HLT POL 100 Chapter Notes - Chapter 2: Subpoena Duces Tecum, Phlebotomy, Small Claims Court
DepartmentHealth Policy and Management
Course CodeHLT POL 100
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HLT POL Week 1 reading 1
The U.S. legal system has one federal legal system and fifty separate and unique state systems. For
example, the federal government administers the U.S. Tax Court and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. The
state governments administer such courts as traffic and small claims courts. State governments also
administer medical licensing acts. The majority of criminal cases originate in state courts.
The separation between the three branches created a system of checks and balances and was designed
by the framers of the Constitution so that no one branch could have more power than another branch.
The legislative branch, referred to as Congress, is the lawmaking body. It is composed of members of the
Senate and House of Representatives and is responsible for passing legislation into law. The executive
branch (consisting of the President of the United States, his or her cabinet, and various advisers)
administers and enforces the law. The judicial branch (consisting of judges and the federal courts,
including the Supreme Court) interprets the laws.
The President can appoint all federal and Supreme Court judges, but Congress must confirm
appointments. The judicial branch can review legislation and interpret the laws passed by Congress and
the President, but the President must enforce the law. Congress can, in many instances, pass new laws
to replace laws that are deemed unconstitutional by a judicial decision.
Constitutional law consists of both the U.S. Constitution and the constitutions of the individual states.
This is the country’s highest judicial authority (since 1787). The U.S. Constitution sets up the
government, defines the government’s power to act, and sets limits on the government’s power (i.e.,
individual rights such as the right to free speech). It takes precedence over all state laws and the state
Statutes are laws passed by legislative bodies, either Congress or a state legislature. This is called
statutory or legislative law. Congress and the state legislatures have the authority to pass laws because
in setting up our form of government, the Constitution authorized the legislature to make laws.
Legislatures sometimes authorize agencies to make laws. The legislature does this by passing a statute,
called enabling legislation. This statute creates an agency and authorizes it to pass laws regarding
specific issues. For instance, the Food and Drug Administration is a federal agency that can pass rules
governing the sale of food and drugs. The rules or laws made by agencies are called regulations.
The committee studies the bill and may hold a hearing to gain more facts about the bill. This first
committee issues a report, including a recommendation to either pass or fail the bill.
If the second house passes the act, then the heads of each house—Speaker of the House of
Representatives and the President Pro Tem of the Senate (the Vice President of the United States, in the
case of a federal act)—sign it. The act is then sent to the chief executive, who is, in the case of a federal
act, the President, and for a state act, the governor. The act becomes a law if it is signed by the chief
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executive or if it is not vetoed within ten days. If vetoed, the bill goes back for an override vote.
Laws that are passed by city governments are called municipal ordinances. Federal laws have
precedence over state laws; state laws have precedence over city or municipal laws. In other words, a
state or city may make laws and regulations more stringent than the federal law, but cannot make laws
Unlike the laws established by legislative bodies (statutory laws), common law is made by judges when
they apply previous court decisions to current cases. This means it is based on the judicial interpretation
of previous laws, leading to a common understanding of how a law should be interpreted. Thus,
common law, as established from a court decision, may explain or interpret the other sources of law.
Since common law evolves on a case-by-case basis, it is also called case law.
Common law is based on precedent, the ruling in an early case that is then applied to subsequent cases
when the facts are the same. Each time common, or judge-made, law is applied, it must be reviewed by
the court to determine if it is still justified and relevant or has not been overturned by existing laws. As a
result of this constant review of common law, many laws have been changed (or updated) over the
In the 1616 case of Weaver v. Ward, Weaver sued Ward after Ward’s musket accidentally fired during a
military exercise, wounding Weaver. Weaver won, and Ward had to pay damages for Weaver’s injury.
The court concluded that Weaver did not have to show that Ward intended to injure him. Even though
the injury was an accident, Ward was still liable
Civil law concerns relationships either between individuals or between individuals and the government.
It involves all the law that is not criminal law, although the same conduct may violate criminal and civil
In a civil law case there must be a preponderance of evidence, meaning the fact of the issue is more
probable than not, in order to receive a determination of guilty. This means that it is more likely than
not that the incident did occur.
Contract law includes enforceable promises and agreements between two or more persons to do, or not
do, a particular action. Healthcare employees are most frequently involved in cases of civil law, in
particular, tort and contract law. Most medical malpractice lawsuits fall within the category of the civil
law of torts.
A tort is a civil injury, or wrongful act, that is committed against another person or property, resulting in
harm, and is compensated by money damages. To sue for a tort, a patient must have suffered a mental
or physical injury that was caused by the physician or the physician’s employee. A tort case is tried
before either a judge or a jury.
Intentional torts occur when a person has been intentionally or deliberately injured by another.
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