Welcome to 332

It’s my pleasure to welcome you to PSC 332. We’ll be learning about the structure, staffing and function of the American court system. It’s a fascinating topic. There are all sorts of representations of our legal system in the media, but how accurate is the picture we’re being presented? Why do Americans sue each other so much? Is it such a bad thing to elect our state judges? If judges always want to be tough on crime, why are there so many plea bargains?

This semester, I’ve assigned a very short judicial process textbook, along with a collection of writings from actual judges. To supplement this, I’ll be posting commentary here in the form of annotated newspaper articles, posts from around the blogosphere and other items to help supplement the basic information from the textbook. The content of this blog will be important both to your understanding of government in practice AND to your ability to do will on the two exams in this course.

You’ll also want to keep up with current political events. A good place to start is on the law and politics pages of some of the major news organizations. For reasons we will discuss as we get farther along in the course, you’ll want to choose a variety of sources for your information. Some to try are:

You don’t see The Daily Show or The Colbert Report here. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t watch these shows. I do! It just means that you should supplement what you see on these shows with a close reading of the stories behind what’s presented here.

For today, think about the sources from which you get your news. Are you a daily newspaper reader? Do you get the LVRJ on your Kindle? Do you check in with CNN or Fox News as you’re getting ready for school in the morning? Do scope out Google News? Do you just wait for news to sort of permeate your skull through osmosis? Now is the time to start devising a workable way for you to get some solid news exposure. Investigate the resources above, and settle on a plan of action.

Questions? E-mail me at rebecca.gill@unlv.edu or visit my office hours from 9-10:30 am on Mondays and Wednesdays.

-RG

Updates

I have completed the group reading summary blogs. You should post your reviews to the blog, making sure that you personally post one review per four extra readings in the syllabus. You’ll need to coordinate the schedule with your group. If you have a group with five members, you will need to duplicate one of the readings.

You will also notice that there is a peer review mechanism associated with the reading summary blog. You will need to read and assess the reading summaries posted by each of your groupmates. Please review these within a week after the reading was assigned. Keep in mind that your evaluations will be seen only by the author of the summary. Your identity will be concealed from the author of the summary, who will see only your evaluation and comments. Only our graduate assistant (Mr. O’Neal) and I will be able to connect your identity with your review.

Mr. O’Neal and I will also provide you feedback on your summaries.

In addition, I have added a page of links to the full text of the cases. This page is in the Readings folder, which is linked on the main WebCampus page for our course.