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SMG LA 245
Sources of Law Outline
LA245: Intro to Law
1. The Common Law
a. Made up of a series of cases decided by judges, and then written down
b. Predictable: Under stare decisis (let the decision stand), the court should follow
precedent (principle or rule established in a prior case that binds judges in a
c. Flexible: But the common law also gives us flexibility to change according to
new problems. The law can change over time.
d. Example: The Bystander Rule – generally no need to rescue
i. Union Pacific Railway v. Cappier (1903)
Victim hit by a train, employer watched it happen and
ii. Tarasoff v. Regents of the University of California. (1976)
Case in which the Supreme Court of California held that
mental health professionals have a duty to protect
individuals who are being threatened with bodily harm by a
Legal duty to rescue/warn if in a special relationship such
as a therapist/patient, lawyer/client, parent/minor,
Soldano v. O’Daniels (1983)
Darrell Soldano was shot and killed at the Happy Jack
Saloon. A customer at Happy Jack Saloon came into Circle
Inn and told the bartender that a man was threatened at
Happy Jack's. The bartender refused to let the Happy Jack
customer use the phone to call the police or do it himself.
The court ruled in favor of Soldano. Defendant points to
the established rule that one who has not created peril
ordinarily does not have a duty to take affirmative action to
assist an imperiled person. Also, in this case, there was no
special relationship between the defendant and the
Although a person may not have a duty to help another, in a
case such as this, a person has a duty not to hinder others
who are trying to help
a. Statutes are laws passed by legislatures. Can be state or federal
Can be state or federal
Static – statues do not change without amendment by
legislature (but courts interpret statues)
If statutes conflict with common law, statue prevails (but
the courts interpret statues)
b. Statutory Interpretation
plain meaning rule – when statue’s words have ordinary
meaning, court will simply apply those words.
legislative history and intent – use when language is
unclear – what did congress intend.
Griggs v. Duke Power - Supreme Court ruled that the
company's employment requirements did not pertain to
applicants' ability to perform the job, and so were
discriminating against black employees. The judgment
famously wrote that "Congress has now provided that tests
or criteria for employment or promotion may not provide
equality of opportunity merely in the sense of the fabled
offer of milk to the stork and the fox.”
ii. Public Policy -
3. Administrative Law – administrative agencies are governmental bodies empowered
to oversee and implement legislative acts.
- Limits include political control, enabling legislation, judicial review. Defer to
agency’s finding of facts, defer to agency’s interpretation of the law as long as it is
a. 3 powers
1. legislative rules – have the power of law
2. interpretive rules -- just interpret laws that already are in place
US V. Biswell – During regular business hours,
investigating agents visited respondent Biswell, a pawn
shop operator who was federally licensed to deal in
sporting weapons. They identified themselves, inspected
Biswell's books and requested entry into a locked gun
storeroom. Biswell asked whether the agents had a search
warrant, and the principle investigator responded that they
did not, but that section 923(g) of the Gun Control Act of
1968 authorized such inspections without a search warrant.
Biswell was given a copy of the section and he
subsequently unlocked the storeroom. There the agents
found and seized two sawed-off rifles, items Biswell was
not licensed to possess.
Biswell was indicted and convicted for dealing in firearms
without having paid the required special occupational tax.
The Court of Appeals reversed and held that section 923(g)
was unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment because
it authorized warrantless searches of business premises and
that Biswell's ostensible consent to the search was invalid.
The appellate court concluded that the sawed-off rifles,
having been illegally seized, were inadmissible as