Wednesday, June 27, 2012

FDR, how did you pass all these bills?!

I decided to wake up a little earlier this morning so I could not only eat breakfast earlier but read up some more on last night's reading. I ate breakfast with Lucas, Aurea, and Morvarid, and after we took some pictures out on College Walk. The weather has finally cleared up and it is so nice and sunny outside.

Aurea and Morvarid
Morvarid and I
Low Library
College Walk
My gorgeous friends from Cairo, Egypt! (From left to right) Khadijah, Talia, and Nancy
The four of us (:
Class today was definitely jam packed. Even though we didn't read as many Supreme Court cases last night, there was a lot to discuss. Luke led the morning session, and the main topic of the discussion was: Vague v. Ambiguous (just to note this is NOT an actual Supreme Court case, it is based off of interpretation). Being vague can mean you are being imprecise, abstract, and even absurd. It is easy to use these three synonyms in defining the constitution. But being ambiguous can mean you are doubtful and willing to interpret something in a different way, which can also apply to the constitution. Humans may agree on the concept of justice but have a different conception of it. We can either be ruled by the intended concept or the intended conception.

Now, moving on to the Supreme Court cases. We read three last night and went into a full blown hour and a half discussion about our readings, opinions, and questions about the cases.
  • Youngstown & Tube Co v. Sawyer - In 1952, America was at war with Korea. At the same time, employees of steel companies threatened to strike due to labor issues. President Truman, fearful that the strike would jeopardize our national defense due to the war effort and stifle our economy - which at the time was suffering from inflation - ordered the Secretary of Commerce to seize the nation's steel mills. Furious, the steel companies sued and said that the government could take their property but that they were being pursued by the wrong people. The Supreme Court invalidated Truman's executive order to seize the mills. Before the case reached the Supreme Court, the district court issued a restraining order against Truman, saying he could not seize the steel mills. The legal question we came up with for this case was: Did Truman act within his constitutional power? (No) 
  • Ex Parte Milligan - This case was controversial because it was one of the first cases to reach the Supreme Court after the Civil War. Lambdin P. Milligan was accused of liberating Confederate camps by stealing Union weapons. Unfortunately for him, the plan was discovered and he was charged, found guilty, and sentenced to death. However, he filed for habeas corpus. But he didn't get much luck because President Lincoln had suspended the writ of habeas corpus for military cases. 
  • Clinton v. Jones - Paula Jones filed a complaint containing 4 counts of sexual harassment against President Bill Clinton, stemming from an incident in 1991, when he was the Governor of Arkansas. She claimed that he made extreme sexual advances at her and that when she rejected him, her coworkers either treated her very coldly or ignored her. President Clinton claimed that Jones' lawsuit was politically motivated and filed motions to dismiss the case based on "presidential immunity" and asked for Jones to put a hold on her case until the end of his presidency. However, the constitution doesn't grant the president "immunity" from civil lawsuits based on their personal lives, which answered the legal question we came up with. Jones' case was actually dismissed due to lack of evidence of discrimination at work. President Clinton settled the case and paid Jones $850,000 dollars. 
After going over the cases, we were dismissed and I had lunch with Tomi, Aurea, Morvarid, and Rowland. After lunch, I went back to my dorm and began the reading for tonight, which is quite rigorous. The reading for tonight is:
  • Gibbons v. Ogden 
  • Missouri v. Holland 
  • INS vs. Chada
  • Heart Atlanta Motel and Katzenbach 
  • US v. Nixon
  • Clinton v. New York 
Jeffrey taught the afternoon session, and it began with him reminding us that not only do we have so much reading to do tonight, but we also have our first quiz tomorrow. He tried to scare us by saying the quiz was 35 questions with 2 essay questions, but relieved us but informing us that the quiz was only 10-12 questions and to:
  • Study the legal vocabulary 
  • Study the cases we've read for the past three days, including the cases we will read tonight 
I have been paying attention a lot in class during our discussions and participating when I can. I say when I can because there are so many of my classmates that just shoot their hands up the minute something pops into their brain or just speak their minds without raising their hands. I know I will definitely have to not only pick it up but speak up much more in class.

Jeffrey's lecture was not only extremely long but extremely fast paced. This was the time where all I wanted to do was write down everything he said, make sure my notes made sense, and memorize it all later. When class was over I was stunned to realize that I had written five pages of notes, so bear with me as I try to make sense of them here.
  • How a bill becomes a law - This is an extremely complicated process so please try and understand. A bill is introduced by the legislative branch and a clerk gives it a title and number. The bill goes through a first hearing and then is referred to a committee, which can propose an amendment or send it to a different sub-committee. The sub-committee takes the bill to a larger committee and there are more hearings and discoveries about it. The larger committee then decides whether or not to send it to the full committee. The full committee can approve the bill and then send it to another sub-committee. A 3rd hearing is held just to agree with the title for the bill, and then the bill goes to a conference committee, where they vote on the bill. Sometimes this WHOLE process can take up to 3-4 times because some bills are very controversial. Then the president receives the bill. He can either sign it, veto it, or pocket-veto it. A bill can be overridden by a 2/3 vote in Congress or they can let it die or amend it. I literally have no idea how FDR was able to pass 15 or more bills in only one hundred days. (This is all very complicated so I hope you understand, it took me a little while to comprehend it.)
  • Separation of Powers in the Three Branches - Executive: Can veto legislation and appoints judges and justices to the Supreme Court. Legislative (most powerful of the three): Checks on executive branch, can impeach presidents, confirms presidential appointments, can override vetoes and ratify treaties, can modify the budget, impeach judges, and control the size, money, and jurisdiction. Judiciary: Controls judiciary review.
  • The Courts: Trial and Appellate - 98 percent of cases go to state courts and deal with disputes that can pertain to divorce and child custody. Appellate courts deal with appealed cases. A vast majority of federal court cases begin in the district courts, whereas county cases are dealt with in the state courts. Courts can't reach out to the public and make a case; they have to wait for a case to come to them. Two types of cases are taken by the courts: civil and criminal. Civil cases usually involve disputes between two persons and/or two organizations, or one person v. an organization. Criminal cases occur when someone commits a criminal offense. A plaintiff writes a complain to the court about why they think the defendant is wrong (civil cases). In terms of a criminal case, the government complains that the defendant needs to be fined or imprisoned for a criminal offense. If someone loses a case and appeals it, they can no longer state the facts and evidence were wrong, instead, they have to say the way the case was handled violated their constitutional rights. Cases have to be determined for appeal, if you want to appeal you don't automatically get it. 
  • Inside the Courthouse - Opening statements are given by prosecution and defense and they present the evidence. Witnesses are called to present evidence as well. Exhibits are physical evidence obtained by either the police or prosecution/defense party. The party who initiated the case ask witnesses questions (direct examination) and then the other side asks cross examination questions. Judges can either sustain (not allow) or overrule (allow) evidence, cross/direct examination questions, and any part of a witnesses' testimony. The prosecution/defense is allowed to object to questions they feel are not appropriate when the opposite party is questioning a witness. Closing statements are given to review evidence and end the party's view on the case. 
  • Who are those people sitting off to the side? - Jury duty is the process of selecting a jury. The jurors must be fair and without bias for trial cases with a jury. After the closing statements are read, the jury goes into a separate room and goes over the facts, the law, and then decides whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty on their charges. 
  • Appealing a Case - After submitting briefs, appeals can be sent out. There are are three types of decisions appellate courts can make: Reverse (disagreeing with the original verdict), Uphold (agreeing with the original verdict), and Remand (sending the case back for a new trial. Appealing a state case to the Supreme Court in terms of a federal question, which if revered, would change the outcome of the case. 
  • Interpretation - The whole point of the constitution is to provide a fixed way of making rules and providing a stable form of government, in Jeffrey's terms at least. There are five ways to interpret the constitution: Look at the text and structure, refer to the believed intention of those who drafted it, look at prior president's decision in terms of the constitution, refer to the social, political, or economic context, or thinking in terms of natural law. There are three types of intent in terms of the constitution: 
  1. Strict Construction-ism -  Focus strictly on the text and not let any influences get in the way 
  2. Original-ism - Determine the meaning of the constitution based on the text and intent. Those who practice this feel that the constitution is meant to be how the drafters wanted it to be. This, however, is extremely confined and you can't apply the original context to modern problems.
  3. Hypothetical Intent - Realizing that there are modern problems and ask: "What would the Founding Fathers do?" Well, you'll never know because you can't ask them. 
If you think that that must have been a lot of notes to take, well, I'll tell you, they were and by the time class ended my hand was killing me. I've noticed much more people are bringing their laptops to class and I think I may start joining them (although the thought of lugging my laptop across campus doesn't make me too happy and that I should start sucking it up more). After class, I went to the meeting with Ms. L and was happy to see that my textbook had been delivered to the hotel. I wasn't very happy to discover that it was about 1,600 pages. Fortunately, we will definitely not be reading this entire book and I have a pricking feeling that I'll end up reading it for fun when I get back home. I also still really want to check out the American foreign policy and internal relations novel I saw at the United Nations! This summer will be filled with political science, I can already tell.
My textbook
Tomi and I
My delicious meal of fries, an original burger, and shake (shake is not pictured, it hadn't arrived yet)
Group Photo! (Note: I am not wearing a sock, I am wearing my ankle brace)
Christine and I
After eating a quick dinner at John Jay, Tomi and I went to Mel's with an R.A. for a more elaborate dinner. We ate dinner with Christine, who is from the Bay Area as well!, Yung-Anne, Allie, Serena, and Selena. They are all either taking law or literature classes. It was nice to just relax, sit back with them, and meet new people. I'm also happy to confirm that I will be seeing WAR HORSE ON BROADWAY NEXT FRIDAY! I could not be more excited and thankful that Columbia has provided me with this opportunity, and at such a cheap price too (only 60 dollars!). 

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