Assignment I. Topics for discussion

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Assignment I. Topics for discussion

1. Describe the work of the US Court of Appeals

2. Characterize the US Supreme Court

3. Compare the structure and the functions of the US Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of Russia

Supplement I.

Philosophical aspects of American law

It would be unwise to talk of an “American philosophy of law”. Americans, like the people of other countries, have different and often conflicting philosophies of law. Moreover, the various legal philosophies, which coexist in America, are very closely related to other legal philosophies which have found expression in other countries. Thus, in the United States there are those who accept a so-called natural-law theory, which finds the primacy source and the primacy sanction of legal rules and decisions in reason and morality; there are those who accept a so-called positivist theory which distinguishes sharply between law and morality, and views law as the product of political authority, the “will of the State”; still other follow the historical jurisprudence, which explains law as a product of the historical development of a people’s spirit and character; and there are many who have adopted modern variations of these traditional schools of legal thought – such as sociological jurisprudence, or so-called legal realism.

Each of these legal philosophies has its advocates, and each has its period of popularity at one or another time in our history.

In the earlier period of our history, especially in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, most of American leading jurists accepted the view that there is a “moral law”, or a “higher law”, by which legislatures, courts and administrative officials are found and which is superior to statutes, precedent or custom.

In this connection it must be stressed that the Constitution itself specifically enacts, as positive law, certain broad principles of moral justice. Thus the Constitution states that no person may be deprived of life, liberty or property without “due process of law” - a phrase which means to an American what the phrase “natural law” has meant traditionally, namely, equality, consistency, impartiality, justice, fairness. The Constitution also guarantees certain broad freedoms such as freedom of speech and of religion, and certain broad rights such as the right to an impartial trial, and the right of all citizens to equal protection of the laws.

Requiring that all the laws must conform to these moral principles, the Constitution provides that American judges are not free to decide a case without regard to statute, precedent and custom. On the contrary, stability of laws and consistency of decisions are basic values of the judicial system.


Supplement II.

The Case for the Defense.

By Graham Green

It was the strangest murder trial I ever attended. They named it the Peckham murder in the headlines, though Northwood Street, where the old woman was found battered to death, was not strictly speaking in Peckham. This was not one of those cases of circumstantial evidence, in which you feel the jurymen’s anxiety – because mistakes have been made – like domes of silence muting the court.

No, this murder was all but found with the body; no one present when the Crown counsel outlined his case believed that the man in the dock stood any chance at all.

He was a heavy stout man with bulging bloodshot eyes. All his muscles seemed to be in his thighs. Yes, an ugly customer, one you wouldn’t forget in a hurry – and that was an important point because the Crown proposed to call four witnesses who hadn’t forgotten him, who had seen him hurrying away from the little red villa in Northwood Street. The clock had just struck two in the morning.

Mrs. Salmon in 15 Northwood Street had been unable to sleep; she heard a door click shut and thought it was her own gate. So she went to the window and saw Adams (that was his name) in the steps of Mrs. Parker’s house. He had just come out and was wearing gloves. He had a hammer in his hand and she saw him drop it into the laurel bushes by the front gate. But before he moved away, he had looked up – at her window. The fatal instinct that tells a man when he is watched exposed him in the light of a street-lamp to her gaze – his eyes suffused with horrifying and brutal fear, like an animal’s when you raise a whip. I talked afterwards to Mrs. Salmon, who naturally after the astonishing verdict went into fear herself. As I imagine did all the witnesses – Henry MacDougal, who had been driving home from Benfleet late and nearly ran Adams down at the corner of Northwood Street. Adams was walking in the middle of the road looking dazed. And old Mr. Wheeler, who lived next door to Mrs. Parker, at No. 12, and was wakened by a noise –like a chair falling- through the thin-as-paper villa wall, and got up and looked out of the window, just as Mrs. Salmon had done, saw Adam’s back and, as he turned, those bulging eyes. In Laurel Avenue he had been seen by yet another witness – his luck was badly out; he might as well have committed the crime in broad daylight.

“I understand,” counsel said, “that the defense proposes to plead mistaken identity. Adam’s wife will tell you that he was with her at two in the morning on February 14, but after you have heard the witnesses for the Crown and examined carefully the features of the prisoner, I do not think you will be prepared to admit the possibility of a mistake.”

It was all over, you would have said, but the hanging.

After the formal evidence had been given by the policeman who had found the body and the surgeon who examined it, Mrs. Salmon was called. She was the ideal witness, with her slight Scotch accent and her expression of honesty, care and kindness.

The counsel for the Crown brought the story gently out. She spoke very firmly. There was no malice in her, and no sense of importance at standing there in the Central Criminal Court with a judge in scarlet hanging on her words and the reporters writing them down. Yes, she said, and then she had gone downstairs and rung up the police station.

“And do you see the man here in courtroom?”

She looked straight across at the big man in the dock, who stared hard at her with his Pekingese eyes without emotion.

“Yes,” she said, “there he is.”

“Are you quite certain?”

She said simply, “I couldn’t be mistaken, sir.”

It was all as easy as that.

“Thank you Mrs. Salmon.”

Counsel for the defense rose to cross-examine. If you had reported as many murder trials as I have, you would have known beforehand what line he would take. And I was right, up to a point.

“Now, Mrs. Salmon, you should remember that a man’s life may depend on your evidence.”

“I do remember it, sir.”

“Is your eyesight good?”

“I have never had to wear spectacles, sir.”

“You are a woman of fifty-five?”

“Fifty-six, sir.”

“And the man you saw was on the other side of the road.”

“Yes, sir.”

“And it was two o’clock in the morning. You must have remarkable eyes, Mrs. Salmon.And you have no doubt whatever the man you saw is the prisoner?”

I couldn’t make out what he was at. He couldn’t have expected any other answer than the one he got.

“None whatever, sir. It isn’t a face one forgets.”

Counsel took a look around the court for a moment. Then he said: “Do you mind, Mrs. Salmon, examining again the people in court? No, not the prisoner. Stand up, please, Mr. Adams.” And there at the back of the court, with thick stout body and muscular legs and a pair of bulging eyes, was the exact image of the man in the dock. He was even dressed the same – tight blue suit and striped tie.

“Now think very carefully, Mrs. Salmon. Can you still swear that the man you saw drop the hammer in Mrs. Parker’s garden was the prisoner – and not this man, who is his twin brother?”

Of course she couldn’t. She looked from one to the other and didn’t say a word.

There the big brute sat in the dock with his legs crossed and there he stood too at the back of the court and they both stared at Mrs. Salmon. She shook her head.

What we saw then was the end of the case. There wasn’t a witness prepared to swear that it was the prisoner he had seen. And the brother? He had his alibi, too; he was with his wife.

And so the man was acquitted for lack of evidence. But whether – if he did the murder and not his brother – he was punished or not, I don’t know. That extraordinary day had an extraordinary end. I followed Mrs. Salmon out of court and we got wedged in the crowd who were waiting, of course, for the twins. The police tried to drive the crowd away, but all they could do was keep the roadway clear for traffic. I learned later that they tried to get the twins to leave by a back way, but they wouldn’t. One of them – no one knows which – said, “I’ve been acquitted, haven’t I?” and they walked bang out of the front entrance. Then it happened. I don’t know how; though I was only six feet away. The crowd moved and somehow one of the twins got pushed on to the road right in front of a bus.

He gave a squeal like a rabbit and that was all; he was dead, his skull smashed just as Mrs. Parker’s had been. Divine vengeance? I wish I knew. There was the other Adams getting on his feet from beside the body and looking straight over at Mrs. Salmon. He was crying, but whether he was the murderer or the innocent man, no one will ever be able to tell. But if you were Mrs. Salmon, could you sleep at night?





От составителей  
I. LAW. 1. Branches of the law  
2. Systems of law  
II. HISTORY OF ENGLISH LAW 1. The development of English law. Common law.  
2. Equity. Legislation  
3. Judicial system in Great Britain  
4. The organization of the courts in Great Britain  
5. The organization of the courts in Great Britain  
III. Two branches of the federal government of the United States 1. Congress of the USA  
2. The administrative organization of courts in the United States  
3. US federal courts and what they do  
4. Federal courts. A trial in progress  
5. Federal courts. What happens after the trial?  
Supplement I. Philosophical aspects of American law  
Supplement II. The Case for the Defense.  



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