Political Science 333

POSC 333
Judicial Process

Catalog Entry

POSC 333. Judicial Process
Three hours lecture (3).

Prerequisite: POSC 120

Composition, roles and powers of courts in American government. Emphasis on the role of courts in the political process.


Detailed Description of Content of Course

This course will focus on the formal structure of American Courts, their operation, the internal and external influences on its operations, and issues that confront it. Overall emphasis is placed on understanding how the environment of the courts affects the judiciary and how the judicial system operates within the American political system.

  • Environment
  • Legal subculture
  • What is law?
  • The US as a common law system
  • The US as an adversary system
  • Democratic subculture
  • The US as a dual court system
  • The role of discretion
  • Courts as policymakers
  • Actors
  • Judges
  • Lawyers
  • Interest groups
  • Access
  • Jurisdiction
  • Justiciability
  • Standing
  • Case or controversy
  • The Courts
  • Trial
  • Civil procedure
  • Criminal procedure
  • Appellate
  • Judicial review
  • Appellate procedure
  • Influence of judicial philosophy
  • Interaction with other branches


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

Primarily lecture and discussion format. Students will have several opportunities to learn about the American court system and the roles of various professionals within the system through such means as a mock trial, interviewing and/or observing community court operations and professionals, and guest speakers.


Goals and Objectives of the Course

In order for the student to achieve a "working" knowledge of the American court system, its composition, the various roles, and the political influence of the judicial decision-making process, the following objectives have been identified. Thus the student, upon completion of the course, should be able to:

1. Identify the characteristics of the American judicial system.
2. Explain the structure of courts at both the national and state levels. Understand the trial and appeals process.
3. Analyze the effects of such factors as: (1) access requirements and (2) the tension between legal and democratic subcultures on the American judicial system.
4. Evaluate the role of courts as interpreters of law and the Constitution.
5. Demonstrate understanding of how a case gets to the U.S. Supreme Court, its decision making process and the resulting impact of U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
6. Critically examine issues concerning lawyers, ethics, litigation rates, selection of judges and judicial behavior.
7. Identify the basic features of civil and criminal litigation.
8. Demonstrate understanding of judicial decision making, including the use of precedent and basic principles involved in interpreting the Constitution, statutes, and the common law.
9. Critically examine the policy‑making role of courts and the arguments concerning judicial activism and self‑restraint.


Assessment Measures

Knowledge and understanding of the material covered in this course, as well as the ability to apply it to real life situations, may be measured using an array of assessment tools that can include tests, formal papers, informal writing assignments, and formal oral presentations.


Other Course Information



Review and Approval

April 1998 Reviewed M. J. Franck, Dept. Chair