UWP 104B Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Equal Protection Clause, Pathos, Lawrence V. Texas

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UWP 104: Legal Writing
A Short Guide to Writing About Law: Chapter 1- Writing about law
Legal writing: the skill of making legal claims and supporting them with authority
Ex. documents that lawyers produce in practice, court opinions drafted by judges,
statutes written by legislators, academic legal writing or legal scholarship
Primary legal documents: cases, briefs, statutes
All of these legal genres making legal claims or observations
And all use primary and secondary legal sources to support these claims
Legal writing, both professionally and scholarly, uses complex citation style called
U.S. legal system built on early British legal system
Reliance on common law- previously decided cases (precedent) are used to
determine what the law is
Stare Decisis: legal doctrine that says precedent should be followed (“Let the decision
In common law legal systems like ours, the oldest type of authority is precedent, also
called case law (it made it through individual cases decided by judges)
Four primary sources of law:
Constitutions (both federal and state)
Statutes, created by legislative branches of state and federal governments and
by city councils
Administrative rules and executive orders, created by executive branches
Judge-made case law, created by the judicial branch
Judicial Review: the power held by the courts to say whether legislation violates the
Constitution (is unconstitutional)
U.S. District Courts: the federal trial courts, settle two kinds of trials
Criminal trials: in which the government prosecutes an individual or group (the
defendant) for violating a criminal law
Civil trials: in which a private party (plaintiff) sues another private party or the
government for some violation of the plaintiff’s interests
U.S. Courts of Appeals (circuit courts): a party dissatisfied with the result of an appeal, or
challenge, the district court’s ruling in a circuit court. An appeal is not a new trial, rather a
panel of judges reviews the decision of the lower court to determine whether there were
any legal problems with the procedures or outcome of the trial. The circuit court then
issues a decision in the form of written opinion
U.S. Supreme Court: A party who disagrees with the circuit court’s ruling may appeal to
the U.S. Supreme Court, which only hears 1% of the cases people seek to bring before
it. The justices choose to hear cases that, in their opinion, address the most pressing
legal issues of the day. The Supreme Court’s rulings are final- they can only be
overturned by a future sitting of the Supreme Court. All lower courts, both federal and
state, must abide by the U.S. Supreme Court rulings.
Rhetoric: the ability to identify and use the appropriate means of persuasion in any given
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