LS101–Legal Studies


Welcome to Legal 

Studies 101 

2018 Fall T/TH 1-2:20 HH 

Room 210

 Law 101: Everything You Need to Know about the American Legal System

Course Description: This course introduces the student to the American legal system, including sources of law; topical areas within the law; legal process; basic legal research methods; and ethical issues. It is the initial, introductory course in Legal Studies and is required for completion of a minor in Legal Studies. The course features a broad range of guest speakers as well as a number of field trips to courts, law libraries, and law offices.

Required works:

Jay M. Feinman, Law 101 - Everything You Need to Know About American Law, Oxford University Press 5rd Ed. (2018)

Peter Irons The Courage of Their Convictions: Sixteen Americans Who Fought Their Way to the Supreme Court,Penguin Press (1990)

Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, Random House (2015)

Declaration of Independence

United States Constitution

Washington State Constitution

Optional but helpful: Professor Newman's Subject Matter Index

Optional but helpful: Professor Newman's YouTube Channel

Additionally, I have posted cases and articles for reading and discussion each week. Come prepared to discuss!

Course Objectives:
  • Identify the sources of American law and summarize how they relate.
  • List your "constitutional rights" and discuss what they protect.
  • Summarize cases discussed in your books where constitutional rights were at issue
  • Identify "enumerated powers" and explain how they relate to the 10th Amendment.
  • Define "judicial review".
  • Contrast civil vs. criminal law
  • Outline the federal and state court systems.
  • Define "jurisdiction" as it applies to federal and state courts.
  • Outline the life cycle of a civil case.
  • Recognize torts and give examples.
  • Name the elements needed for an enforceable "contract".
  • Summarize how real and personal property is acquired and transferred.
  • Outline the life cycle of a criminal case. 
  • Give examples of crimes.
  • Recognize what rights you have as a criminal defendant and how to protect yourself.
  • Discuss the challenges facing public defenders as discussed in Just Mercy. 

Grade determination method: Total 600 points
4 Exams @ 100 points each = 400 points
1 Debate @ 100 points each = 100 points
Active attendance = 100 points

Teaching Philosophy: My job is to help you develop legal knowledge and skills that will make you successful in YOUR career. This class focuses on Constitutional literacy. It is your responsibility to be prepared for class and to complete all assignments on time. I have listed reading assignments, exams and presentations/debates for each week below. Please note that I reserve the option to modify the schedule and frequently add content to the syllabus based on current events. Classes are conducted based on the assumption that students have PRE-READ the material for that day's class; all material is subject to class discussion.

Office Hours: I am available before/after class, by appointment at my office which is located in the O'Grady Library Room 219 [3rd Floor aka Thomas Room] or via email at I try to respond to emails within 24 hours. Note these etiquette tips for emailing your professor and submitting materials.

Academic Policy: SMU Academic Policies and Procedures regarding academic dishonesty can be found in the undergraduate student catalog. I do not give mulligans (re-dos/extra credit) or incompletes and absences, regardless of reason, are recorded as absences.

Need Help? Information on student support offices, including academic support, counseling, health and disability support services can be found in the undergraduate student catalog. Students are responsible for working with disability services to provide me notice of any necessary accommodations. For technology help, contact the Help Desk or the Computer Resource Center.

Check this syllabus frequently, as I've built some flexibility into the syllabus to accommodate additional guest speakers and field trips.

Class participation can and does make a difference!!

Syllabus will be
 on Moodle - log in here