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Gregory Mitchell and David Klein's
American Courts Explained:
A Detailed Introduction to the Legal Process Using Real Cases


"This is a well-written text that I believe is essential reading for any layperson who wants to understand the nuts and bolts of legal procedure. It is also essential reading for one contemplating a career as a paralegal or considering a career in law. It is easily accessible for an undergraduate audience."

~ Sheldon Goldman, Distinguished Professor of Political Science, Univ. of Mass. Amherst


American Courts Explained takes students on a detailed tour of American courts by following two real cases—one criminal, one civil—from the events that gave rise to them, through pre-trial proceedings, jury trials, and appeals. Along the way there are stops in state and federal trial and appellate courts, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court. It introduces readers to major debates relating to the courts: How "political" are judges? How well do different methods of selecting judges work? Do ordinary people have adequate access to lawyers? Should we trust jurors to decide complex and emotional cases? But it presents these debates in the context of actual cases so that readers can see why these debates matter to the parties, lawyers, judges, and jurors. The conviction behind this approach is that students learn best when engaged by vivid, interesting cases with details that make abstract debates and difficult legal concepts meaningful and easier to understand.

By the end of this book, readers will find that the judicial process has been demystified. They will have a firm understanding of what litigants, lawyers and judges do, will understand the structure and procedure of American civil and criminal courts, will see the purposes served by judicial rules and procedures, and will see what effect these rules, and procedures have on the outcomes of cases. Readers will have acquired the knowledge needed to critically evaluate the legal institutions we have and proposals for changing them.

American Courts Explained can serve as a stand-alone text or as a supplement to a textbook that takes a more thematic and less detailed approach to the American judicial process. An accompanying website provides teachers and students with the many legal documents discussed in the book. These materials may be used for extended study of topics, for class exercises or assignments, or just to provide more detail on the many legal procedures and concepts covered in the book. American Courts will give students contemplating law school or a career in criminal justice a realistic understanding of what those careers would involve and a head start on the deeper study of American courts required for those career paths.

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