Term Paper: Political Science Annotated Bibliography

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[. . .] ..encourage attention to sister state rulings." This, Latzer calls, "Horizontal federalism," which infers that there is a state-to-state "state law movement"; and no conservative elements in states oppose state constitutional rulings - "so long as they favor the state."

Harry P. Stumpf & John H. Culver - The Politics of State Courts

In their book, Stumpf and Culver grab a reader's attention by offering some interesting statistics about the public and the courts (Stumpf and Culver 1992, 2); for example, 54% of Americans in a poll knew who "Judge Wapner" was, but only 9% of those surveyed "could identify William Rehnquist" as the Supreme Court's chief justice; and of the 98 million cases filed in court in the U.S. In 1988, "99.7% were filed in state and local courts." And further, to give clout to the idea that state courts wield enormous power, they add facts like, for each federal trial judge there are 13 state trial judges; for every federal court of any stripe there exist 150 state courts; and, of the "$61 billion spend in fiscal year 1988 by governments at all levels for civil and criminal 'justice activities'," local and state governments shelled out $54 billion - or 88% of the $61 billion (Stumpf and Culver 1992, 3).

Echoing the views of Slotnick, Ferejohn, and to a degree, Abraham, Stumpf and Culver assert that "policy-making" by judges is "unavoidable," and further, courts "and judges are seen not in legal isolation nor as separate from politics but inevitably and inextricably part of the larger political process" (p. 5). But more salient to their points about local courts, is their description of "Judicial Federalism" (Stumpf and Culver 1992, 9): "two separate judicial systems, one federal and the other at the state level." And for state laws, which only apply within their borders, those laws still must "fall within the umbrella of rights and powers" which the Constitution spells out.

Henry J. Abraham - Chapter One, The Judicial Process

Though law is "the expressed will of those who rule society," Abraham writes (page 1) in his introduction to law, the views and interpretations "are buffeted by the winds of change through the years." Having said that, Abraham then offers the most down-to-earth definition of law in action in a democracy that one is likely to hear (p. 1): "...The quality of justice depends more on the quality of the [persons] who administer the law than on the content of the law they administer."

Within the context of "positive law" (Abraham 1998, 43), there are 3 categories: primitive law (ancient and custom-based); archaic law (some crude courts and statutes); and mature law (the professional precursor to today's sophisticated law). "Natural law" is thought of, Abraham writes, as "higher law" or the "law of nature" (p. 4).

Further describing laws as they apply to modern society, Abraham on page 5 points out that "statutory law" is created by the political dynamic, and "common law" is created by judges through their decisions. "Civil law" governs the relations between private individuals and private organizations (p. 18), while "criminal law" is brought to bear by a governmental entity when there has been a crime against "the public order."

Structure of the Courts

Henry J. Abraham - Chapter Three: Courts, Courtrooms, and Juries

Trial courts are where cases are "tried" and where judges or juries rule either for the plaintiff or the defendant, based on the evidence presented by both sides. Appellate courts - or a court of "appeals" - on the other hand, "provide a forum for review of decisions rendered in trial court," Abraham explains on page 102. Except for the "compulsory evacuation" of 112,000 Japanese-Americans from their homes to internment camps on the West coast during WWII - none of whom had been accused of anything, let alone sabotage or spying - Abraham writes (p. 104) that "innocent until proved guilty" is a tenet that has quite well stood the test of time as "a cornerstone of Anglo-Saxon justice."

How is a grand jury different from a trial jury? Abraham (p. 111) succinctly points out that a grand jury "merely determines whether or not...sufficient evidence exists...to justify a trial on criminal charges." Abraham (p. 129) explains that the procedure for selecting juries - "jury consulting" - has become "not only an art, but a game," albeit the recent Hollywood film, "Runaway Jury," starring Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman, won't be shown in law school anytime soon as an example of how to use consultants to select a jury; indeed, the film takes the "art" of jury selection to an extreme level of corruption.

Tim O'Brien - the Best kept secrets of the judiciary

ABC News reporter Tim O'Brien has written an article in the Slotnick text (O'Brien 1990, 525), which has ingredients of the Stumpf and Culver views: Americans don't know much about their legal system. "...Much of what they think they know is incorrect," O'Brien writes. He alludes to a 1983 survey in which half the respondents believed that in a criminal trial, "it is up to the accused to prove his innocence" (O'Brien 1990, 526).

O'Brien adds to that sad fact that half of those ill-informed citizens above had actually served on a jury - and he further mentions that 50% of those polled believed that "when a criminal defendant is acquitted, the state can appeal" (p. 526); and 45% believed the job of the district attorney was to "defend accused criminals" who are poor and cannot pay for their own attorney.

O'Brien has a two-part plan, though, to educate Americans about their courts. Schools - namely high schools - should teach courses in "how the legal system works," he offers (p. 527), and that effort should be led by state bar associations. And secondly, the courts "should try to use the media to their own advantage...it's the American way," he states.

Charles H. Franklin & Liane C. Kosaki: Media, Knowledge, and Public Evaluations

Tim O'Brien isn't the only writer concerned about pubic ignorance - or is it apathy? Indifference? Ignorance? Antipathy? - towards the courts. Franklin and Kosaki offer some perspective on why citizens know so little about the U.S. Supreme Court. For one, "many of the cases that the court decides are virtually invisible in the mass media" (Franklin and Kosaki 1995, 352), they write. Indeed, they cite the 144 cases handed down by the Court in 1989 - of which only 35 of them, or 24%, "received any network television news coverage, and only 16, or 11%, were featured on all three major news networks" at that time. For another reason, the nuts and bolts substance of many Court decisions are "frequently beyond" the intellectual abilities of average individuals. Also, many Supreme Court cases are "complex and hence difficult to understand" (p. 352).

In order to get a better grasp of just how much or how little coverage the three branches of government receive, Franklin and Kosaki conducted a study of new coverage of the presidency, Congress, and the Supreme Court, from January 1989, through July 1990. No surprises were revealed in this study: the presidency received 3,566 stories; Congress garnered 1,754 stories, and bringing up the rear was the Supreme Court, with a paltry 429 news stories (p. 356). Of course, in fairness, the Court's actions are "highly episodic and mostly private," but still, since the Court's decisions effect all Americans, there should be a concerted effort on the part of schools, the media, and the Court, to educate people so they actually take an interest in how this pivotal pillar of justice functions.

Trial Courts - Peter W. Sperlich, pp. 244-289

Is the savings realized through the reduction in the number of jurors - from 12 to 6 - and the reduction of jury fees, worth the tremendous task it would entail to institute such reforms across the board and across the nation? The fact is, according to Peter W. Sperlich (Sperlich 1980, 244), that the Supreme Court has already long ago ruled that states may reduce jury size to six, and abolish the unanimous verdict. "The...literature on jury reform," Sperlich writes, "almost without exception presents expected financial savings as a justification for reducing the size of the jury" (p. 244). How much savings is involved? In fiscal year 1970, there were 3,371 civil jury trials in the federal court system, and the total days these trials took was 10,701, and figuring 12-member juries, that math adds up to a total of 128,512 "juror days." And so, cut the juror days in half because of 6 rather than a dozen jurors, and multiply that by $25 - the approximate savings by having 6 jurors, and Sperlich comes up with savings of $1,600,000.

That doesn't seem like much when one looks at the current Bush Administration policies, giving $30 million to an "informant" to learn the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein's sons, or the Administration handing out $1.7 billion no-bid contracts to Halliburton to… [END OF PREVIEW]

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