Law’s Function as a Symbol in America

The United States of America is an extraordinarily unique country, one created by and for the people, rather than any one individual. Ours is a government of institutions and laws, binding each American together, and holding us all accountable to one another. Above all else, the rule of law symbolizes the United States and her citizens, as well as its commitment to upholding the international order.

Few other nations benefit from the liberties and freedom enjoyed each day by Americans, and few things are held in such high reverence in the U.S. as our judiciary system. It’s then worth asking how, exactly, law has come to symbolize our nation and its people.

There is no finer example nor greater power of American law than the United States Constitution. This document, penned by our founders and relied upon throughout our history as a legal compass, has built the very foundation of our country. Americans rightly view the Constitution and principles instilled within it as the bedrock of our nation, though seldom do we appreciate the lengths to which it goes to protect us.

Everywhere one looks in America, there is law; our courthouses and statehouses dot our maps, and Americans are regularly exposed to law in their media and everyday experiences. Whether it’s being tried by a jury of your peers, or merely being bombarded with advertisements for legal services on your way to work, we all find ourselves immersed in a world of law.
From our nation’s inception, our government officials have derived their authority not from a divine mandate, but rather the will of the people. This principle, enumerated in Article I of the constitution as it establishes the House of Representatives, has driven the United States to become the international role model of the rule of law. Time and time again, other nations have formulated their constitutions, governments, and guiding national principles with the assistant of the United States.

Our constitution serving as an example for others is perhaps best seen in the nation of Japan, which, after world war II, formulated a constitution based not only on its own national principles, but those of the American Constitution. Time and time again, our courts, legal documents, and rich judicial history has served as an example around the globe.

Countless times throughout American history, the people of the United States have fallen back on the symbol and power of their judicial system to rescue them from tyranny. Two presidents have been impeached, and countless instances of discrimination have been struck down, all through the vital institutions of the judiciary.

Law has become more than a guiding principle of life; these days, the law in the United States serves as a cultural icon, an ever-present reminder that our government is one of, by, and for the people.

How have you seen law function as a symbol in the United States? How would our nation be different without our judicial system? Leave a comment below!

Neil Gorsuch: Supreme Court Justice

On April 10th, 2017, Neil Gorsuch was sworn in to become the United States’ latest Supreme Court Justice. Who exactly is Justice Gorsuch, and how will his legal philosophy impact the American judiciary?

Replacing the late Justice Antonin Scalia, 49-year-old Justice Gorsuch ascended to America’s highest court after a long and bitter conflict in the US Senate regarding his nomination. The nearly 14 month-long confirmation process, which captured headlines and inspired partisan fervor on both sides of the aisle, reached its conclusion when the Harvard Law School graduate was sworn in as the 113th Justice at a public ceremony in the White House Rose Garden.

Justice Gorsuch received a “well-qualified” rating from the American Bar Association leading up to his confirmation, the highest such rating given by the association. Nominated by President Donald J. Trump, Gorsuch had previously served on 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for over a decade, having been nominated to said court by President George W. Bush.
Like Justice Scalia before him, Justice Gorsuch identifies as a strict “originalist”, believing there is little room for interpreting the constitution in legal rulings, opting instead to adhere to the original intent of the constitution’s framers at the time of its writing. To Justice Gorsuch, legal statutes are to be read narrowly, with little wiggle room allowed for modern reinterpretation or dispute.

The ascension of Justice Gorsuch to America’s highest court broke the deadlocked 4-4 court, and will permit our nation’s chief judiciary institution to have votes with all 9 members present.

One of the more notable aspects of Justice Gorsuch’s judicial philosophy is his ardent opposition to the Chevron deference. This principle, established in a 1984 Supreme Court case, posits that courts and judges should leave interpretation of legal statutes to regulatory agencies, rather than weighing in on the issues themselves. Vehemently dissenting to this principle in a 2016 dissent, Justice Gorsuch put forward that such a deference put far too much power in the hands of un-elected bureaucracies.
Highly lauded by conservatives, Justice Gorsuch’s first issued opinion for the Supreme Court was regarding the definition of a debt collector. In a unanimous decision, the court decided that debt collector’s regulations are not applicable to companies that purchase debts.

All Supreme Court Justices serve for life, or until they retire. What are your thoughts on the Supreme Court? Leave a comment down below!

Ways to Post Bail

weighing options in court

If you’ve been suspected of committing a crime, a judge may have ordered you to post bail to stay out of jail until you are required to return to court. The bail amount is set by a judge at the arraignment (or at a hearing, if necessary). There are a number of methods of posting bail. In this article, we’ll explore the options that defendants have to securing their freedom before a court appearance.

Cash
Cash is the most widely accepted form of bail payment. Simply pay the full amount of cash and you will be set free. The money will be refunded 2 – 6 weeks after making your appearance in court.

Check
Similar to cash, a check made out for the full amount can secure your freedom. This option isn’t always accepted by every jurisdiction. After all, a check may be returned with insufficient funds. For this reason, only cashiers checks can be used.

Property
Your property can help you post bail. Signing over ownership rights for your property worth the full amount can be used in lieu of cash. Your property can be your home, your vehicle(s), jewelry, and other forms. If you don’t show up for court, your property will be seized.

Bonds
A bond (known as a “surety bond”) is a guaranteed payment of the full amount. By contacting a bail bondsman, they cover the full amount while a defendant only has to pay 10% of the bail to guarantee their freedom. Some bond sellers may require collateral, which is a financial stake in a person’s property (i.e. vehicle, house) that can make sure that the professional gets a return on their investment should a person not appear in court.

a judge deciding on bail amounts

Remember that your money will be returned for all of the aforementioned methods of payment. However, if you are using a specialist, your money won’t be refunded. Essentially, a bail bondsman puts up the entire amount of bail in exchange for keeping 10% of the bond. If your bail is set at $10,000, you only have to pay $1,000 to guarantee your freedom until your court date.

Credit Card
One of the newer and more controversial methods of posting bond is using a credit card. The reason being that credit itself is a type of loan and may not have the same binding effect that cash or property have on ensuring that people show up for court dates. Services like GovSwipe can assist those that lack the other forms of payment and avoid costly incarceration. Not every state accepts credit cards, and the states that do accept credit cards only accept certain credit cards.

There you have it! These are the more popular methods used to help people get out of jail. If you are in a jam and need to get out fast, the above options will be the easiest route for you and your loved ones. Let me know your thoughts, please leave a comment below.

Do Drug Tests Invade the Right to Privacy?

I would like to note that for this article, I am referring to drug testing for employment purposes. For example, when a person applies for a job, and they have to pass a drug test in order to get the job. My overall opinion about this topic is, no, I do not feel that drug tests invade the right to privacy.

First of all, you are choosing to apply to this job. You are asking to be a part of someone else’s place of business. They are not inviting you, and if they did, you still have a choice of whether you want to take the test or not. If an employer and/or owner does not want his or employees to be drug free, then that is his or her choice.

Second, an employer or owner has, in my opinion, a right to know this information. Drugs can not only have an adverse effect on a person’s individual performance, but on the company as a whole. If someone has a drug addiction or comes to the job high on whatever he or she is taking, then that may deplete his or ability to produce the necessary work needed. Furthermore, an employer does not know if that person is bringing those drugs to his or her place of business. That can shut a business down. There are a lot of factors that play into why drug testing is necessary.

image of an over the counter drug test

Third, taking drugs is a choice. I feel bad for anyone who is addicted or needs drugs to deal with their personal issues. I mean that wholeheartedly. At the end of the day, however, you can’t do something that is against the law or against a business’s personal polices, and expect to be rewarded for it.

I hope that I did not come across to harsh, but these are my honest feelings. What do you all think? Please let us know in the comment section below.

Sex on Television: Should it Be Monitored?

A lot of television programs have been pushing the envelope when it comes to sex on television. I have personally noticed a lot of explicit content on some of the programs that I watch, and I have found it to be a bit unsettling.

I have heard that certain producers and creators are intentionally trying to push the envelope when it comes to the sexual content on their programs. I suppose it is to exercise their freedom of speech. I support people trying to use their rights to the fullest. That being said, I don’t really understand the point in trying to display so many sexual scenes on prime-time television, and I personally feel that a lot of the sex on television should be monitored.

I don’t understand what racy sex scenes has to do with freedom of speech, and why it shouldn’t be monitored. What speech are these programs trying to get across, that involve people having sex? People having sex isn’t speech, it’s a fact. It’s also a personal matter that a lot of viewers do not want to see. In my opinion, speech is what you are trying to get out, a message that you want to be heard. I guess the message on television that television creators and producers want the world to get in regards to sex, is that they feel that it should not be monitored. But my question is, why? Why do you want your viewers to look at something so provocative? What does it do; what does it teach. I personally like things to be rational. I cannot find the rationality behind having all of these explicit sex scenes. This has nothing to do with freedom of speech, it is just to spark controversy.

And whether these creators think that children shouldn’t watch their programs or not, they do. There are a lot of amazing shows that I find 14+ age appropriate, but they add these unnecessary sex scenes that make them inappropriate. Why is society so adamant about promoting sex when that is the last thing that a lot of people need to be focused on? We are a sex-influenced generation and, to me, it is detrimental in the development of proper relationships. Having explicit sex scenes on every decent television show is completely unnecessary, and I think that those scenes should be monitored.

I feel that a lot of people will disagree with me. I welcome all opinions in the comment section. If you agree, tell us way. If you don’t, please share your thoughts. I encourage you all to leave your opinions in the comment section below. You can also view this great article for more.

Should Felons Have the Right to Vote?

I love writing about these controversial topics. They push me to think, research, and search the brains of others. I have never really thought about this particular issue. Now that I have, I cannot stop thinking about it.

I feel pretty passionate about this topic, because I already feel like the prison system is flawed in so many ways. I was reading some comments that people wrote about this topic, and two stuck out at me. They were contrary opinions, but they each made me think. One comment was against felons and prisoners having the right to vote. The comment stated that when prisoners committed their crimes, they have (depending on the crime) taken or affected the rights of others, so their own rights should be taken or affected. I felt that that was a good point. When felons steal, kill, cheat on taxes, etc., they are affecting the rights of others to some degree. However, they are not affecting everything single right that that person has. I personally do not see the correlation between someone stealing and someone voting. I understand that this is a punishment, but I also thought that the prison sentence and being ostracized by society was the punishment. I don’t know if taking away someone’s voting rights is an effective or necessary punishment.

That brings me to the next comment that I read. This comment supported the idea of prisoners (which I am assuming included felons), having the right to vote. The comment stated that prison dehumanizes people enough, which makes it harder from them to be successful when they are finally a part of society again. Taking away the right to vote isolates them even more. I could not agree more with that comment. I wrote an article before that somewhat discussed the dehumanizing issue within prisons. Taking away a felon’s right to vote seems to only serve the purpose of making them feel like they are nothing, I don’t know if that is going to make them feel like they should improve themselves. I don’t.

voting rights for felons

There are also other factors to think about. Perhaps voting should depend on the crime that a person commits. I don’t think that all prisoner’s and felons can be lumped into one category. Some felons made one horrible mistake, others had a bad upbringing, maybe the felon shouldn’t even be a felon at all and the real felon is out there living his life and voting. There may be some felons who should have their voting rights taken away, but I do not believe that that should be a generalized solution.

I am curious to know what you guys think about this. Please share whether you think felons should be allowed to vote or not in the comment section below.

The Basic Elements of Hearsay

Most people are familiar with the concept of hearsay, and many intuitively understand that it can’t be fully trusted. When sharing a juicy bit of gossip, a person might qualify his statements by saying that it’s hearsay, meaning he only heard the information from someone else. As such, he can’t verify that the information is true. Courts also recognize the unreliability of hearsay, which is why they generally preclude it from evidence. Of course, in court, hearsay is a highly technical concept, as evidenced by the fact that the Federal Rules of Evidence devote seven rules to just this one topic, or that there are entire books discussing those rules. For present purposes, we’ll have to content ourselves with a brief consideration of hearsay’s basic elements.

1. A statement

The first element of hearsay is a statement. A statement is any assertion. The assertion can be made orally, in writing, or even through conduct. For example, if you ask your friend a question, and he nods his head in response, that would count as an assertion. This means that your friend nodding his head in answer to your question is a statement under the Federal Rules of Evidence, and might even be hearsay if the other elements are satisfied!

2. Not made while testifying at the current judicial proceeding

The second element is often summarized by saying that hearsay requires an out-of-court statement. This means that the person who made the statement did so not as a witness at trial or in a hearing, but just as part of his or her everyday life. So, to take the example above, where you and your friend were when he nodded his head makes a difference. If you were at the mall when you asked your question and he responded, then his statement would satisfy this element of hearsay. On the other hand, if you were questioning your friend as a witness at trial, then his response would not satisfy this element, unless it happened in a previous trial.

3. Offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted

This element can be tricky, but it’s key to many disputes about out-of-court statements. Such statements are only hearsay if they are offered “to prove the truth of the matter asserted,” as Federal Rule of Evidence 801 puts it. For example, suppose your friend got in a wreck with a green car. After the wreck, he said, “That green car swerved into my lane!” The “matter asserted” by that statement is that the green car swerved into your friend’s lane. If you tried to offer that statement as evidence that the green car swerved into his lane, you would be offering your friend’s out-of-court statement to prove the truth of the matter asserted, meaning it would be hearsay.

picture describing what hearsay is

But suppose that your friend died from injuries sustained in the car accident. In a lawsuit against the other driver, his family might offer the statement to recover damages for your friend’s pain and suffering by showing that your friend was conscious following the wreck. In that case, the statement isn’t being offered to prove that the green car swerved into your friend’s lane, but to show that he was conscious. Because the statement didn’t assert that your friend was conscious, it wouldn’t be hearsay under those circumstances.

The rules relating to hearsay are many and complex. This brief discussion of the legal concept barely scratches the surface of how the Federal Rules of Evidence deal with it. But at least now you have some idea of how the concept that makes you ignore gossip applies in court. If you’re interested in reading more of the rules on hearsay, you can find them in the Federal Rules of Evidence sections 801 through 807.

How to Become a Judge

Judges perform some of the most important roles in the legal process. They preside over trials and court hearings, uphold the rights of individuals in legal proceedings, and supervise the legal process. A judge ensures that a trial is conducted according to established procedures, including which evidence is permissible in court and how testimony is given. For criminal trials that are not held in front of a jury, a judge decides whether a defendant is innocent or guilty; similarly, for civil cases, judges determine which party is liable and the amount of fair compensation. In this article, we’ll cover how you can become a judge.

Steps to Becoming a Judge

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree
Step 2: Earn a Juris Doctorate Degree
Step 3: Pass a Bar Exam
Step 4: Gain Experience as an Attorney
Step 5: Obtaining a Judgeship
Step 6: Complete (and Continue) Training

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

The first step to becoming a judge starts in college. An aspiring judge doesn’t necessarily need to pick a specific major for attaining their bachelor’s degree. However, many of those looking ahead for a career in the legal field will focus on degrees that are more applicable to being accepted to law school. These majors commonly include business, criminal justice, history, political science, philosophy, and so forth.

Step 2: Earn a Juris Doctorate Degree

After attaining a bachelor’s degree, aspiring judges must follow the career path of an attorney. Therefore, they will attend an American Bar Association-accredited law school, where there’ll be awarded a Juris Doctorate (J.D.) degree. This process generally takes 3 years.

Step 3: Pass a Bar Exam

Once an individual has earned a JD degree, prospective attorneys must apply for admission to the bar in their state/ jurisdiction where they wish to practice law. This requires passing the bar exam, which is a series of tasks that ensures an attorney can perform the most basic of tasks required by an attorney.

Step 4: Gain Experience as an Attorney

Because judges typically “police” the behavior of the trial and attorneys, most judges work as lawyers before acquiring their judgeship. This gives them first-hand and relevant experience to resolve common disputes in court, as well as conducting legal research, drafting court documents, and so forth.

Step 5: Obtain a Judgeship

To become a judge, a lawyer must be appointed or elected by a judicial nominating commission or high-ranking politicians (i.e. senators, governors). An attorney applies for a judgeship by submitting their name for consideration. If the person has a strong history of legal practice and support from politicians/judges, they may be appointed. As a career, many judges have fixed and renewable terms of office; however, some—especially on the federal level—can be appointed to life-long terms.

Step 6: Complete (and Continue) Training

Once a judge has been elected/appointed, they may be required to complete training programs to ensure that they are educated on the newest developments of the law. As a trainee, judges participate in court trials, complete online exercises, and review legal publications to ensure that they are up to the demands of the job. Judges are required to continually complete education courses throughout their careers to stay abreast of the legal changes.

These programs may be state-administered by legal organizations like the American Bar Association, National Center for State Courts, and the National Judicial College; for federal judges, the Federal Judicial Center provides training for federal judges (and other federal court personnel).

If you want some more tips on how you can get started on becoming a judge, here is a great video I found for you to view.

Proving Negligence

picture of negligence

Negligence is the failure to take the proper care that a reasonable person would take. The law of negligence is important because it provides a civil remedy for behavior that doesn’t rise to the level of criminal. It creates an incentive to behave carefully and ensures that those who fail to take reasonable care suffer repercussions. Additionally, negligence claims can provide damages for those who are the victim’s of negligence. Many times these damages are necessary to pay off bills that a victim incurred as a result of another’s negligence.

A common example of negligence would be a driver that fails to reduce his speed in icy conditions. While the speed limit may be 45 mph on a regular day, a reasonable person would slow down because they recognize that driving 45 mph may endanger other drivers on the road. The driver that fails to slow down risks colliding with other vehicles on the road.

Elements of Negligence

There are four elements that must be proven in order to prevail on a claim of negligence. First, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed them a duty of care. There are many different ways that a duty may arise, but the broad rule is that an actor has a duty to exercise reasonable care whenever their conduct creates a risk of physical harm to another. In the traffic example above, the driver owes a duty of care to other drivers on the road.

Once a plaintiff establishes that the defendant owed them a duty of care, they must prove that the defendant breached that duty of care. This is simply providing evidence that defendant failed to use reasonable care on a particular occasion. For example, the driver breached his duty of care to other drivers by failing to reduce his speed in icy conditions.

Next, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s actions were the cause of his injuries. This step includes proving that the injury would not have occurred but for the defendant’s breach and that a reasonable person would have anticipated it was a potential consequence. Continuing with the example from before, if the driver was driving slower than the collision would not have occurred. Furthermore, it is foreseeable to a reasonable driver that a car accident was a potential consequence.

Finally, a plaintiff must request specific damages that are logically connected to the harm that they suffered. Damages are calculated in varying ways depending on the jurisdiction. That being said, damages from negligence claims can range from hundreds to millions of dollars.

Common Crimes People Are Arrested For

Being arrested is not a common occurrence for most people. Being arrested means that you have been caught doing something illegal or that you are suspected of having committed a criminal offence. There are however common crimes or offences that people are often arrested for more often than other crimes.

Below are the common crimes that people are arrested for:

Assault

People arrested for assault have threatened to commit harm to another person showing that they have the ability to do so. Not to be confused with battery, people charged with assault have not actually carried out the physical harm but only threaten to.

DUI

Being arrested for a DUI means that you were caught driving whilst under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This is a common crime that people are arrested for especially during routine traffic stops carried out by police officers.

Disorderly Conduct

graph of crimesPeople arrested for disorderly conduct are deemed to be disturbing the peace. This can apply to people intoxicated in public, loitering or behaving in a disorderly conduct to themselves or others in a public place. Disorderly conduct is not classed as a serious criminal offence but a misdemeanor. Disorderly conduct can include people arrested for fighting in public.

Possession Of Drugs

Possession of illegal narcotics and drugs is an arrest able offence. Each state differs as to the penalties and charges for drug possession. There is a difference between people in possession of small amounts of drugs and those found to be carrying large amounts where there is an intent to sell.

Public Intoxication

If a person is visibly intoxicated in public they can be arrested. Arrests for public intoxication are common, especially around big sporting events or holidays when people consume large amounts of alcohol. People arrested for public intoxication can also be arrested and charged for disorderly conduct if they are disturbing the peace.

Resisting Arrest

A person can be arrested and charged with resisting arrest. This is quite a common crime that people commit when police officers are attempting to apprehend an individual. If a person gives chase or does not cooperate whilst being arrested then they will be charged with resisting arrest.

Vehicle Theft

Motor vehicle theft, or grand theft auto, is a criminal offence that people are commonly arrested for. The be arrested and charged with stealing a motor vehicle the person either needs to have stolen the car or have attempted to steal it.