Scheb IntroAmericanLegalSystem Ch2

Scheb IntroAmericanLegalSystem Ch2 - 2 STRUCTURES OF...

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L EARNING OBJECTIVES This chapter should enable the student to understand: • the role of the U.S. Congress and state legislatures and the processes they follow in exercise of their powers • the organization, jurisdiction, and functions of federal and state trial and appellate courts • the role of the federal and state executive officers and regulatory and administrative agencies • how law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies operate • the legal profession and the adversary and alternative dispute processes C HAPTER OUTLINE Introduction Legislatures Judicial Systems The Role of the Chief Executive Regulatory and Administrative Agencies Law Enforcement Agencies Prosecutorial Agencies The Legal Profession The Adversarial System of Justice Alternative Dispute Resolution Conclusion Summary of Key Concepts Questions for Thought and Discussion Key Terms For Further Reading 2 S TRUCTURES OF A MERICAN L AW Courtesy of West Group.
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I NTRODUCTION Any explanation of the American legal system necessarily involves the principle of federal- ism. As noted in Chapter 1, federalism is one of the hallmarks of the American constitu- tional system: the fundamental division of authority between the national government in Washington, D.C., and the 50 state governments. Each of the states has its own machinery of government as well as its own constitution that empowers and limits that government. Of course, the provisions of the state constitutions, as well as the statutes adopted by the state legislatures, are subordinate to the provisions of the U.S. Constitution and the laws adopted by Congress. There are significant legal differences between the national government and the states. Of course, the authority of the federal government extends throughout the United States and its territories, whereas state authority is confined within state borders. The national gov- ernment has sole authority to make treaties with other nations, enact laws governing the high seas, coin money, regulate standards of weights and measures, regulate international trade, regulate immigration and naturalization, and provide for the national defense. The national government also has primary, although not exclusive, authority to regulate inter- state commerce, which is a major source of federal legislative power. The states, on the other hand, have exclusive authority over their own machinery of gov- ernment. They have exclusive power to establish and control local governments (cities, coun- ties, and townships). States have sole responsibility for conducting elections and apportion- ing electoral districts, although in exercising these functions they must comply with federal constitutional standards. States are the primary locus of the police power —the power to make laws in furtherance of the public health, safety, welfare, and morality. States also have primary (though no longer exclusive) authority over commerce within their borders. The federal government and the states also possess a number of
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Scheb IntroAmericanLegalSystem Ch2 - 2 STRUCTURES OF...

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