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POLS 207 Full Comprehensive Notes for Test 3

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Political Science
POLS 207

State Courts What makes the courts different from legislative and executive branches? 1. Courts are reactive rather than proactive -they only deal with laws that come before them that are already passed by legislature 2. Special requirements for obtaining access -lobbyists and interest groups can write to legislators etc., but in the case of courts, you need legal standing (must be one of the parties in the case) 3. Judicial procedures are more formal -amicus curaie (friend of the courts) : legal brief saying you're not part of the case, but that has reasons for why courts should side with one of the parties 4. Range of decision making / Are concerned with... -to the facts of the one case that is before them at one time -the way the laws are interpreted for that case -appellate courts have broader range of decision-making -when higher courts make a ruling/interpret laws, they set precedent and bind lower courts in the future to abiding by the ruling when a similar case comes in -Mapp v. Ohio (1990) -Police entered Mapp's apartment looking for fugitive and found obscene material (but not the fugitive) and charged her -Court found police had no legal justification to enter her apartment, so they could not use what they found against her in trial (exclusionary rule) Stare Decisis- practice of following precedent (previous rulings) -constrains range of decision-making in courts even more 5. Appearance of objectivity-deciding things on facts of case, not being partial to one side -We expect courts to be objective (they won't be 100%) -They are, so have one of highest ratings of approval Structure of State Court Systems Level One - Courts of Limited Jurisdiction -Examples: Small Claims Courts, Traffic Court, Juvenile Court -misdemeanors, child cases, traffic court, less than $10,000 -less formal (Judge Judy) Level Two - Major Trial Courts -Examples: Circuit Court, District Court, Criminal Court -in the news normally -more formal, juries are used -civil courts, civil cases over $10,000 Level Three - Appellate Courts - these deal with constitutional/legal issues -is a screening mechanism before cases reach level four -some party may be unhappy with a ruling - have a reason as to why the ruling was unlawful -Examples: Superior Court, Court of Appeals -some broad number of these -no juries - juries are meant to help interpret evidence Level Four - Courts of "Last Resort" -Supreme Courts -Normally 5-9 state justices -Normally only 1 per state -Looks for mistakes made in original trial (not if the parties are guilty/innocent) -there are federal appellate courts, but if you went to State Supreme Court, too late? -not last place to resort in general, just in state. Last place is US Supreme Court US Supreme Court -only for if there is a federal issue involved (no cases involving state laws) Judicial Federalism The US has a dual system of courts -Some cases will go to state/local courts -Some cases will go to federal courts -federal law cases -crimes committed against federal government workers -crimes committed on federal government property -currency, counterfeit -Some cases can go to either state OR federal courts -"Venue shop" - decide which one -where are you most likely to get a conviction/harsher punishment? -does the state have a significant interest in it? -is it an important federal issue? Selection of Judges (Five Systems of Selection) 1.Partisan Elections (southern states mostly) -mainly used for major trial courts -vote for Repub. or Dem. candidate, primaries take place first -voters have the information of party label 2. Non-Partisan Elections -Popular election where there are no party labels (no primaries, labels) Criticisms of Elections: -most voters know very little about the candidates they vote for (there is little campaigning) -most don't read about them Should a candidate take stands on current legal issues while they're campaigning? No, they're supposed to be objective. They run on experience, where they went to law school, their family, their accomplishments, etc. Incumbents have advantage once again. 3. Legislative Selection -Self-nominated people up for approval -Legislature approves top people Criticisms: -What is the most common profession in legislature? Lawyers -Most legislators go on to become judges -You know them, more likely to have them win -Former legislators have a big advantage 4. Appointment by the governor -very few states rely solely on this -most important in interim appointments = most common -appointments to fill in the remainder of a term Criticism: -You're the governor, you know you're not going to run again/finish term, so can recommend to new governor who to appoint -Governor recommends them on interim basis to give them advantage in future election -Judge, when running for election at end of interim appointments, has experience and incumbency advantage 5.Missouri (first developed here) or Merit Plans (Three Stages) 1.Judicial Nominating Commission (made of judges, lawyers of state) -Theory is nonpartisan, non-ideological -Nominate to governor 3-5 names for every opening -not 100% ideology/bias -free -is a first screening-type thing 2. Governor gets list and appoints judge from that list -once appointed, judge serves 2-4 year term 3. At end, judge faces retention election -voters vote, after judges has served, on whether they want to keep him -usually long terms/for life Criticism: -Is extremely rare for judge to lose retention election -So 3rd stage is unnecessary (wasting money) -Are judicial nominating commissions completely nonpartisan? No Trial Courts and Supreme Courts -Trial courts aren't used often - plea-bargaining is the direction 90% of criminal cases go - those 90% don't actually go to trial -involves a negotiation between the defendant(s)'s attorney and the prosecutor -defendant will plead guilty in exchange for something from the state (reduction of charges, reduction of one charge (murder changed to manslaughter),brings less stigma, maybe less time in jail/decrease in the extremity of the sentencing) -When these pleas are made, the defendants are guaranteed something -Prosecutor can also recommend a lighter sentence -At the end of the day, the judge is the one who decides the severity of the sentence; he doesn't have to follow the prosecutor's sentence but normally does anyway -Will do this because the system relies on plea bargains -If they don't let the defendant off easy for a crime they pled guilty for, someone who comes along later won't want to accept plea bargain because he will think it won't help -Many people don't like the idea of a plea bargain (controversial) 1. They think it allows a defendant to get off easy 2. Maybe someone offered the plea bargain is innocent, but they feel pressure to plead guilty -Why do we use it if it's so controversial? 1. People do it because it's better than the alternative 2. Helps reduce court case loads/gets cases through the court system more quickly -our system could not handle every single case going to trial -would involve lots more jury duty, witnesses, evidence, etc. 3. What if your case is a little bit weak? The defendant will want to plead guilty if he thinks his case won't win Trial by Jury -Fewer than 1% of all criminal cases are resolved by jury trial (in event where plea bargain is not accepted) -Jury responsibilities -average citizens expected to determine whether or not defendant is guilty by evaluating evidence at hand -Role and Responsibilities of Judges -sentencing -Primary Role: to prevent reversible error -he oversees evidence that is allowed, jury selection, gives jury instructions on how to define something, etc. -he tries to do things where it wouldn't cause error that would cause an appellate court to throw out the verdict/ruling (tries to prevent procedural error) -wants to make sure that whatever the jury decides is upheld Courts in Texas -Generally follows court tier system already covered Level One: Limited Jurisdiction Courts Level Two: District Courts -major civil/criminal court cases -court of original jurisdiction for felony crimes Level Three: Appellate Courts -we have 14 -they are spread out to get different district courts Level Four: Supreme Courts -we have 2 -Texas Supreme Court - Court of last resort for civil cases -Court of Criminal Appeals - only deals with criminal cases Selecting Judges in Texas -Partisan Election (general method) -Criticism: voters know little about the candidates they vote for -Interim Appointments by the governor (in most cases, this is the only appointment power of governor) -Jean Kelly (1990) - won Democratic position in TX Supreme Court -shares name of famous singer/actor -he probably wasn't ready to be Supreme Court justice - had little experience -voters voted for him because they recognized his name -he ended up not taking it Court Procedures in Texas -Grand Jury -made up of average citizens, selected randomly -fewer are needed, sit through multiple cases -screening mechanisms in criminal cases -they evaluate a case to see if it's strong enough to go to trial (is there enough evidence and is it good enough?) -they do NOT decide if the defendant is guilty/innocent -Petit Juries -the trial juries chosen by random selection from voter registration, etc. -they have screening mechanisms to choose final 12 jurors -they decide if the defendant is guilty Police Protection in the States Most criminal policing is done at the local level - delegated down from state level 1. Federal Level: -federal officers make up only 5% of total officers in the nation 2. State Level: -initially didn't have state policing system -developed over time (20s) as highways were built -highway duties and responsibilities in assisting local law enforcement in local areas that have less resources -size shifts from state to state, but... -about 15% all nation's officers are at state level 3. Local Level: -80% of law enforcement is here -divided between county sheriffs and city police -county sheriffs were initially the cornerstone of law enforcement - now are only primary law enforcement OUTSIDE of city limits -We elect county sheriffs -Rhode Island is the only state that doesn't elect sheriffs -City police outnumber all other police (all levels) combined -well over 1/2 of all law enforcement in the US Crime and Punishment -Three Strikes and You're Out -Popular reform in mid-1990s (started in Cali. and spread to other states) -Idea behind reform was that criminals have high repeat offense rate -People who are violent criminal offenders continue to go in/come out of jail -Idea began when guy killed a child after being let out for the third time -Reform said that on the 3rd crime committed, you should get life in prison -On third strike, even minor crimes resulted in life sentence -Consequences of this policy -prison inmate level sharply rose after reform was passed -court case loads went up and system got backed up -People on 3rd crime couldn't accept plea bargain because they'd have to get life in prison -Resulted in more trials, criminals trying to be named innocent to avoid life sentence -prison costs tripled in state of California 10-15 years after policy was passed -US Supreme Court looked at/reviewed 2 specific cases in which policy was used, and said it was constitutional, yet controversial because it was a cruel and unusual punishment in those cases when people got a life sentence for a 3rd (but petty) crime. So the US court modified the reform to being that the 3rd crime got life in prison only if it was violent The Death Penalty -Furman v. Georgia (1972) - US Supreme Court outlawed Death Penalty -They said it was being unfairly applied and that there were insufficient safeguards AT THE TIME, not saying it was unconstitutional/cruel or unusual punishment -Used the next 4 years to develop new guidelines to allow states to decide if they would reinstate the death penalty (all but 12 would eventually reinstate it and follow new guidelines -Since 1976 - TX is and has been a national leader in both sentencing people to death penalty and actually following through with the execution. -Texas has executed 493 people since 1976 -If Harris County was a state, it'd be 5th top in US -this county has a lot of district attorneys, high budget of ~30 million $ -Dallas County is about 2/3 of this -Texas has been responsible for 1/3 of all executions in the US (US has 1400 total executed) -2nd state is Virginia (~100 executions) -In 2000 alone, TX executed 84 -most executions take place in the south (about 80%) as a whole -California sentences a lot of people to death, but rarely actually goes through with the execution. Had under 20 since 1976 Why is it used so much in Texas? 1. Statutes in Texas for assigning the death sentence are among the least complicated in the country -After defendant is declared guilty, 2 questions must be asked i) Did defendant act intentionally? ii) Are they a future threat to society? -If both yes, then they can use the death penalty 2. Death penalty is rarely reversed 3. Money- takes lots of money and resources to prosecute and uphold death penalty case -reviewed very closely by appellate courts 4. Public support is very high in TX (70% approval, which is 10% higher than rest of nation's yes states) -they also believe it is an effective deterrent to crime What qualifies as eligible for death penalty? -committing murder at same time as committing federal crime -killing 2 or more people -killing child, police officer, or firefighter -paying for murder Local Government Entities Three Basic Types (Counties, Municipalities/Cities, and Special Districts) 1. Counties -over 3,000 across US, over 250 in TX alone -Purpose: serve as administrative appendages of the state -largely set up to manage activities of state-wide concern at local level -run elections -some look more local (sewage, law enforcement) in the areas of counties outside of cities -Organization types: i) Board of Commissioners/Supervisors = most common -elected as a whole - run county as a group -they enact county/local laws -approve county budget -appoint county officials -Criticism: there's no one person in charge (can't target blame for something at one person) ii) Elected-executive plan -aimed at having one central person in charge -still has a board, but 1 person is the head, and he is elected -he is the main person to approve budget, hire officials, etc. iii) Council-administrator plan -aimed at having one central person in charge -board still there, but the board is the one who chooses the head person in power 2. Municipalities/Cities -differ from counties in that they are focused on issues of a local concern (counties focus on state concern) -charter of incorporation: process to go through to become a city -legal recognition of state that a particular settlement of people = city -is like a constitution; sets up certain rules -with a charter, can form govt., set taxes (possible reason to vote against), have law enforcement, get garbage pick-up, sewage, other city services, etc. -lots of benefits to become a city -municipalities deliver more services than counties -Method: -petition to become a city, file it with a state -state then has an election -everyone in proposed city limits can vote -If yes, charter of incorporation is issued 2 models in setting up charter a) Home Rule -local govt. can run its own affairs, subject to state oversight -can write own local laws as long as it doesn't contradict state laws (Houston can ban fireworks) -greater flexibility/freedom b) Dillon's Rule -cities can only exercise powers that are expressly given to them in the constitution/state law -If Houston had this, it wouldn't be able to ban fireworks, b/c state const. doesn't mention it -much more limited -most states follow home rule -Dillon's rule is a minority of states Municipal Governing Structures a) Mayor-Council (used in most cities with a million or more people) -Council and mayor are elected (also elect how many people you want on council) -can have a very weak or strong mayor -Strong mayor: -responsible for submitting budget to council -in charge of firing/hiring top city officials on his/her own -really strong mayor can have veto powers over council decisions -Weak mayor: -has to answer to council/be approved in his decisions b) City Commission -identifies key city departments headed by commissioners, each one elected by the public individually -heads of commission do NOT make sacrifices in own department for benefit of city as whole -Criticism: everyone's worried about own interests of own department -not very common, especially not in large cities c) City manager or Council-Manager -voters elect city council, but council goes out and hires professional city manager -City manager runs city government on day-to-day basis -they hire professional, trained, experienced manager -the manager must not choose decisions on party/politics -he is less political - does things for good of the city -has limited power? or does he make all key decisions? -If a city has a mayor, could be either mayor-council or city manager -College Station is city manager type of govt. 3. Special Districts -are often single purpose governments -set up by the state/state legislature to meet service needs that other governments either cannot or will not do -Examples: mass transit districts, flood control districts, sports authority districts -Powers are given by the state and they look like other governments -can tax, borrow, spend, etc. -they are created because other governments can't perform the function -they are created because: a) Money - Municipalities are limited on how much they can tax/spend. To do more/increase the limits, you set up another district of govt. with its own spending/taxing authority. Often set up with special fees to make up for the additional costs b) Refusal of municipalities to provide services to areas that are not incorporated in the city -mass transit -cities don't want to spend money to help people outside city get in for work, etc. -special districts are the solution, they cross city boundaries Multiplicity of Local Governments -fragmentation of local government (counties, cities, special districts - all do different things) -drawbacks of fragmented local government -the lines of responsibility become blurred if there are multiple local governments in same area - who's really in charge? -assigning blame is difficult -low public knowledge - many don't know what districts they live in or who's in charge of those districts -benefits of fragmented local government -cities/suburbs can form separate identities from neighboring cities -people have greater choice about types of communities they want to live in -people have more points of access - easier to go talk to government about a problem or serve in govt. -more ways to become involved in govt. The Tiebout Model of Local Govt. Competition (Charles Tiebout, an economist) -Central argument -fragmented govt. is a good thing b/c it creates a competitive, market-like environment -If citizens aren't happy living in one city, they can move to another one -"voting with your feet" -choosing price/quality of living somewhere, like market-shopping; more selection -would make cities responsive to people - can't afford to lose people (tax base) so you change policy to keep some people. Being responsive to people, competing with other cities for the residents -Problems with the Tiebout Model -Not everyone has ability/mobility to pick up and move like Tiebout Model assumes -Tiebout Model works for upper/middle income class, not for poorer people -Problems for Cities -Later part of 1900s, people kept becoming more mobile, went to suburbs (only upper/middle class) -city lost upper income (the tax base) and were left with poor people to manage and receive city services -Tiebout Model is still a good model, particularly for well-off people Community Politics -Machine politics: work primarily through cities, sometimes state (once in power, dominated city-state politics) -Machines gained power through: -patronage (rewarding people with jobs) -influencing business -govt. contracts -building permits -began late 1800s and existed through parts of 1900s What led to the decline of party machines? 1. They relied on distributing favors to poor residents, so the poor would have tangible benefits from party machines. But in the 1930s, federal govt. expanded welfare benefits, so poor didn't have to depend as much on party machines. 2. Waves of European immigration in the late 1800s/early 1900s. They needed jobs, housing, and to fit into the community. Machines were good at assisting immigrants in these ways. But immigration dropped and so did machine support. 3.Patronage - govt. moved towards merit system, which took away one of party machines' key tools at the local level. 4. Reform movement overall (late 1800s/early 1900s) among intellectuals, and the people who felt that government had become corrupt. They proposed a reformed government model, which included... a) A council-manager form of government (who wouldn't act from politics, but from being rational/a professional. b) Non-partisan elections -at the local level, political parties aren't necessary in making day-to-day decisions (repairing roads, etc). Not entirely true, but there was a push for privatization -tough to have political machines without political parties (can be used interchangeably), so both declined c) At large election because wanted each council member to represent city as a WHOLE i) District-ward elections - each district gets own city council member OR ii) At large elections - allows everyone in the city to vote for each council member (along with how many members they want to have) -Effect of at large elections: -minority representation on city-councils tends to be reduced -minority representation is more likely in district/ward elections -is not what reformers wanted, it's just what happened d)Merit system for all local govt. jobs and contracts (pretty much universal now) -would be adopted by many cities but not all (not the BIG cities, which are mayor-council most of the time) -at large elections - not used for big cities either - is unrealistic for a member to represent the whole city rather than a district/ward -the reformed model is better overall for certain types of cities (smaller ones) Elitism and Pluralism -Who runs the city? How does government operate? -Elitist view of politics -the top community/business leaders run the city -political power flows from economic power, average citizens have no role -even though the average citizens vote for their own officials, the officials listen to the top people -Pluralist view of politics -there are lots of groups in a city competing for attention -the masses matter! -city government officials matter (matters who the average citizens vote for) -they propose different policies -City Limits by Paul Peterson -who has power depends on the policy types -Developmental policies: -often business/tax/zoning policies -business leaders run politics here b/c they care more about these types -govt. leaders will listen to them b/c they are more vocal -Allocational policies: -about the delivering of basic city services (police, fire protection, education, sanitation, parks and recreation, etc.) -average citizens care about these issues - they will hold city council members accountable, so they will be listened to Suburban Sprawl (1950s) Metropolitan Area: central city of 50,000 or more when including surrounding incorporated areas -predominantly urban population with close [economic] ties to central city -cities were expanding in size (maybe not actual city limits, but the population) -people began to live in areas outside of the city -Happened because of: -highway system was better (better ability to travel to and from city) -more cars -more able to commute -Problem: central cities face problem of wealthier income people/tax base moving out to suburbs, while the poorer people left behind/the demand for city services remained in the city -Tiebout model -Solution: -annex the suburbs and bring the people back into the city Annexation Power of a city to increase geographical size by expanding its boundaries to take in adjacent, unincorporated areas (not other existing cities) -Was a solution to: -a fleeing tax base -cities wanting to avoid being encircled by other cities -for a period of time, Dallas was surrounded and could not expand -Annexation laws in TX are favorable to cities that want to expand -Houston has annexed aggressively and avoided being surrounded -annexed Kingwood (good tax base) and other areas -Home rule vs. general law cities have different types of powers with annexation -All large cities in TX (over 5,000 in population) are home rule -Home rule: can annex any area without their approval -Houston did not have
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