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PRDV301: Introduction to Paralegal Studies

Unit 2: The Legal System   Each legal system is different.  Its foundations may present widely different ways of approaching the law and understanding the distribution of power.  The United States, due to unique historical circumstances, has developed a system of law very different from China, France, and even the United Kingdom.

This unit will introduce you to the foundations of law in the United States.  The unique system of separation of powers together with federalism have shaped the process of law in the United States.  The president, the Congress, and the court system each have separate powers that the other branches cannot interfere with.  For example, judges are given lifetime appointments and cannot be removed by the president or Congress without an impeachment trial.  In addition, the separate powers of the federal and state governments also shape the legal process.  You will learn this and more as the unit closes with a comparison of the American system with other systems.

Unit 2 Time Advisory
This unit should take approximately 3 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 2.1: 2.5 hours

☐    Subunit 2.2: 0.5 hours

Unit2 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to: - Discuss the basics of the American legal system. - Compare and contrast the American legal system to others.

2.1 The American Legal System   2.1.1 Separation of Powers   - Reading: The Legal and Ethical Environment of Business: “Chapter 5: The Constitution – Section 1: Federalism and Preemption” Link: The Legal and Ethical Environment of Business: “Chapter 5: The Constitution – Section 1: Federalism and Preemption” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above and read “Section 1: Federalism and Preemption” from Chapter 5.  Note that this reading will also cover material you need to know for sub-subunit 2.1.2.  For this sub-subunit, focus on the discussion of the separation of powers in the United States government.  When it was introduced, this concept was revolutionary in ensuring that the three branches of government – legislative, executive, and judicial – would check and balance each other’s powers.  Today, an independent judiciary is considered critical to a true system of justice.

 Reading this section should take approximately 30 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: Business Law and the Legal Environment: “Chapter 4: Constitutional Law and US Commerce – Section 1: Basic Aspects of the US Constitution” Link: Business Law and the Legal Environment: “Chapter 4: Constitutional Law and US Commerce – Section 1: Basic Aspects of the US Constitution” (PDF)

    Instructions: Please click on the link above and read “Section 1: Basic Aspects of the US Constitution” from Chapter 4.  Note that this reading will also cover material you need to know for sub-subunit 2.1.2.  For this sub-subunit, focus on the discussion of the separation of powers in the United States government.  This reading offers additional perspective on the subject of separation of powers in the Constitution of the United States.  It also puts the Constitution in the context of American values.

    Reading this section should take approximately 30 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

2.1.2 Federalism   Note: This topic is covered by the Chapter 5, Section 1 reading from Lau and Johnson and the Chapter 4, Section 1 reading from Mayer et al. assigned below sub-subunit 2.1.1.  Both readings contain discussions on the role of federalism in the American political and legal system.  Focus on these sections.

  • Web Media: YouTube: The Saylor Foundation: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Federalism I” and “Federalism II” Link: YouTube: The Saylor Foundation: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Federalism I” and “Federalism II” (YouTube)

    Instructions: Please click on the links above and watch these videos.  These lectures provide a more in-depth discussion of federalism, which is a key concept in the United States legal and political system that has a major impact on the practice of law.  Note that other countries, such as Canada and Germany, also have federal systems of government.

    Watching this lecture and pausing to take notes should take approximately 1 hour.

    Terms of use: The material above has been reposted by the kind permission of Patrick Scott from Missouri State University, and can be viewed in its original form here.  Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the copyright holder.

2.1.3 Common Law   - Reading: B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center College Correspondence Program: Keith Nordyke’s Intro to Law and the Paralegal Profession: “Chapter 9: Common Law” Link: B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center College Correspondence Program: Keith Nordyke’s Intro to Law and the Paralegal Profession: “Chapter 9: Common Law” (PDF)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above and read “Chapter 9
Common Law,” which begins on page 88.  This reading presents a
discussion of the common law, an inheritance of the American legal
system from it former colonial master – Great Britain.  All of the
countries that were once colonies of Britain, including the United
States, Canada, Australia, India, and Pakistan have been impacted by
common law.  Note that common law generally is law created by
judges.  Ask yourself: how can judges make law?  Your understanding
of common law and the role of judges in the law will be critical to
your effectiveness as a paralegal.  

 Reading this chapter and answering the question assigned should
take approximately 30 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted by the kind
permission of the B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center College
Correspondence Program and Keith Nordyke.  Please note that this
material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in any capacity
without explicit permission from the copyright holder.

2.2 Other Systems of Law – An Overview   - Reading: Business Law and the Legal Environment: “Chapter 1: Introduction to Law and Legal Systems – Section 5: Legal and Political Systems of the World” Link: Business Law and the Legal Environment: “Chapter 1: Introduction to Law and Legal Systems – Section 5: Legal and Political Systems of the World” (PDF)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above and read “Section 5:
Legal and Political Systems of the World” of Chapter 1.  This
reading offers a brief look at other types of legal/political
systems, focusing in particular on civil law systems in comparison
to common law systems.  In addition, the end of the section contains
a link to learn more about Islamic and Middle Eastern legal
systems.  

 Reading this section should take approximately 30 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.