POLS-135: American Legal Systems and Processes

Liberal Arts
Social Sciences
Political Science
Academic Level
Course Subject
Political Science
Course Number
Course Title
American Legal Systems and Processes
Credit Hours
Instructor Contact Hours Per Semester
47.00 (for 15-week classes)
Student Contact Hours Per Semester
47.00 (for 15-week classes)
Grading Method
Eligible to take ENG courses at HFC.
Catalog Course Description

Considers legal systems as social/political phenomena and explores the U.S. Constitution, landmark court decisions, and patterns of behavior characterizing legal system participants. This course is appropriate as a lead-in for those interested in the fields of political science, criminal justice, legal secretary, and paralegal, as well as those considering law school.

Goals, Topics, and Objectives

Core Course Topics
  1. Law, Courts, and Politics
  2. Law and Legal Systems
  3. Federal Courts
  4. State Courts
  5. Lawyers and Legal Representation
  6. Judges
  7. Mobilizing the Law: Litigants, Interest Groups, Court Cases, and the Media
  8. Trial Courts: The Preliminary Stages of Criminal Cases
  9. Trial Courts: Bargaining and Sentencing in Criminal Courts
  10. Trial Courts: The Preliminary Stages of Civil Cases
  11. Trial Courts: Dispositions of Civil Cases
  12. Trial
  13. The Appellate Process
  14. The Supreme Court: Deciding What to Decide
  15. The Supreme Court: The Justices and Their Decisions
  16. Final Research Project
Core Course Learning Objectives (Separated)
  1. Define the organization of the federal courts.
  2. Identify the U.S. courts as legal and political institutions.
  3. Demonstrate an understanding of time and chronology with regard to the American legal system and respective landmark court decisions.
  4. Compare adversarial legal systems versus non-adversarial legal systems.
  5. Identify sources to support a position, analyze which sources best support the position taken, and summarize the supporting sources into a written argument.
  6. Analyze cause and effect in social/political phenomena as it relates to decisions made throughout the years by the U.S. courts.
  7. Trace elements of change and continuity with regard to landmark court decisions.
  8. Analyze and describe the impact of major court decisions, personalities, citizen stakeholders, special interest groups, and places with regard to the decisions made by the U.S. courts.
  9. Compare and contrast the American legal system with the legal systems of other nations.

Assessment and Requirements

Assessment of Academic Achievement

Assessment methods for this course include weekly assignments and discussion board activities and a mid-term and final written research project.


Judicial Process: Law, Courts, and Politics in the United States, 3rd edition, by David W. Neubauer and Stephen S. Meinhold. Thomson –Wadsworth Publishing.


General Education Categories
  • Social Sciences
Institutional Outcomes
  • Civil Society and Culture - U.S. and Global
MTA Categories
  • Category 4: Social Sciences
Satisfies Wellness Requirement

Credit for Prior College-Level Learning

Other Details

Determined by department.

Approval Dates

Effective Term
Winter 2022
ILT Approval Date
AALC Approval Date
Curriculum Committee Approval Date
Review Semester
Winter 2022