Criminal Justice 620

CRJU 620: Judicial Behavior

Prerequisites: Graduate Standing

Credit Hours: (3) Three hours seminar

Survey of the American judiciary. Studies judicial self-perception, public perception of the judiciary and specific judicial actions in sentencing and court management.


Detailed Description of Content of Course

I. Structure of the legal order

            A. Litigation in trial and appellate courts
            B. Plea Bargaining and civil settlement in trial courts
            C. Regulating demands made on appellate courts
            D. Public opinion and the courts

II. Participants in the judicial process

            A. Litigants and lawyers
            B. Judges: selection and backgrounds
            C. Juries

III. Judicial decision-making

            A. Facts and environmental variables as bases for decisions
            B. Backgrounds, attitudes and values in decision-making
            C. Aspects of the judicial role
            D. Courts as small groups

IV. Problems of compliance and impact

            A. Public response
            B. Interest group response
            C. Public policy impact

V. The United States Supreme Court

            A. The Supreme Court as law-finder
            B. The Supreme Court as law-giver


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

This course will be taught as a seminar in which the students will assume an extensive role in the conducting of the course. Their active participation in the course will

be solicited through such means as role play exercises (e.g., playing the role of a lawyer and/or judge in a hypothetical case on appeal), discussion of questions based on assigned readings, discussion of problems designed to illustrate issues raised in assigned readings, watching and discussing a videotape of a murder trial, watching and discussing a videotape about the U.S. Supreme Court, leading class discussions of assigned readings, and maintaining a journal.


Goals and Objectives of the Course

At the end of this course, students should be able to:

1. Describe the basic structure of the American judicial system.
2. Explain the basic role of lawyers in the American legal system.
3. Explain the basic role of judges in the American legal system.
4. Explain why judges inevitably function as policy-makers in the American system of government.
5. Describe the basic process by which the U.S. Supreme Court decides cases heard by it.
6. Describe the significance of the role played by the U.S. Supreme Court in the American judicial system, as well as in the overall system of government.


Assessment Measures

Graded assignments may include the journal, essay examinations, legal briefs and judicial opinions written as part of a role playing exercise, study guides used to lead class discussion, and book and article reviews. A grade may also be awarded for class participation.


Other Course Information

Guest speakers may be invited to speak in this course. Judges have been particularly willing to meet with this class and have proven to be remarkably candid in their comments about the nature of the judicial process.


Review and Approval

Date Action Approved By
March 1999