American Legal System

American Legal System with Jason Leggett

Syllabus (*experimental interactive)
Kingsborough Community College
of the City University of New York

Course Number and Title: Pol 67 American Legal System
Meets: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday at 3-4 PM
Credits: Three
Professor: Jason M. Leggett, J.D.

American Legal History, A Very Short Introduction by G. Edward White.
American Immigration, A Very Short Introduction by David A. Gerber.
The Rule of Law by Tom Bingham.
The Formative Era of American Law by Roscoe Pound.
Essentials of Immigration Law by Richard Boswell.
Changes in the Westphalian Order: Territory, Public Authority, and Sovereignty by James A. Caporaso.

Office Hours, Location, and how to reach me.
Office: D-221 on Mondays 10:20 – 12:20
Email me: or

Why a Syllabus is important to the professor:

We will go over this entire syllabus in class together. You should print and bring a copy, keep in your folder, or have a digital copy available.

Statement: Some people believe the syllabus is a contract but I do not for one simple reason: a contract requires an offer and acceptance with a bargained for exchange. We have not bargained, there is no exchange, and you did not have a chance to reject the syllabus. So why is this thing important? In short, this document provides a snapshot of what we (you, me, and your classmates) hope to accomplish with our time together. It represents our commitment to higher education, to the CUNY system, and to this college that we take this job seriously. It also gives you a chance to see how your grade will be determined and what topics we will study in case you want to take this class with someone else or take a different class.

Here is a link to my teaching portfolio beginning with mission statement or teaching statement if you want to know more:

CUNYFIRST Course Description:
Designed for, but not limited to, students interested in a pre-law curriculum. The American judicial process at the federal and state levels will be investigated. Successful completion of this course satisfies one Civic Engagement interaction.

My course Description:
In this class, we will use the High Impact Practice of undergraduate research to examine how the courts influence society and our ideas of justice, fairness, power, and law as a constitutive element of democratic government.

Student Learning Outcomes
If Pathways See: This is not a Pathways Approved Course

If Liberal Arts See: This is an “American Politics” Course

If CRJ See:

My Learning Outcome or Goals

We will define our course learning outcomes together as a class.

See AACU for example

See: Learning Outcomes per College

(Both are available on Course Website and Syllabus Online)

Required Materials and Class Preparation:

See Cuny First:; this is an Open Educational Resource, or Zero Cost Textbook Course. All materials will be made available for free on Blackboard and our Course Website.

See Department for previous syllabi and materials: D-309

See Program or Liberal Arts for resources: College Catalogue Online

Our Course Materials are found on the Course Website at:

American Legal System | Outline

Recommended Materials:

What should students already have read?
It would be helpful if you had read the following materials prior to enrolling in this class:

1. United States Constitution and Bill of Rights
2. Constitutional Amendments
3. Federalist Papers
4. Anti-Federalist Papers
5. Universal Declaration of Human Rights
6. American Legal System, A Very Short Introduction

What should students bring to class?
1. Research Journal or digital device.
2. You should bring a notebook to take additional notes, an audio recording device, or a digital device to take notes.
3. You should participate in small group discussions, large class dialogues, and activities and ask me questions.

What should students use to study?
1. You should use your lecture notes, discussion notes, Powerpoints, Youtube Videos, and any Podcasts to supplement your learning.

2. You should make 3×5 notecards of your organized notes; you will be able to use these on the final exam.

Attendance Policy: CUNY Kingsborough expects that you will not miss more than 6 hours of class during the semester. If you are experiencing challenges coming to class you must come talk to me in person or over email. If it is evident you are missing a significant number of classes or are not completing the course work you will receive a grade of WU (Withdrawl).

SPECIFICALLY – You should review and get familiar with your rights and responsibilites, including any punishments you might receive and the grade appeal information from the Student Conduct office and pay special attention to the Student Handbook – see:

Class “etiquette” or behavioral assessments/expectations:
In general you are allowed to eat in class, use your mobile device, and go to the bathroom without permission. I expect you to behave like an adult and professionally. If you are distracting me or other classmates I will let you know. You should try to be in class and ready to learn within 5 minutes of the starting time. You will not be given participation credit if you are habitually late, leave early, are not a productive participator, or fail to evidence comprehension of learning materials. Higher Education is intended to be training for a career and a better life, both individually and socially. I will work with you on this improvement within reason.

Kingsborough Email, Announcements, Blackboard, other websites:

1. Your Kingsborough email is important because you get a variety of notifications including scholarships, financial aid, problems with your registration, class information, college closures, events, and more.

2. You should check Blackboard daily. I will use the following sections for this course: Announcements, Course Information; I will not use: Grade Center, TurnitIn, or other features.

3. I make my own website using the CUNY Commons because I have more control over the design and work that you submit using this interface. It is accessible on any device and browser. You should save or bookmark this website because it is the one I will refer to most often:

Academic Integretity and what is plagiarism?

1. You are supposed to produce your understanding of the learning materials and not copy work produced by others.

2. You should not copy or use other classmates work.

3. You should not copy and paste words from websites or journal articles into your essays.

4. You should read and refer often to this website:

Accessibility and Campus Services

1. I utilize a motivational framework for all students to learn.
2. You should contact me if you have any questions or
3. You should review the policy on accessibility and services at:
4. You can visit the Accessibility office at D-205 or email at

Course Work and Grading:

Extra Credit: Asylum NY Proposal
(link to page with instructions and sign up google form)

Assessment: I want you to be able to Write a mock judicial opinion after reading and analyzing a case file. You will do this twice: once for the final written assignment and again at the final exam. The weeks leading up to the final assessment will introduce you to the basic concepts through readings, powerpoint presentations, videos and audio podcasts, lecture and discussions, and in class assignments. We will utilize Google Scholar and the KCC Library A-Z database.

You will be given a quiz at the end of Week 2 that will measure your existing skills in reading comprehension, logical reasoning, critical analysis and your particular point of view.

There will be a quiz during week 4 that will measure your understanding of the material presented in weeks 1 and 3.

There will be a take home midterm that will be distributed during week 7 and will be due after Spring Break. It will include a case file and you may work in your groups of 3-5 but you may also turn in your analysis alone. This midterm will include a case file that asks you to use your skills using Google Scholar to locate, read, analyze, and apply cases having to do with immigration and human rights (together) from the pre-1920’s to today. Your midterm will include a template that you can download by clicking here. You must use this template for your midterm answers.

You will then work on your final case file where you will analyze arguments regarding human rights and immigration policy today. This assignment will be used to help you prepare for your final exam. You will write a judicial opinion where you will present the leading arguments covering the major positions of Democrats, Republicans, and the Green and Libertarian parties (or another party if you and I agree to that).

The final exam will present a “new” casefile to you regarding human rights and immigration policy. You will write a judicial opinion where you will analyze the arguments presented, state your position, present your evidence, weigh the consequences of the alternative positions, and clearly provide your advice to Congress and the State of New York on immigration and human rights policy.

This work will be graded, along with participation and attendance, as follows and will use the following grading rubric, part of which you will construct and sign in agreement.


Week 4 Quiz: 20%

Week 7 Midterm: 40%

Final Exam: 40 %

Extra Credit: up to 10% increase in final grade.

Rubric: We will make a Final Grading Rubric together in class.

Your contribution:

You should complete the readings.
You should take thorough notes.
You should review your notes, edit them, and organize them.
You should participate consistently.
You should study outside of class and utilize college services or web-based assistance.
You should open your mind to new ways of thinking, studying, and organizing.
You should come to office hours or email me.

Our CRJ Learning Outcome for Final Grade:
demonstrate critical thinking skills within the context of evaluating the complexity of criminal justice issues.

Our Liberal Arts Learning Outcome for Final Grade:
Comprehend the methods of inquiry within Political Science and Law and Society.

P-PRIM: Most students believe the legal system is a simplistic “other” maintained for a specific purpose by a group of unknown actors. This monolith is seen as a source and administrator of justice and is viewed as unrelated to economics, legislatures, independent actors and groups, and natural events. Most view the courts as a source of fairness where individuals are mostly treated the same with exceptions being based on bias or prejudice.


Week 1
Getting to know everyone
1 Page Essay: What is Law – due Thursday
Group Share

Week 2
Continued conversation
Lecture: LSA + PlebLex
(link to youtube video and soundcloud)
End of 2nd Week Diagnostic (link to Google Form)
Reading Comp
Logical Reasoning
Critical Analysis

Week 3
PowerPoint: Example SLO Finding Luis, Divided Powers, LSA
Big Idea: Judges and Interpretation (exegesis)

PowerPoint: Legal Research Overview
(link to powerpoint or Google Slides)

Week 4
PowerPoint: Courts, Research, and Pointsssss of View
Research Standards
Alternative POV
Big Idea: SCOTUS/Circuit Courts/State Courts/Appeals

Quiz written in class.

Week 5
PowerPoint: Using Google Scholar, Immigration and Human Rights Pre-1920s.

Begin Google Scholar
Immigration/Human Rights Pre-20s
Big Idea: Process of Court Rulings; Stare Decisis

Week 6
Powerpoint: Legal Philosophy, Post Natural Law, Legal Realism, Positivism: Immigration and Human Rights 1920-1999.
continued 20s-90s
Big Idea: Philoshies of Law

Week 7
Powerpoint: Legal Philosophy, Critical Legal Studies, Law and Society: Emerging
Big Idea: Logical Reasoning
Group Work in Class) Case Files – Groups of 3 or 5 (*you may continue working together on the midterm or go it alone).

Begin again April 29

Week 8
Powerpoint: Midterm and Case File Overview.
Case file (download)

Week 9
Review Final Case Materials for Opinion Writing

Family Feud Game Show – Refugees (Link to OER Video Game and Cartoon Series)

Week 10
Draft Opinion
Writing Workshop

Week 11
Review Opinion: Analysis, one the one hand, on the other hand, I think

Week 12
Opinion: Proposal

Week 13
Extra Credit: Asylum NY Proposal
Demo – Writing Workshop

Turn in Final Opinion (Rubric Checklist)

Final Exam:
Analyze the following Case File and Write your Judicial Opinion
Enforcement of International Human Rights Law: death of GUA children

Suit Basics: