For the first assignment, try these short questions involving legal research:
1. Please enter the correct citation for the Supreme Court case of Lamb against California, which was decided on January 7, 1963 and is recorded on page 234 of volume 371 in the United States Reporter. Lamb V. California, 371 U. S. 234 (1963).
2. Please list all of the courts whose decisions are binding upon the federal district court for the District of Massachusetts. Circuit Courts of Appeal, and the U.S. Supreme.
3. From the following sources of law within our legal system, list them in the order of most binding to least binding (assume all involved laws are valid) and explain why that order exists. a. state constitution;
b. federal constitution;
c. state legislation;
d. federal legislation;
Constitution The ultimate document that gives governments their authority; also serves to limit governmental authority, to protect civil rights, etc. Other laws, judicial decisions and executive actions must be consistent with the applicable constitution or it falls to the courts to strike down (law, decision or action). Statutes Law written by federal and state legislatures. They become effective upon signature of the president (federal) or governor (state). Statues of limitations Federal and state laws prescribing the maximum period of time during which various types of civil actions nd criminal prosecutions can be brought after the occurrence of the injury or offense. Supremacy Clause A clause in Article VI of the U.S. Constitution that declares federal laws to have jurisdictional authority over state laws in the event there is conflict between laws established by two governing bodies.
4. In what types of cases and/or memos would you be most likely to cite case law that is not mandatory authority? Determining when a court’s decision is mandatory or persuasive can be tricky, given the multiple jurisdictions throughout the country and the layers of courts within each jurisdiction. Our court systems are founded on the belief that there should be fairness, consistency, and predictability in judicial decision making. The doctrine that expresses this concept is labeled stare decisis. In essence, stare decisis considers mandatory, or binding, an existing decision from any court that exercises appellate jurisdiction over another court, unless the lower court can show that the decision is clearly wrong or is distinguishable from the case at hand.
Courts frequently consider the larger context when choosing among persuasive decisions. A typical situation in which decisions from one state may be highly persuasive on another is where both states share a specific doctrine. For example, Texas courts may find decisions of Wisconsin courts in marital property cases quite persuasive because both states adhere to community property law. Rarely would either state consult its neighboring states on marital property law; both have neighbors that are common-law marital property states. In most other situations, however, Texas courts might find Oklahoma or Arkansas decisions more persuasive than those of Minnesota or Illinois (Wisconsin’s neighbors), because demographic, geographic, or historic similarities may have led to the development of similar legal doctrines among neighboring states.
Similarly, whether a state has adopted a particular uniform law can affect the persuasiveness of its decisions. Federal courts, too, look at the larger context when choosing among the range of persuasive decisions to consult.
And… For good measure, to save the hardest for last:
5. Give an example of a case where the U.S. Supreme Court would be deciding an issue of STATE law.
The Justices must exercise considerable discretion in deciding which cases to hear, since more than 10,000 civil and criminal cases are filed in the Supreme Court each year from the various state and federal courts. The Supreme Court also has “original jurisdiction” in a very small number of cases arising out of disputes between States or between a State and the Federal Government.
Bintliff, B. “MANDATORY V. PERSUASIVE CASES.” West Group; Retrieved 2001 from http://faculty.law.lsu.edu/toddbruno/mandatory_v__persuasive.htm McWay, D. (2008).”Workings of the American Legal System.” Legal and Ethical Aspects of Health Information Management (third edition). 2008 Delmar Cengage learning.
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