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CCOG for PL 101 Fall 2022

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Course Number:
PL 101
Course Title:
Introduction to the U.S. Legal System
Credit Hours:
Lecture Hours:
Lecture/Lab Hours:
Lab Hours:

Course Description

Provides an overview of the United States legal system including the law of state and federal governments and the relationships between and among them. Covers sources and functions of law in the United States with an emphasis on the U.S. Constitution, the structure of U.S. courts, and judicial decision-making. Prerequisites: WR 121. Recommended: prior completion of or concurrent enrollment in PS 201 or a similar course in U.S. government or political science. Audit available.

Addendum to Course Description

This course is designed to provide a broad overview of the U.S. legal system focusing on primary sources and a structural understanding of the sources and functions of law in the U.S. This course is designed primarily for those interested in working in the legal field as a career. Course work may include, but is not limited to, reading, lecture, class discussions, videos, guest speakers, out-of-class projects, and student presentations. This course is required for either a Paralegal Certificate or an Associate of Applied Science degree-Paralegal.

Intended Outcomes for the course

Upon completion of the course students should be able to:

  1. Distinguish between civil law and criminal law, positive law and natural law, civilian legal systems and common law legal systems, adversarial and inquisitorial legal systems, advocates and decision makers, and substantive and procedural law.
  2. Describe U.S. Constitutional principles, including supremacy, federalism, and separation of powers.
  3. Identify some of the individual rights protected by the U.S. Constitution.
  4. Describe the structure and powers of the U.S. federal courts, U.S. state courts, and tribal courts, and explain the relationships among and between them.
  5. Use legal terminology effectively.
  6. Identify the basic steps in the civil litigation process and explain the concepts of cause of action and jurisdiction.

Course Activities and Design

Flexible dependent on needs of student population and preferred teaching style of instructor, but may include reading assignments; videos; lectures; guest speakers; small group projects and discussions; independent research; analysis of hypothetical problems; written reports; experiential learning; and student presentations.

Outcome Assessment Strategies

May include attendance and participation in class activities, written assignments, tests, and other projects. 

Course Content (Themes, Concepts, Issues and Skills)

Themes, Concepts & Issues

Students gain a deeper understanding of the role of the U.S. Constitution in prescribing the governmental functions of the state and federal government, so that they can describe the legal framework in the U.S., including where our law comes from, how the courts function, and why our legal system looks the way it does today.  Students will also gain insight into the role of attorneys and paralegals in the legal system.

Competencies & Skills

  1. Describe the essential problem solving orientation of legal practice.
  2. Recognize different analytical frameworks as they relate to specific legal problems, including common law, statutory, and constitutional analyses. 
  3. Recognize the importance of procedural law.
  4. Describe the structure of the US government in general, and the US court system with specificity.
  5. Recognize the conditions precedent to judicial resolution of a problem.

Approved Texts

Choice of texts is at the discretion of each course instructor, but instructors are encouraged to seek methods to reduce or eliminate student textbook costs.

Related Instruction

Human Relations
Hours: 10

  1. Identify the basic steps in the civil litigation process and explain the concepts of cause of action and jurisdiction.

  • Reading descriptions of dispute resolution options, including the civil litigation process and its steps. 
  • Identifying sources of civil litigation rules.
  • Identifying appropriate responses to hypothetical actions in litigation.
  • Explaining the concepts of jurisdiction and cause of action, along with other concepts related to filing prerequisites.