Ref.  #5746, Section 01
Fall 2003
Dr. Rebecca Mae Salokar
Department of Political Science
Office: DM 487B; Phone: 305 348-3301; e-mail: salokar@fiu.edu
Office hours: Wednesdays 0830-1015 or by appointment


(Click on Quick Links below to go to a specific section of the syllabus or scroll down for the entire document)

Course Schedule
Description and Objectives
Course Requirements
Class Meetings
Books & Materials
Courtroom Observation Paper
 Grading Scheme
 Contact Info. for Dr. Salokar
 Second Exam Review
Salokar's Standards
Dr. Salokar's Homepage
 Midterm Exam Review 

UNIVERSITY CATALOG COURSE DESCRIPTION: An introduction to the study of public law. Examines the relationship between politics and judicial structure and process. Emphasizes the judicial system as a particular kind of policymaking system, and evaluates its strengths and weaknesses from a policy-making perspective.

COURSE OBJECTIVES/LEARNING OUTCOMES:  This course is designed to introduce students to the U.S. judicial process and the role that politics plays in our legal system. Topics include the structure of both the federal and state judiciaries, the selection of judges, the selection and work of juries, the role of lawyers, the major components of criminal and civil process, and the role of appellate review.  We will also examine theories of legal reasoning.  Particular emphasis will be given to the work of the Supreme Court and its role in the political and legal arenas.

At the end of the semester students will be able to explain the basic operations of the U.S. legal system in the context of criminal and civil processes; identify the strengths and weaknesses of the system in terms of efficiency and fairness; recognize and evaluate constitutional protections provided by our legal process; explain and critique the various methods of judicial selection; and demonstrate a basic understanding of legal reasoning. 

PREREQUISITES/CO-REQUISITES: Although there are no prerequisites for this course, I assume that all students have taken or are currently enrolled in American Government, POS 2042 (POS2041 at MDCC/BCC) or have received AP credit for American Government in high school.

CLASS MEETINGS:  This class meets on Monday and Wednesday from 1100 to 1230 in PC438.  Attendance is mandatory and students are expected to be on time.  Students who are late to or absent from more than two classes will lose one point from their final grade for each absence or late arrival after the two "freebies." See Salokar's Standards for attendance policy.

ELECTRONIC DEVICES:  Audible sounds from cell phones, beepers, watches, computers or any other electronic device will result in your immediate dismissal from the classroom for the balance of that class and one incurred absence.  See Salokar's Standards for policy.

COURSE REQUIREMENTS:  Grades for this course are given on the basis of two examinations, the submission of a significant written assignment, attendance to lectures and participation in class discussions.  Additional assignments (graded or ungraded) may be distributed during the semester; they will be posted to this website and announced in class. Students must take both examinations and submit the Court Observation assignment in order to receive a grade higher than a D-. 

Students must participate in a meaningful way in class discussions.  Verbal contributions should indicate a familiarity with the assigned readings, an effort to master the material at hand, and an awareness of newsworthy political events.  I reserve the right to lower a student's final grade by half a letter (i.e. C+ to C; B- to C+) should a student fail on more than two occasions to participate when called upon or indicate that they are not prepared for class and have not completed the readings or assignments.

Students are required to attend two court sessions (four hours each) during the semester as part of this course. These sessions are not held on campus and will take place during daytime/business hours.  One visit must take place before October 15th; the second visit must be completed prior to the due date of the assignment.  It is your responsibility to make the accommodations necessary to fulfill this assignment, which includes planning your visit, making time during the day to do this assignment, and finding the transportation necessary to complete the work.  There are no exceptions or alternative assignments.

Grades for this course are given on the basis of the following:

First Examination 35 points
Second Examination 40 points
Court Observation Assignment 25 points
Attendance Mandatory
Participation Meaningful

Grading Scheme
Final grades will be submitted using the +/- scale. My scale for final grades is as follows:

A 94 or above
A- 90-93.99
B+ 88-89.99
B 82-87.99
B- 80-81.99
C+ 78-79.99
 C 72-77.99
C- 70-71.99
D+ 68-69.99
D 62-67.99
D- 60-61.99
F 59.99 or below

Because each performance measure in this class is weighted differently, I do not assign letter grades nor do I curve individual assignments prior to calculating your final grade for the course. In the event that the overall performance of the class is deflated, I MAY add an equal number of points to every student's final grade. This decision (to add points) and the number of points awarded are solely at my discretion. I do not subtract points from students based on the performance of the class.

The following four books are REQUIRED for this course. They are available at the university bookstore in GC.  There are also additional purchases noted below.

Judicial Process and Judicial Policymaking, 3d edition, by G. Alan Tarr  (Thomson-Wadsworth)
Reason in Law, 6th edition, by Lief H. Carter and Thomas F. Burke (Addison Wesley Longman)
Minnesota Rag by Fred W. Friendly (Univ of Minnesota Press)
Understanding the U.S. Supreme Court by Kevin T. McGuire (McGraw Hill)

4 large "Blue books"  for exams (8½ x 11")

Salokar's Standards  www.fiu.edu/~salokar/Standards.htm
Academic Misconduct Policy
Student Code of Conduct 
Student Grievance Policy
Policy Governing Observance of Religious Holy days

2003-2004 Student Handbook, FIU (available at Campus Life, GC 340) 
A student email account . Go to:http://intra.fiu.edu/irm/sc/studsearch/index2.htm  If you have problems with your student email account, get help at: http://www.fiu.edu/~irmsc/sckb or stop by PC 413.
Four large blue books---from SGA on 3rd floor in Graham Center (or buy them at the bookstore!)


First Examination: (35 points)  This in-class examination will be administered in class on October 13th.   Students should bring two empty blue books for the exam.  Questions will be short answer and essay, and will stem from your readings, class discussions, and my lectures.

Second Examination: (40 points)  This in-class examination will be administered in class on November 26th.   Students should bring two empty blue books.  Questions will be short answer and essay, and will stem from your readings, my lectures, class discussions and your learning from the assignments.  This examination is cumulative to the extent that you need to have a basic understanding of the material from the first part of the course. However, the second examination is designed to test your understanding of material covered after the first examination.

Courtroom Observation Paper: (25 points)  This assignment is due at the beginning of class on December 3rd.  Please make necessary arrangements with your place of employment should this conflict with your work hours. It is a required assignment.

The objectives of this assignment are to introduce you to the reality of the judicial environment through personal observation and interviews, to encourage your critical analysis of readings and text in light of real-life observations, and to broaden your appreciation for the role of courts in the United States.  You will be required to attend two court proceedings in Miami-Dade, Monroe or Broward County for a minimum of three to four hours.   While there you should interview participants in those proceedings.  After completing your two observations you should prepare and submit a paper that describes your observations and considers the experiences in light of text-book theories and scholarly studies.

One of your visits must be completed between September 29th and October 12th.  Your second visit must be completed between October 13th and November 25th.

You must visit two different types of legal institutions in Miami-Dade, Broward or Monroe County including county or circuit court (juvenile, family, probate, civil, criminal) or the Federal District Court in downtown Miami.  Further guidance on courts to visit will be discussed in class. I recommend picking out a judge, calling in advance and speaking to the judicial assistant to determine which days are "trial" days or when something interesting might be going on.  Trust me, motion calendar is not terribly exciting...however, that is where alot of decisions get made.  Chances are that you will see a number of things occur during your visits; it is likely that more than one case will be on the docket.

Dress appropriately and do not take any weapons of any sort near the court.  You are subject to metal detector screening, so even that little Swiss Army knife on your key change will slow you down.

Besides observing, you must also TALK to people at the court like the lawyers, the judges (don't go walking up to the bench-ask the bailiff), the bailiff (probably the most knowledgable person there), and the victims or defendants (use common sense--if the guy is guarded by 10 corrections officers, don't approach!).  Ask questions and listen carefully to the answers.  Read through the items below before you go so you will cover all of the bases.

Your papers must be typed, double-spaced, with one-inch margins with a staple in the upper left hand corner.  Your name is the only critical "header" information.  Papers should be virtually error-free and I expect that they should be seven to ten pages in length.  YES, I do deduct points for appearance, spelling and grammar.  (If you know you have writing problems, I strongly encourage you to do this project early and get an appointment to work with the people at the Learning Center.  See me for more information.)

Your paper should be divided into the following sections:  Introduction, My Observations, My Analysis, What I Learned, and Conclusion. The following information must be included in your assignment:

I.  Introduction (Required)  This should be no more than two paragraphs and serve as an overview of your paper.  What are you doing, why are you doing it (and the answer is not because Dr. Salokar said to). Think about what you might get out of this exercise.

II.  Your Observations (35% of your grade) For a 10 page paper, this section should be no more than three pages long.

  • Which courts did you attend?  (name each court and its location--courthouse and courtroom number)
  • When did you attend? (dates and times)
  • What is the jurisdiction of each court? (appellate or trial, criminal or civil)
  • Names of the participants (Presiding Judge; Counsels - District/State attorney (criminal), plaintiff's attorney (civil), defense attorney;  Involved parties - defendant, litigant;  Witnesses;  Any other relevant participants not listed above, such as the bailiff or courtroom translator)
  • Facts and substance of the activity
               -Clearly describe what proceedings took place during your observations. What did you see?
                -What type of proceeding was it?
                -What were the issues being debated and discussed?
                -Who participated and to what degree?
                -Was there any resolution from the courtroom activity that you witnessed?

III.  Your Analysis (40% of your grade)  For a 10 page paper, this section should be about five pages long.

In this section you should, to the extent possible, compare and contrast your two observations (i.e. compare the decorums of the courtrooms and settings; the attitudes of the attorneys and judges; the preparedness of the attorneys; the presence of clients and their appearance; etc.) and make some general observations and conclusions.

  • Were the participants prepared and professional. Did they seem interested in best defending their client?
  • Was the judge a participant or an observer?  How active was the judge in the proceedings?  Was the judge professional and prepared?
  • Were the issues resolved to anyone's satisfaction?  Should they have been?
  • How did the courtroom observations fit with your expectations of the judicial process? 
  • Compare and contrast your observations and the judicial process described in your readings.  (Hint: Start with the topics on our course outline and see which ones fit with this assignment, review the readings, and do some REAL analysis---this is what counts heavily on this paper.)
IV.  What I Learned (15% of your grade)  For a 10 page paper, this section should be one to two pages in length.
  • What conclusions or implications about the judicial process can you make from your observations?
  • What conclusions or implications about justice in the United States can you make from your observations?
  • Was this a worthwhile learning experience?  Why or why not?
V.  Conclusion (Required) This should be no more than one to two paragraphs.  It should tell the reader what you did and explain why it was important.  Use your conclusion to summarize the thrust of your paper (and again, the answer is not because of a grade or an assignment!).

GRADING:  The excellent paper (+90%) not only includes all of the information requested, but is virtually error-free, flows from start to finish, provides a rich description that is interesting, includes a rigorous analysis that ties the literature to the observation, and is written around a theme!  A paper that simply includes the information requested will likely receive about 70% provided that it is grammatically correct and nearly error free.



updated: Nov. 10, 2003

Aug. 25
Introduction to Course

The Role of Law in Society and in the U.S.

Aug. 27  No Class  (Dr. Salokar is attending the American Political Science Association Meeting) Please complete the following tasks not later than Friday, August 29th at 5 P.M.:

1.  Explore Syllabus 

2.  Access and read the following two sites: 

Code of Academic Integrity 
Salokar's Standards
3.  Get your FIU email account and password at: http://www.fiu.edu/docs/webmail.htm

4.  Get a passport size picture taken or cut up an existing photo that looks like you from your archives, print your name on the back (or put in an envelope with your name on it) and bring to our next class.  (You could photocopy your FIU ID if necessary.)

5.  From your FIU email account, send an email to Dr. Salokar
The subject of the email should be:  Judicial Process Class #1
Include in the body of your email the following items: 

a. Cut and paste a copy of the FIU Code of Academic Integrity Pledge (only the Pledge, not the entire policy) into your message, 

b.  Cut and paste a copy of this statement:  "I have read the syllabus and Salokar's Standards.  I understand my obligations as a student in this course." 

c. Your full name and what name you actually use or want to be called by, 

d. Your major and the number of credits you have completed towards your B.A./B.S. degree, 

e. What you believe is your personal academic strength (what do you do best in school work) and what you believe is your most significant academic weakness,

f. And in no more than 50 words, explain why you enrolled in this course!  And honesty counts... 

6.  Browse: C-SPAN: AMERICA AND THE COURTS  (www.c-span.org; go to America & the Courts link)
Sep. 1 No Class (Labor Day Holiday) University Closed
Sep. 3 The Federal Court System: United States Courts 
1.  Read Tarr, Chap. 1 and 2; 

2.  Read and print a copy of U.S. Constitution (Articles and Amendments)  OurDocuments.gov - Constitution of the United States - Transcript or at FindLaw: Cases and Codes: U.S. Constitution Pay careful attention to Article 3.  Keep copy of Constitution with you in your briefcase/backpack for class reference.

3. Browse the sites of these NATIONAL-level courts: Supreme Court of the United States , United States Court of Appeals, 
 Eleventh Circuit , and Florida Southern District Court

Sep. 8 The State Court System Browse the sites of these FLORIDA STATE-level courts: 
1.  http://www.flcourts.org/ especially sections "Supreme Court" and "Other Florida Courts;" Work through: Test Your Court Knowledge;

2.  Browse  Third District Court of Appeal

3.  Browse  Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida - Splash


Sep. 10  Judicial Selection in the States 1. Read Tarr, pgs. 53-71.
Sep. 15 Judicial Selection: The Federal System 1. Read Tarr, pgs 71-84.
Sep. 17 Judges:  Who are they and just what do they do? 1. Read Tarr, pgs. 85-95;
2. Browse Judicial Selection Methods in the States
Sep. 22 Lawyers: Roles, Education and Profession, Advice and Counsel Tarr, Chap. 4
Sep. 24 More on Lawyers Browse The Florida Bar homepage FLABAR ONLINE (see esp. sections on law practice regulation and professionalism)
Sep. 29 Law as Process: Trials vs. Appeals Read Tarr, Chaps. 5
Oct. 1 The Criminal Process Read Tarr, Chap. 6
Oct. 6 The Criminal Process, cont.
Oct. 8 Catch-up and Review
Oct. 13  First Examination Bring TWO BLUE BOOKS for exam
Oct. 15 Criminal Process, cont.
Oct 18 Administrative Note Last day to drop class with DR grade or withdraw from university (by 1 P.M.)
Oct. 20 Criminal Trials
Oct. 22 Civil Process and ADR Tarr, pgs. 216-247
Oct. 27 Judicial Policymaking 1. Start reading Minnesota Rag (finish for second examination);
2. Tarr, Chap. 9
Oct. 29 Judicial Policymaking, cont.
Nov. 3 Legal Reasoning Carter & Burke, Chap. 1 and 2
Nov. 5  Common Law Carter 7 Burke, Chap. 3
Nov. 10 Statutory and Constitutional Interpretation  Carter & Burke, Chaps. 4-5
Nov. 12  Law & Politics; Law or Politics Carter & Burke, Chap. 6
Nov. 17 The U.S. Supreme Court: The Institution and its Members McGuire, Chaps. 1 and 2
Nov. 19 The USSC: Agenda setting, Case Selection  and Decision Making McGuire, Chap. 3 and 4
Nov. 24 The USSC: External Influences and Policy, Impact and Politics McGuire, Chap. 5 and 6
Nov. 26 Second Examination Bring TWO blue books for examination
Dec. 1 Juries in the American Legal System/ 1.  Read about Grand Juries at Reporter's Handbook;
2.  Read Jury Service
3. Review Tarr on juries (pg. 148-152,181-82); 
Dec. 3 Concluding Thoughts on Judicial Process; 
Course Evaluations
Courtroom Observation Paper due