American Legal Lineage (02:54)
View a definition of law and a 4,000 year time line of the development of Common Law. Congressman Craig Washington explains stare decisis. Common Law is "discovered" law, opposed to Ecclesiastical law.
Civil Liberties Evolution (05:38)
In 1215, the Magna Carta limited the King's authority and granted legal rights. The U.S. Constitution protects against government tyranny and the Bill of Rights guarantees individual rights when faced with prosecution. Legal experts explain the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 8th Amendments.
Tripartite Structure of Government (02:20)
Hear explanations of the legislative, judicial, and executive branches and learn how laws are made in Congress.
U.S. Judicial System (03:55)
There are 51 court systems; one federal and one for each state. Learn about state court and federal court system tiers. The U.S. Supreme Court hears cases from circuit and state supreme courts that raise constitutional issues or have broad national impact, such as Roe v. Wade.
Criminal Law (03:35)
Hear examples of criminal law, including misdemeanors and felonies. Learn about the criminal procedure, including individual protections stipulated in the 5th and 14th amendments. Washington explains the Miranda v. Arizona ruling.
Defining Criminal Behavior (02:17)
Prosecutors must prove legality, actus reus, causation, harm, concurrence, mens rea, and punishment. Lawyer Melvin Belli explains why lawyers are still duty bound to represent clients, even if all seven issues may be proven.
Learn about the process of determining guilt or innocence. Steps include investigation, arrest, booking, charge, initial appearance, formal notice, preliminary hearing, indictment, arraignment, trial, sentencing, punishment, and appeal. Washington explains habeas corpus, corpus delicti, and voir dire. Belli discusses the case of Jack Ruby.
Civil Law (03:04)
About 40% of U.S. civil court cases address domestic relations. Most tort cases reach settlement, in which damages are awarded. A plaintiff's attorney must prove liability, negligence, and injury. Tort law compensates victims, assigns responsibility, prevents repetition, and defends legal rights.
Lady Justice (01:31)
Lopez explains how the symbol of a blindfolded woman upholds the U.S. Constitution's promise of equal justice under the law. Citizens have a right to sit on a jury.
Credits: American Law: How It Works (00:56)
Credits: American Law: How It Works
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