Tuesday, February 28, 2012

U.S. Federal Courts Structure

While we tend to focus on the Supreme Court, the federal judiciary is much more expansive than that, with federal courts spaced throughout the entire country.

You can see the structure of the Courts system at uscourts.gov.

Part of the Supreme Court's responsibility is to resolve disputes among the other lower federal courts and thereby set national precedent for judicial review of similar constitutional cases in the future. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is considered to be one of the most politically liberal courts in the system, providing some of the most controversial cases brought on appeal to the Supreme Court. For example, the Ninth Circuit has produced controversial rulings on issues such as the use of medical marijuana and the constitutionality of the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Uscourts.gov also has a fantastic map of all the country's courts!

Use the links to answer the following questions in the body of an e-mail to me (20 point):

  1. What is the basic three-tier structure of the federal judiciary?
  2. How many U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals are there?
  3. Where is the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals?
  4. What federal legal entities exist outside the basic federal judicial branch?
  5. What federal appeals court does Illinois belong to? Use the uscourts.gov website to locate this court's website.
  6. What types of information can you learn from the Court's website?
  7. Use the court's website to located all opinions filed by the Court in the past month. What types of cases does the Court tend to hear?
  8. Browse through the opinions. Locate at least one you find interesting. Record the case caption, summarize the background of the case, and finally, summarize the judge's opinion. State whether or not you agree with the judge's opinion.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Respondents' Opening: Stray Thoughts

Here are some notes from our in-class discussion of the Respondents' Opening today:

The petitioners must prove…
  • 1.      Nobody will be able to show that money is excessive
  • 2.      No witness will be able to prove that Estelle H-P was not in her right mind

The evidence will show:
  • 1.      That she WAS in her right mind
  • 2.      That the money is not excessive (old estate, etc.)
  • 3.      The law, in fact, DOES NOT ALLOW FOR THIS TO HAPPEN – people who die with money can do with it what they want (think – you’re rich – what do you want to happen with your money?)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Petitioners' Opening: Necessary Additions

Things to prove in Petitioners' opening:

1.          The Trust is excessive
2.          Rendlow violated the Will
3.          Rendlow influenced Estelle (undue influence)
a.                       Moved into guest house after Estelle knew her for short time
4.          Estelle was not in her right mind when she wrote the Will. Not mentally competent to create any form of a Will.

"…In our lawsuit today, Addison and Alexi, the beloved children of Jackson and Estelle, will attempt to protect their family interests and make sure that their parents’ hard-earned money won’t be wasted by a master manipulator."

--heard from mother less after Rendlow came around
--how easily mother was influenced – “My mom was a good person, but she was very easily influenced.”
--Rendlow’s breach of will by fostering animals
--altered will recently (same since 1978), perhaps under influence of Rendlow
--long planned to share estate with children, but recently changed
--able to care for animals (has animal of her own, knows how to do it) “beloved cat (Addison), beloved dog (Alexi)…”
--because of Rendlow, relationship with children changed (pt. 13) immediately (less time, more animals, etc.)
--Addison is not doing it for the money, doing it so that this snake doesn’t take it

--McKay establishes background as an expert witness
--observed Rendlow’s conniving ways (11)
--$10 mil bequest is a sign of mental health problems (4)
--(6) Estelle easily persuaded by easy explanation, persuasive language
--(7) through persuasion, Rendlow ingrained himself into the life of Estelle (belief of petitioners)

Excessive Estate expenses – “you will hear testimony regarding how much it takes to care for an animal.”

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Openings and Closings

Today you will have the opportunity to put any final touches on your opening statements using last night's homework assignment. Make any changes you find are necessary, then save and upload it to the Wiki (as discussed yesterday. Make sure only the most up-to-date version is on the Wiki.

When you are finished, you will work with the same partner to craft a closing argument. Follow the guidelines from class, watch the example from To Kill a Mockingbird below, and check out the section on this rubric for "Openings and Closings."

The rubric is on a 5 point scale. I will multiply that score by 10 to give you a 50 point score for both opening and closing. It is the official rubric used by judges in the trial.

When you are done with your closing, upload it to the Wiki.

Here's an example closing from Hinsdale's closing http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4j4H7pTOw6A

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Direct Examinations Project

Brian "Kato" Kaelin testifies at the trial of O.J. Simpson
(People v. Simpson). Kaelin was famously qualified as
a "hostile witness" by prosecutor Marcia Clark because of
his rambling, incoherent responses to questions.
ARRIVAL: Find the people with the same witness. SIT WITH THEM.

You will work with a small group to put together 35-40 direct examination questions and answers for your assigned witness.

This assignment is a 50 point project grade, and will be assessed using this rubric. You will be assessed as a group, but will also receive an individual grade based on my observation of your contributions to the group.

We will start by viewing a video from the University of South Carolina showing some examples of direct examinations done by their mock trial team.

While we watch the video together, comment on this post with the following information:

  1. How do the attorneys structure their questions?
  2. Which is the best witness? Why?
When we finish with the video, you will have the remainder of the period to work on your direct examination questions. 

Before you write your questions and answers, respond to the following at the top of your page:
  1. Why should we call this witness?
  2. What theory is your side (petitioner or respondent) trying to develop?
  3. What is your theme (remember -- the tag-line)? You won't include it in your questioning, but every question should work toward the development of this theme.
  4. What is already in evidence when your witness is called to the stand? What questions can he/she expect to face based on prior testimony?
Ultimately, you will want to have one document complete with questions and answers. Each question should be followed immediately by its answer. Use the following hints to ensure your success:
  • Ensure that you have no spelling or grammar mistakes.
  • Ask the questions in a logical order.
  • When appropriate, refresh your witness' recollection by referring back to prior testimony, the dates of different events, and other items already in evidence.
  • Write complete answers for your witness. We will use the answers you write in the actual trial.
  • Make sure that your answers are in character. It is very important that our witnesses act like the people they are portraying.
  • Include specific references to the content of the witness affidavits. You cannot have the witness say anything (with very few exceptions) that is not discussed in the affidavit.