Chapter 15 Law In America-PDF Free Download

Chapter 15 Law in America

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This chapter will explain how civil and criminal laws work to protect you and resolve conflicts in everyday life. To learn more about civil and criminal law and how they af-fect you, view the Democracy in Action Chapter 15 video lesson: The Law and You Chapter Overview Visit the United States Government: Democracy in Action Web site



Section 1
Sources of American Law
T
he set of rules and standards by which a
Reader s Guide society governs itself is known as law Law
Key Terms defines the individual s rights and obliga
tions and specifies the ways citizens and
law constitutional law statute ordinance statuto
ry law administrative law common law equity due
government relate to each other Law serves sever
process substantive due process procedural due al functions in our society It is used to resolve con
process adversary system presumed innocence flict protect rights limit government promote
general welfare set social goals and control crime
Find Out Laws affect nearly everything we do the food
What are the four major sources of law in the we eat how we drive our cars how we buy and sell
United States things and even what happens when we are born and
How do the key principles of the legal system when we die Laws establish rules of the game in
provide justice for citizens business in our personal lives and in politics They
Understanding Concepts can also help us resolve and even avoid conflicts
While so many laws might seem to limit our
Civic Participation Why is understanding the law
an important civic responsibility freedom laws also guarantee our individual liber
ties Indeed the rule of law is the principle that
both the government and its citizens should be
subject to law and that no person is above the law
regardless of his or her position This principle is a
Famous Lawmaker Dies 1750 B C
hallmark of democratic societies because it means
government decisions and actions should be made
BABYLON MESOPOTAMIA according to established laws rather than by arbi
trary actions and decrees
ammurabi who united
H Mesopotamia s tribes
under one rule is dead
As Early Systems of Law
be be st rem em
king he will The earliest known written laws or rules
his de cre es on
bered for were based on practices in tribal societies
s of life He de
many aspect The most well known of these was the Code of
tes inv olv ing
cided dispu Hammurabi 1 a collection of laws assembled by
re
trade and business family Hammurabi king of Babylonia from 1792 to
mi na l off en ses
lations cri 1750 B C This code was made up of 282 legal
an d ass au lt an d
such as theft cases that spelled out relationships among indi
su ch as sla ver y
civil matters viduals as well as punishments in areas that we
rec en t yea rs 28 2
and debt In Ancient tablet would now call property law family law civil
gs we re rec ord
of these rulin depicts King law and criminal law
tem
ed on stone slabs in the Hammurabi
such Another early set of written laws that has influ
ple Some requirements
trial enced our legal system is the Ten Commandments
as an eye for an eye and h
rel y co nti nu e common practices Ot
by ordeal me ge
feuds and private reven
ers such as bans on blood
by some Babylonians See the following footnoted materials in the Reference
are considered advanced Handbook
1 The Code of Hammurabi pages 800 801

County courthouse in Rutland Vermont CHAPTER 15 LAW IN AMERICA 423
found in the Bible The Bible served as the source of our basic rights The Constitution applies to all
law for the Hebrews living in ancient Palestine Ac Americans and is the supreme law of the land the
cording to Christians and Jews who believe in the standard against which all other laws are judged
Old Testament Moses received the Command Both federal and state courts apply or use provi
ments from God on Mount Sinai in the thirteenth sions of the U S Constitution to make decisions
century B C The Commandments proclaim moral State constitutions were the first written con
rules instructing people on how they should be stitutions in the United States Eleven of the origi
have toward one another The Commandment nal 13 states adopted written constitutions between
Thou shalt not steal is reflected in our laws today 1776 and 1780 These constitutions spell out gov
ernmental arrangements in the states and the rights
of citizens that are protected from interference by
Our Legal Heritage state governments Because state constitutions are
The laws that govern our lives and protect easier to amend than the United States Constitu
our rights are commonly known as consti tion they reflect shifting popular concerns more
tutional law statutory law administrative law readily State constitutions sometimes set forth
common law and equity These laws come from rights not mentioned in the U S Constitution
several sources including state and federal consti State courts decide cases involving state con
tutions lawmaking bodies administrative agen stitutions State court systems usually adopt the
cies and court decisions U S Supreme Court s rulings on the U S Consti
tution as a guide to interpreting their own consti
Constitutional Law The Constitution is the tutions but they do not have to Some state courts
most fundamental and important source of law in have ruled that their constitutions protect the
the United States The Constitution establishes our right to privacy even though the U S Constitution
country as a representative democracy outlines does not State court rulings on their own consti
the structure of our government and sets forth tutions may be appealed to the U S Supreme
Court if it is claimed that the state
constitution or state court violates the
Virginia s Constitutional Convention U S Constitution In the end the U S
Supreme Court has the final word on
the meaning of the U S Constitution
The term constitutional law ap
plies to that branch of the law dealing
with the formation construction
and interpretation of constitutions
For the most part cases involving
constitutional law decide the limits of
the government s power and the
rights of the individual Day to day
decisions by the president Congress
and other public officials often in
volve interpreting the meaning of the
Constitution and thus can shape con
stitutional law However the deci
sions of courts especially the U S
Supreme Court are the main sources
of information about the meaning
State Constitutions Artist George Catlin depicted the and interpretation of the U S Consti
delegates involved in creating Virginia s constitution in 1829
Catlin titled his painting Last Meeting of the Giants Why is tution and state constitutions Con
a constitution necessary at the state level stitutional law cases may deal either
with civil law or criminal law
424 CHAPTER 15 LAW IN AMERICA
Statutory Law Another source of American
law is statutory law A statute is a law written
by a legislative branch of government The
United States Congress state legislatures and
local legislative bodies write thousands of these
laws Statutes passed by city councils are called
ordinances
Statutes may limit citizens behavior when for
instance they set speed limits specify rules for in
Loopy Laws Justice is blind and
sometimes strange Some actual state laws
specting food products or set the minimum age to
and local statutes might make you wonder In
obtain a work permit Statutes are also the source
Alabama you may not have an ice cream
of many of the rights and benefits we take for
cone in your back pocket People in Boston
granted such as the right to get a Social Security
are not allowed to eat peanuts
check to enter a veterans hospital to get a driver s
in church Residents of Idaho
license to check your credit record or return mer
may not fish from the back of a
chandise you have bought but do not like
giraffe Yamhill Oregon
Most decisions of federal courts deal with
prohibits people from
statutory law and many of the cases decided by
predicting the future
the Supreme Court are devoted to interpreting
statutory laws In most of these cases the courts
determine what a statute means or whether it
deprives a person of a constitutional right when it the Canadian province of Quebec once French
is carried out colonies have a system of laws based on the
Statutory law is sometimes called Roman Napoleonic Code
law because it is based on an approach to mak
ing laws derived from the ancient Romans The Administrative Law A significant feature of
plebeians or the common people of Rome first local state and national government in America
demanded that the laws of Rome be written down today is the large number of administrative agen
so that everyone might know and understand cies that run government programs and provide
them In about 450 B C the government of Rome services These agencies range in size and power
published its laws on 12 tablets Over the next from the huge Social Security Administration to
thousand years as the Roman Empire spread the Food and Nutrition Service Administrative
across Europe to Egypt Roman leaders kept law spells out the authority and procedures to be
adding to these written codes until Roman law followed by these agencies as well as the rules and
became very complex In the A D 530s the Roman regulations issued by such agencies Since the
emperor Justinian had scholars reorganize and Great Depression in the 1930s law in the United
simplify all the laws into a final Roman legal code States has been increasingly made through admin
called the Justinian Code istrative agencies One legal scholar has stated
This codification of all its written laws was one Law promulgated by the agencies now occupies
of Rome s greatest contributions to civilization an importance equal to statutory law in regulating
Many countries today have legal systems based on every aspect of American society
written codes of law that contain ideas from the Many administrative law cases deal with
Justinian Code The most important of these was problems of fairness and due process because
the Napoleonic Code created in 1804 by the most administrative agencies either regulate peo
French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte Napoleon s ple s behavior or provide or deny government
updated version of the Justinian Code is still in benefits such as welfare payments or medical
force in France today and became the model for insurance Thus disputes constantly arise over
the legal systems of many other European coun whether agencies have acted fairly and given
tries parts of Africa most of Latin America and of people the opportunity to present facts relevant
Japan In addition both the state of Louisiana and to their case
CHAPTER 15 LAW IN AMERICA 425
Common Law The single most important basis choose what parts of English law would remain in
of the American legal system is common law also force While many states attempted to resist the in
called case law This is law made by judges in the fluence of English law common law remained in
process of resolving individual cases force throughout the nation For example the
Common law originated in England In the Delaware constitution of 1776 provided that The
eleventh century English monarchs sent judges common law of England as well as so much of the
across the land to hold trials and administer the statute law shall remain in force State constitu
law Judges began to record the facts of the cases tions today and the federal Constitution are worded
and their decisions in yearbooks Over time judges in legal terms reflecting English common law The
began to compare the facts and rulings from earli practice of common law continues across the Unit
er cases to new cases When a new case was similar ed States today except in Louisiana where legal pro
to cases already decided and in the books the cedures based on the Napoleonic Code persist
judges followed the earlier ruling or precedent
This was the origin of stare decisis literally let the Equity Equity is a system of rules by which dis
decision stand a basic principle used by the U S putes are resolved on the grounds of fairness The
Supreme Court today In cases without precedent principle of equity developed in medieval times as
judges decided using common sense and customs a rival to common law The office of a royal official
creating precedent for future cases the chancellor became a court This court which
represented the king s conscience developed the
Common Law in America The English theory of equity Its remedies were much different
colonists used common law in America Legal from those of common law An equity court could
training in the colonies was greatly assisted by the require an action beyond the payment of money or
publication between 1765 and 1769 of William even stop a wrong before it occurred For example
Blackstone s four volume compilation of the vast an equity court could issue an injunction see page
body of English common law Commentaries on the 433 to prevent an action such as a neighbor build
Laws of England Thomas Jefferson studied the ing a fence across your property In nineteenth
Commentaries as a young lawyer as did other legal century America equity and common law merged
scholars After the Revolution Americans had to Today a single court can administer both systems
Choosing a Lawyer to a competent attorney The
attorney referral services list
eing sued or having to sign a document you ed in the Yellow Pages are
B do not completely understand these are
just two reasons that you might need a
lawyer Some lawyers are general practitioners
usually businesses that some
attorneys pay for referrals
If possible talk with two
or more attorneys before hir Searching an
Others specialize in certain areas such as person
ing your attorney Many offer online law
al injury divorce or criminal law Look for an attor
ney who handles the kind of problem you have a first meeting for free directory
The best way to find a lawyer is to talk with rel
atives and friends who have used lawyers If their articipating
legal problems were similar to yours see if they IN GOVERNMENT ACTIVITY
would recommend their lawyer Another good
source is the Martindale Hubbell Law Directory Make a List Create an imaginary situation which
found in every courthouse library This book lists would require you to hire a lawyer Prepare a list
nearly every lawyer in the United States by special of topics and questions that you would want to
ty Your county bar association can also refer you discuss during your first meeting with a lawyer
426 CHAPTER 15 LAW IN AMERICA
A Constitutional Choice
Constitutional Rights
Parents and students are
guaranteed a choice between
public and private schools
because of substantive due
process Here a student
completes an art class
project at Tabor Academy
a private school in Marion
Massachusetts How is
substantive due process
different from procedural
due process
Legal System Principles part and a procedural part Substantive due
process is a kind of shorthand for certain rights
Four basic principles underlie the operation some that are specified in the Constitution like
of both federal and state courts and the ac free speech and some that are not specified like
tions of the thousands of men and women who the right of privacy in making personal decisions
serve in the American legal system These princi The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments contain
ples include equal justice under the law due the due process principle
process of law the adversary system of justice and Examples of laws that the Supreme Court has
the presumption of innocence found to violate substantive due process include
1 a law that limits dwellings to single families
Equal Justice Under the Law The phrase thus preventing grandparents from living with
equal justice under the law refers to the goal of their grandchildren 2 a school board regulation
the American court system to treat all persons that prevents a female teacher from returning to
alike It means that every person regardless of work sooner than three months after the birth of
wealth social status ethnic group gender or age is her child and 3 a law that requires all children to
entitled to the full protection of the law The equal attend public schools and does not permit them to
justice principle grants all Americans rights such attend private schools
as the right to a trial by a jury of one s peers The Cases about the way a law is administered in
Fifth through the Eighth Amendments to the Con volve procedural due process Procedural due
stitution spell out these specific guarantees process prohibits arbitrary enforcement of the law
It also provides safeguards intended to ensure that
Due Process of Law Closely related to the constitutional and statutory rights are protected by
principle of equal justice is the principle of due law enforcement At the most basic level proce
process of law Due process has both a substantive dural due process requires 1 notice to a person
CHAPTER 15 LAW IN AMERICA 427
The Adversary System American courts op
erate according to the adversary system of justice
Under the current adversary system the court
room is a kind of arena in which lawyers for the
opposing sides try to present their strongest cases
The lawyer for each side is generally expected to do
all that is legally permissible to advance the cause
of his or her client The judge in the court has an
impartial role and should be as fair to both sides as
possible especially in implementing the essence of
the law
Some observers of the judicial system have at
tacked the adversary system They have claimed
that it encourages lawyers to ignore evidence not
favorable to their sides and to be more concerned
about victory than justice Supporters of the ad
versary system on the other hand maintain that
the system is the best way to bring out the facts of
a case
Protecting all Americans This police officer Presumption of Innocence In the United
reads a suspect his rights Proper procedures must States system of justice the government s police
be followed when police arrest and the courts try power is balanced against the presumption that a
suspected offenders Why should the rights of person although accused is innocent until proven
people who may be criminals be protected guilty The notion of presumed innocence is not
mentioned in the Constitution but it is deeply
rooted in the English legal heritage The burden of
that he or she has done something wrong and that proving an accusation against a defendant falls on
the government intends to take specific action that the prosecution The defendant does not have to
will affect the person and 2 giving the affected prove his or her innocence Unless the prosecution
person the right to respond or be heard concern succeeds in proving the accusation the court must
ing the accusation of wrongdoing declare the defendant not guilty
Sect ion 1 Assessment
Checking for Understanding Critical Thinking
1 Main Idea In a graphic organizer identify the major 4 Identifying Alternatives Permitting rental agen
sources of American law and the key principles of cies to refuse to rent apartments to families with
the American legal system children would violate what kind of due process
Sources American Principles
Law
2 Define law constitutional law statute ordinance
statutory law administrative law common law
equity due process substantive due process Civic Participation Laws affect nearly everything
procedural due process adversary system people do Laws change to meet the needs of the
presumed innocence times Work with a partner to either brainstorm
3 Identify Code of Hammurabi Justinian Code new laws or identify laws that should be repealed
precedent equal justice under the law Create and present a skit showing a situation
that requires a new law to be established or an
existing law to be repealed
428 CHAPTER 15 LAW IN AMERICA
Thompson v
Oklahoma 1988
Nearly every state treats
CASES TO DEBATE people under the age of 16
as minors Minors for in
stance cannot drive or get married without their parents consent nor can
they vote or serve on a jury Can a person convicted of committing murder
when he was 15 years old be given the death penalty The Court answered Protesting the
this question in the case of Thompson v Oklahoma death penalty
the meaning of the Constitution in terms of whether
Background of the Case it thought American society would consider such
punishment acceptable to standards of common
In January 1983 15 year old William Wayne decency Would modern society approve of the
Thompson along with three older persons actively death penalty for a minor who committed murder
participated in the brutal murder of his former broth The Court found that 14 states did not autho
er in law Because Thompson was a child under rize capital punishment at all and 19 others that
Oklahoma law the district attorney filed a petition approved the death penalty including Oklahoma
requesting that Thompson be tried as an adult Each set no minimum age However there were 18
of the four was found guilty and sentenced to states that had set a minimum age of 16 in death
death Thompson s sentence was appealed on the penalty cases Further the American Bar Associa
grounds that his execution would violate the Eighth tion had formally expressed its opposition to the
Amendment s ban on cruel and unusual punish death penalty for minors
ments because he was only 15 years old at the The Court also considered the verdicts of juries
time of his offense An appeals court upheld the in relevant cases The justices found that about
conviction and sentence 18 to 20 people under the age of 16 had been
executed in the United States up to 1948 but
The Constitutional Issue that no such executions had taken place since
that time In a recent period from 1982 to 1986
Because the Constitution provides no clear 1 393 persons had been sentenced to death
guidance as to the meaning of cruel and unusual but only 5 were younger than 16 at the time of
punishments for minors the Court would interpret their offense
Debating the Case
Questions to Consider You Be the Judge
1 Does the evidence suggest that Americans ac The question confronting the Court was
cept the death penalty for minors whether the youth of the defendant is a suffi
2 Are the differences between minors and older cient reason for denying the State the power to sen
persons significant enough to justify holding mi tence him to death Did the evidence from existing
nors to a different legal standard than adults state laws the behavior of juries toward minors
3 Does the constitutional ban on cruel and unusu and the very nature of childhood provide sufficient
al punishments prohibit the death penalty for reason to sentence people to death for crimes they
people under age 16 at the time of their crime committed as minors
429
Section 2
Civil Law
C
ivil law concerns disputes among two or
Reader s Guide more individuals or between individuals
Key Terms and the government Civil cases arise be
cause one party believes it has suffered
civil law contract expressed contract implied
contract real property personal property
an injury at the hands of another party or wants to
mortgage tort plaintiff defendant injunction prevent a harmful action from taking place
complaint summons answer discovery
mediation affidavit
Types of Civil Law
Find Out Civil law touches nearly every phase of daily
What are the various types of civil law that life from buying a house to getting mar
affect people today ried About 90 percent of the cases heard in state
What are the steps in a civil law case courts concern civil laws Four of the most impor
Understanding Concepts tant branches or types of civil law deal with con
tracts property family relations and civil wrongs
Political Processes How does the legal system
attempt to provide justice for all causing physical injury or injury to property called
torts
Contracts A contract is a set of voluntary
promises enforceable by the law between
Record Holder Sues
parties who agree to do or not do something
We enter into contracts all the time when we
Wins Millions
join a health club buy a car with credit get
married or agree to do a job for someone In an
ER 14 1992 expressed contract the terms are specifically
COLUMBUS OHIO DECEMB stated by the parties usually in writing An
ederal judge Joseph implied contract is one in which the terms
F Kinneary has ordered
the International Am
a
are not expressly stated but can be inferred
from the actions of the people involved and
teur Athletic Fe de rat ion the circumstances
to pay local runner Butch A valid contract has several characteristics
l
Reynolds nearly 28 mi All parties to a contract must be mentally com
lion Reynolds wh o ho lds petent and in most cases must be legal age
0
the world record at 40 adults The contract cannot involve doing or
meters sued the IA AF selling anything illegal The contract s elements
after it suspended him must include an offer acceptance and in most
Butch Reynolds
from competition in 1990 cases a consideration
n
alleging steroid use Whe An offer is a promise that something will
ow ed Re ynolds to compete in the
a court order all ex or will not happen For instance the auto shop
the IAAF responded by
Olympic trials last June ru led that the or says it will repair your smashed bumper for
Kinneary
tending his suspension Re yn old s 500 One party to a contract must then accept
lice toward
ganization acted with ma the offer made by the other party If you agree
in writing or orally to have the bumper fixed
430 CHAPTER 15 LAW IN AMERICA
this constitutes the acceptance Finally the parties dealing with real property For example the feder
must give some type of consideration They must al Fair Housing Act aims to protect people against
give exchange perform or promise each other discrimination on the basis of race religion color
something of value such as a refinished bumper in national origin or gender when they try to buy the
return for 500 A very large number of civil suits home they want or obtain a loan
involve disagreements over contracts
Family Law Another branch of civil law deals
Property Law An important type of civil law with the relationships among family members
deals with the use and ownership of property The This includes marriage divorce and parent child
ability of private individuals to own buy and sell relationships including child custody issues
property is one feature of a democratic society In seventeenth century England family law was
Real property has been defined by the courts to be strongly influenced by religious law In the United
land and whatever is attached to or growing on it States there was no established state religion so
such as houses and trees Personal property in family law developed outside the church Each state
cludes movable things like clothes or jewelry as developed its individual family law For example in
well as intangible items like stocks bonds copy America marriage became a civil contract Two
rights or patents forms of marriage existed in nineteenth century
Many kinds of legal disputes arise over using America the civil ceremony and the common law
owning buying and selling property Owners of marriage Because many people lived outside the
buildings for example may fail to repair them cities and there was a shortage of clergy many mar
or may try to discriminate against others when riages were simple makeshift ceremonies without
renting or selling For many Americans buying a official sanction The law nevertheless tended to
house is the biggest financial investment they will recognize these common law marriages as valid
ever make This usually involves obtaining a mort Today marriage is a civil contract entered into
gage a loan to pay for the house as well as a by both parties Divorce legally ends a marriage
deed title and insurance Both state governments and leaves both parties free to remarry Legal dis
and the federal government have passed many laws putes involving such domestic relations account
Buying a Home
Open Housing Property
laws prohibit discrimination
in the sale and rental of
housing on the basis of
race religion handicap
family status or nationality
What is the difference
between personal property
and real property
CHAPTER 15 LAW IN AMERICA 431
A Heritage of Legal Codes

Past A medieval English chancellor followed
law codes which might have permitted a cred
itor to seize a debtor s property and have the
person imprisoned for failure to pay a debt
Present Today judges like J Manuel
Banales in Corpus Christi Texas also follow
law codes however punishments for offens
es differ from those of earlier times

Laws Through
the Ages
How might the
failure to pay a
debt be dealt
with today
for a large number of civil cases in state courts industrial hazards Today some would argue that
Family law is changing rapidly as the meaning of courts are more likely to favor workers claiming
family changes in American society injury
There are two major categories of torts An in
Torts or Civil Wrongs A tort is any wrongful tentional tort involves a deliberate act that results
act other than breach of contract for which the in harm to a person or property The person com
injured party has the right to sue for damages in a mitting the act may have obviously sought to hurt
civil court Those responsible for damage caused someone for instance by hitting them or spread
to someone s property such as breaking a window ing lies about them Assault and battery and
or for injury to someone caused by negligence defamation of character are examples Or the per
such as failing to clear ice from the sidewalk may son may be liable for doing harm even if his or
be sued by the party suffering the damage or in her actions such as playing a practical joke that
jury Further the wronged party may sometimes unintentionally results in an injury seemed inno
seek punitive damages additional money as a cent at the time
way to punish the party causing the injury Negligence is another kind of tort involving
Tort law was an insignificant branch of law careless or reckless behavior A person is negligent
before the Industrial Revolution Almost every when he or she fails to do something a reasonable
leading case in the late 1800s was connected with person would have done or does something a
railroads Courts hesitated to award damages to prudent person would not have done Leaving a
injured workers because they feared such awards sharp kitchen knife where small children could
would hurt business enterprises By the 1900s easily reach it and not having the brakes checked
however the state and federal governments on an old car with high mileage are examples of
began to issue safety regulations for industry negligence that could result in legal liability if
and courts established a doctrine of liability for someone is injured
432 CHAPTER 15 LAW IN AMERICA
Steps in a Civil Case Filing the Complaint Most suits go to state
courts unless they involve the Constitution or a
Civil cases are called lawsuits The plaintiff federal statute or regulation The plaintiff sets
is the person who brings charges in a law forth the charges against the defendant in a com
suit called the complaint The person against plaint a legal document filed with the court that
whom the suit is brought is the defendant The has jurisdiction over the problem The complaint
plaintiff in a civil suit usually seeks damages an tells the defendant what is at issue that is what
award of money from the defendant If the court the defendant allegedly did wrong so that a de
decides in favor of the plaintiff the defendant must fense can be mounted The defendant receives a
pay the damages to the plaintiff Usually the defen summons an official notice of the lawsuit that in
dant is also required to pay court costs If the court cludes the date time and place of the initial court
decides in favor of the defendant the plaintiff appearance The defendant s lawyer may file a mo
must pay all the court costs and of course receives tion to dismiss asking the court to end the suit If
nothing from the defendant the court denies this motion the defendant must
In some lawsuits involving equity the plaintiff then file an answer or formal response to the
may ask the court to issue an injunction a court charges in the complaint within a certain time
order that forbids a defendant to take or continue usually 10 to 60 days Failure to answer means vic
a certain action For example suppose a company tory by default for the plaintiff The defendant may
plans to build a factory in the middle of a residen also respond by filing a counterclaim or lawsuit
tial area Citizens believe that the factory would against the plaintiff in which the defendant asserts
pollute the air They take the factory owner to that the plaintiff also did something wrong
court and argue that residents would suffer serious
health problems if the factory is constructed If the Pretrial Discovery The next step called
citizens win this suit in equity the judge issues an discovery occurs when both sides prepare for trial
injunction ordering the company not to build its by checking facts and gathering evidence to sup
factory port their case The attorneys and private investi
Lawsuits are the ultimate method to settle such gators in major cases may interview witnesses
disputes However lawsuits can be time consum examine records and photos and file motions
ing and expensive with no guarantee that the win against the other side This phase can be very ex
ner will readily collect any damages that may have pensive as well as time consuming In complicated
been awarded Lawsuits follow certain steps cases discovery may take months or even years
Hiring a Lawyer To
start a lawsuit a person
almost always needs a
lawyer Lawyers may work
for a contingency fee typ
ically one fifth to one half
of the total money won in
the lawsuit or they will
work for an hourly fee If
the plaintiff and attorney
agree to a contingency fee
no fee is paid if the plain
tiff loses the case The Suing for Damages
plaintiff however pays
for the costs of the suit Lawsuits in America Lawsuits involving major sums of money
often go to civil court where a jury hears them Do you think that
such as copying charges justice would be better served by relying more or less on juries
or fees for investigators or Explain your answer
special experts
CHAPTER 15 LAW IN AMERICA 433
America s Legal Heritage

Past American colonists continued to fol
low the British traditions of common law in
their early courts
Present Modern civil courts still use com
mon law principles in all states except
Louisiana

Civil Courtrooms
Why do you think
many common law
principles are still
in effect today
Resolution Without Trial Ninety percent of by a judge only or by a jury of 6 to 12 people The
all civil lawsuits are settled before trial through one plaintiff presents its side first followed by the de
of several techniques Either party in a lawsuit may fendant Both sides then summarize their cases
propose a settlement at any time including during and the judge or jury renders a verdict
the trial This often happens during the discovery
phase as costs mount and people become more The Award Because of the merging of common
willing to compromise Judges may encourage law and equity courts have many options in resolv
people to settle by calling a pretrial conference ing cases and judges have more power to adjust de
where the parties talk things over The court may cisions made by juries When the plaintiff wins the
also require or encourage the parties to settle their court awards damages injunctive relief or both In
dispute outside of court junctive relief stemming from equity is a court
During mediation each side is given the op order to prevent a future act The damages award
portunity to explain its side of the dispute and may be more or less than the plaintiff requested
must listen to the other side A trained mediator Occasionally the judge modifies a jury s award if it
conducts the sessions by acting as a neutral party seems out of line Even after the award the case may
and promoting open communication The media not be over The loser may appeal or refuse to pay
tor does not decide the issue the parties them damages If the defendant refuses to pay the plain
selves do that with the mediator s help The parties tiff must get a court order to enforce the payment of
may also agree to submit their dispute to arbitra damages in one of several ways such as taking
tion This process is conducted by a professional money out of the defendant s paycheck or seizing
arbitrator who acts somewhat like a judge by re and selling the defendant s assets
viewing evidence and deciding how the problem
will be settled The arbitrator s decision is usually
binding on all parties Small Claims Court
Most states today have provided an alterna
Trial If all else fails lawsuits eventually go to trial tive to the lengthy trial process by creating
although the courts are so crowded this may take small claims courts These courts hear civil cases
years Civil trials like criminal trials may be heard commonly dealing with collecting small debts
434 CHAPTER 15 LAW IN AMERICA
property damage landlord tenant disputes small
business problems and the like Cases are usually
heard by a judge and involve claims ranging up to
a maximum of 1 000 to 5 000 depending on the
state Plaintiffs with larger claims can waive the
amount of their claim that exceeds the dollar limit
and still use these courts but they cannot recover
more than the limit
Most of these courts have simple forms to
complete in order to file a complaint The forms ask
for the defendant s name and address a description
of the dispute and the amount of damages re
quested The defendant is given two to four weeks
to respond and a date for the case is set No lawyers
are required because the idea is to provide ordinary
people with a simple and inexpensive means of re
solving their disputes These courts usually charge
a 10 to 50 filing fee Plaintiffs bring evidence of
their claim to court and are asked to explain their Minor Lawsuits Small claims courts such as
case in nonlegal terms The evidence may include this one conduct proceedings in everyday language
testimony from witnesses or their affidavits writ and avoid technical legal terms Almost every state
ten statements to verify or prove statements of fact has a court that handles small claims What kinds
that have been signed by the witness under oath be of cases are heard in small claims courts
fore a magistrate or notary
A judge typically hears the case and gives a de
cision that is legally binding When a defendant plaintiff obtains a written order from the court
fails to appear for the hearing the plaintiff usual and then turns the order along with other infor
ly wins a default judgment for the amount of the mation about the defendant over to the police or
claim Winning is no guarantee of collecting If sheriff to enforce collection Usually such judg
the defendant is unwilling or unable to pay the ments are good for five years and may be renewed
Sect ion 2 Assessment
Checking for Understanding Critical Thinking
1 Main Idea Use a graphic 5 6 Drawing Conclusions In your opinion should
organizer like the one to the 4 mediation and arbitration be used to settle most
right to show the five steps 3 civil lawsuits in order to prevent overburdening
in a civil lawsuit 2 the court system
2 Define civil law contract 1
expressed contract implied contract real
property personal property mortgage tort plain
tiff defendant injunction complaint summons
answer discovery mediation affidavit Political Processes Interview relatives or a
3 Identify Fair Housing Act neighbor who has been involved in a lawsuit or
4 What do four of the most important branches in small claims court Find out the nature of the
of civil law deal with dispute and the way the lawsuit was resolved
5 What is the difference between intentional tort Make sure you get the individual s permission
and negligence tort before discussing the case in class Present a
brief documentary of your findings to the class
CHAPTER 15 LAW IN AMERICA 435
Understanding Cause and Effect
nderstanding cause and effect involves con
U sidering how or why an event occurred
A cause is the action or situation that
produces an event An effect is the result or
Causes
Crackdown on
truancy
Effects
A drop in
crime
consequence of an action or situation
Poor school Increased
Learning the Skill attendance potential to
commit crime
To identify cause and effect relationships
follow these steps
1 Identify two or more events or developments
2 Decide whether one event caused the other
Practicing the Skill
Look for clue words such as because led to On a separate piece of paper make a cause
brought about produced as a result of so that and effect diagram for each statement below
since and therefore 1 Under Hammurabi s code a son found guilty
3 Identify the outcomes of events of striking his father had his hand cut off
Making a graphic organizer can aid in under 2 As Roman law became more complex the
standing cause and effect Read the passage below task of interpreting it fell to a group of highly
and examine the graphic organizer that follows skilled lawyers called juris prudentes Since
that time the science of law has been known
as jurisprudence
Concern 3 Congress and state legislatures pass thousands
has been raised of laws every year and as the number of laws
over a disturbing grows more and more aspects of life become
issue the chronic regulated by government
truancy of stu
dents who have
been convicted of Application Activity
crimes Truancy
Read an account of a recent criminal or
appears to have
civil trial in your community as reported in
a direct impact
a local newspaper Determine at least one
on the crime rate Many cities reported a
drop of 50 percent or more in shoplifting
cause andApplication Activity
one effect of that event Show the
cause and effect relationship in a chart
daytime burglaries and other crimes in the
wake of crackdowns on truants In addition The Glencoe Skillbuilder
virtually all of the youths accused of violent Interactive Workbook Level 2
crimes had poor school attendance accord provides instruction and practice
ing to one judge in key social studies skills
436


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