Exploring Our Courts
Through this project, students will:
Explore criminal courts and criminal court issues
Observe criminal court participants in action or through their own words
Apply and synthesize what they observe with previous course materials
OPTION #1 – CRIMINAL COURT OBSERVATION
You will go and observe a local criminal court in process. You should plan on observing the court for at least 1 hour to get a good sense of the process. During the visit, take notes on the types of cases being heard (misdemeanor, felony, both), what types of hearings are occurring (such as initial hearings, guilty pleas, bail, revocation, or trial), who are the actors in the room, what is the physical space of the courtroom, and how the courtroom participants interacted with one another.
The paper should utilize and discuss how the observed court process reflects different themes from the course materials (such as due process, the courtroom workgroup, the adversary system, the roles of the courtroom actors, assembly-line justice, etc.).
OPTION #2 – PERSONAL OR TELEPHONE INTERVIEW
You will contact and arrange to interview one of the following courthouse actors: criminal court judge, court reporter, bailiff, clerk of courts, prosecutor, or defense attorney. You should plan the questions out ahead of time. During the interview, you should illicit information on the person’s job responsibilities, what type of education/training they received for their position, how they came to be in that position, and interaction with other courthouse participants.
Other possible questions could inquire about what the person likes best about their job and what they like least about their job. You should come up with additional questions to ask the person based on our course materials. The paper should synthesize the interviewee’s responses and discuss how his/her responses reflect different themes from the course materials (such as due process, the courtroom workgroup, the adversary system, the roles of the courtroom actors, assembly-line justice, etc.).
OPTION #3 – COUNSEL FOR INDIGENTS
The United States has just created the 51st state of the Union, named Ivytechia. The state boundaries for Ivytechia are roughly the boundaries of Indiana. You are a legal scholar and are an expert on indigent defendants’ rights. You have been contacted by the governor of the new state to prepare a memorandum paper which:
Explains the historical development and current state of indigent defendants’ rights with respect to right to counsel in the United States.
Review of the current methods of providing counsel for indigent defendants, and discuss advantages and problems associated with each method.
Proposes a new and innovative method of providing counsel for indigent defendants which will address concerns of ineffective assistance of counsel and delay.
OPTION #4- Indiana Supreme Court
Go to the Indiana Supreme Court site at https://www.in.gov/judiciary/supreme/ (Links to an external site.) Click onto the Oral Arguments link to the left. There will be listing of prior cases and cases scheduled to be heard. Select a criminal case.
Watch the Oral Arguments which are usually about 60 minutes. What were the errors that they were discussing? What did each side argue?
How would you decide the case and why? The paper should reflect different themes from the course materials (such as due process, the adversary system, the roles of the courtroom actors, assembly-line justice, etc.).
Utilize and discuss how the observed court process reflects different themes from the course materials.
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