regarding class absences).     

You should also keep abreast of political events in the United States and the rest of the world. This means reading a newspaper daily, watching the news on TV (especially the Lehrer New Hour on PBS), listening to NPR (FM 90.1), and reading a weekly news magazine such as Time, Newsweek, or U.S. News and World Report.  

Finally, in addition to READING, TAKING NOTES, AND ATTENDING CLASS, students are expected to study and think about the material to which they are exposed and to be prepared to write on and discuss the subject examined.

11. OUT-OF-CLASS RESEARCH PROJECTS: Each student must complete each of the following two projects.

    1: Each member of the class is required to read one scholarly article on a subject pertinent to this class. The article read must be at a minimum 10 pages in length. By February 10 each student must submit in writing a full bibliographical citation (including author, title of article, name of journal, inclusive pages, volume number, and date of publication) of two articles that are of interest and on a subject covered in this class. I will respond to these bibliographical citations indicating which one(s) is/are acceptable. Submission by e-mail is acceptable.
    On March 17 a
separate summary and analysis of the article may be submitted. The submission should be at least 1,500 words in length (6 to 8 pages), computer printed and double spaced. The article summary should distill out the message of the writer and present it in a concise form. The article analysis should evaluate and critique the article indicating thoughtful consideration of the author's message. This paper will count for 20% of the course grade. This initial submission date is optional. Those who meet this deadline will have the opportunity to revise their paper if they choose to do so. A second and final submission date is April 5A very productive place to begin a search for appropriate articles is in the footnotes at the end of each chapter in the Baum book.

    2. There is on the Internet a site (OYEZ) at which one may hear the oral arguments that were presented before the Supreme Court in selected cases. This site may also be accessed through my web page (Supreme Court Oral Arguments). Each student is assigned the task of listening to one oral argument in its entirety (usually about one hour of listening time) and providing a written report on this argument.  The case chosen must be submitted in writing to me for approval by February 10.

This report shall be about 6 - 8 pages in length and include the following: (1) name of the case, (2) date of the oral argument, (3) name of the lawyers arguing the case, (4) a brief description of the crux of the case, (5) a summary of the main points made in the oral argument by each attorney along with comments and questions from the Justices, and (6) a thoughtful description of your impression of what you heard making sure to comment on what aspects of the lawyers' presentation was effective or ineffective. This assignment will constitute 20% of your course grade. 

Those students wishing to have to opportunity to submit a revised version of their paper(s) may do by submitting their assignments initially on March 17.  If a revised paper is then submitted on the April 5 due date, the revised paper(s) will then be re-evaluated, critiqued and graded with this grade substituting for the one assigned for the original paper. This resubmission is an option and not a requirement but is available only to those who meet the March 17 deadline.   Late papers will be heavily penalized as will papers with technical errors, superficial and/or careless summaries and analyses.

The initial bibliographical submission and my approval of it must be attached to the final paper(s).  A copy of the article reviewed must also be attached to the final paper. Plagiarism will result in a fail for the course as well as severe disciplinary action.   If a resubmission is done, the early submission and all required attachments must also be included.

Each member of the class will prepare a one
page synopsis describing what he/she knows now as a result of the project that was not known previously. One copy will be given to each member of the class on April 21. It is your responsibility to provide enough copies for each member of the class.  This will serve as the reading assignment for the final two class meetings at which times member of the class will describe their out-of-class projects in an informal and non-threatening format. This will be an open class discussion and not a formal presentation.   

12. PROCEDURAL QUALITY REQUIREMENTS: As a general rule, technical errors (i.e. typographical mistakes, misspellings, sloppy erasures, sentence fragments, etc.) totaling in number an amount greater than the number of pages in the paper, will result in grade penalties that become more severe as their frequency increases.   Moreover, papers which deviate significantly from acceptable form (i.e., incorrect or missing footnotes, incorrect or missing bibliography, incorrect or missing table of contents, etc.) will likewise be penalized. Proper form may be gleaned from a careful review and use of Kate Turbian's A Manual For Writers of Term Papers, the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, or other commonly used form guide.

13. CONTENT QUALITY REQUIREMENTS: Regardless of the option chosen each out-of-class project must contain information that indicates thoughtful consideration of the subject under examination. Well organized structure, focused discussion, clarity of message and reasoned evaluations will all enhance the paper's value.

14. USE OF THE INTERNET: You are encouraged to use the Internet and to locate and access material suitable for the out-of-class assignments. A useful place to start is my web-page. It contains numerous links to useful web sites of a political nature. I also encourage you to locate any new web sites that other students of politics might fine helpful and interesting. When appropriate I will add them to my web page with proper acknowledgment to the student who found it/them.

15.  COMPUTER USE IN CLASS: Any student wishing to use a computer in class needs to speak with me regarding this request. It is required that in-class utilization of the computer will be limited exclusively to class related matters: taking notes or accessing material related to subjects under scrutiny in class. Utilization of the computer for communication purposes or accessing of material unrelated to the class is prohibited and may result in the loss of in-class computer access privileges.

16.  E-MAIL UTILIZATION:  I will communicate by e-mail frequently with individual members of the class as well as the class as a whole.  To this end each member of the class needs to provide me with his or her e-mail addresses.  I will gather e-mail addresses in class.  It is expected that each member of the class will check his or her e-mail messages daily.

17.  ACADEMIC INTEGRITY:  It is expected that students will act honorably in all activities related to this course and will refrain from any form of academic and professional dishonesty or deception in the classroom, clinical, and other learning settings. These behaviors include cheating, plagiarism, falsification of data, falsification of records, and aiding and/or abetting dishonesty.  The Dean of the College has asked that the following language be added to course syllabi:

"Consistent with the College's Academic Integrity Policy, I will report all violations of this course's academic integrity policy to the Dean's office. Students who have committed multiple instances of academic dishonesty can be subject to institutional penalties like probation, suspension, or expulsion, in addition to the penalties for this course. The Academic Integrity policy is described in the Bulletin; detailed information about the policy and the appeals process can be found in the Dean's office."

18.    ACCOMMODATION OF DISABILITIESFor information regarding Regis disability services policies, visit the web site of the Office of Disability Services.

19.  COURSE WITHDRAWAL POLICY:  Students are expected to know and observe the published deadlines for (a) dropping the course and (b) withdrawing from the course. These deadlines are published on the University's Academic Calendar, which is available in the Bulletin, the course schedule and is in the Dean's Office.  THESE DEADLINES ARE NOT FLEXIBLE.


Semester Schedule


(Highlighted Link is Assigned Reading)

1/20 Course Introduction

1/25 & 1/27  Overview of U.S. Courts (Ch. 1) Federalist #78; Introduction to U.S. Legal System)

2/1 & 2/3 Court Organization (Ch. 2) Changes

 2/8 & 2/10  Lawyers (Ch. 3 & Civil v. Common Law Systems)

2/15 & 2/17  Judicial Selection (Ch. 4)

 2/22 Examination #1

2/24  Judicial Decision Making  and Players in the Process (Ch. 5)

3/1 & 3/3  Criminal Proceedings (Ch. 6) & The Criminal Court Process

3/15 & 3/17   Civil Proceedings  (Ch. 7) & The Civil Court Process

3/22 & 3/24  Appellate Court Proceedings (Ch. 8)

3/29 Examination #2

3/31 Appellate Decision Impact  (Ch. 9)

4/5 & 4/7  Overview of Supreme Court 

4/12 Supreme Court Appointments (CRS Report) and Possible Supreme Court Nominees of President Obama

4/14  Setting the Court's Agenda

4/19  Making Decisions  (Influence of Clerkspp. 23-25)

4/21  Interest Group Litigation & Supreme Court Policies

4/26 & 4/28  Student Reports

5/3 Examination #3, Monday, 1:15 - 3:15