Final Exam Study Guide
The Court System in Texas (Chapter 4)
∙ Know which courts have original jurisdiction and which ones have appellate jurisdiction:
Original Jurisdiction: District Courts/ Constitutional County Courts (These courts usually have appellate jurisdiction in cases appealed from justice of the peace and municipal courts, except in counties where county courts at law have been established)/ Statutory Probate Courts/ Justice Courts/ Municipal Courts
o Differences between civil and criminal cases:
Civil- Plaintiff: private citizen or business, seek to determine whether a person was harmed, Payment or cease and desist order as remedies, Burden of proof: preponderance of the evidence, Defendant may be forced to testify.
Criminal- Plaintiff: the government, seek to determine whether a law was broken, Punishment as a remedy, Burden of proof: beyond a reasonable doubt, Defendant (accused person) not obligated to testify. o Caseloads of state and federal courts:
Federal District courts nationwide handle significantly fewer cases than Texas state District courts alone. Over time both federal and state caseloads increase gradually with population growth. But relative to population the differences in caseloads are far more dramatic than raw totals alone suggest.
o Selection of judges in Texas as compared to other states and the federal government:
o Judicial appointments (recall the federal approach)- The president nominates someone to the position, then sent to be confirmed by the senate. Lifetime
o Merit system- Promoting/hiring gov’t employees based on their ability to perform a job, rather than on their political Don't forget about the age old question of venn disgram
o Partisan and nonpartisan elections
Partisan: each party get a spot on the ballot for that party and get to choose who runs as the candidate for the party (whether through primaries or a party committee). The candidate is identified as the candidate of the party.
Non-Partisan: candidates file for office and run without
partisan identification. Political parties might endorse candidates
(just like other groups could) but the candidates don't run as Democrats, Republicans, or any other political persuasion. (there are rules for both partisan and non-partisan
elections in Texas that are different from the rules in New York or the rules in the United Kingdom).
o Filing a lawsuit (Know what each of these terms means): o Complaint- a document that describes what the plaintiff wants & why they believe they are entitled to that relief. It also identifies the defendant.
o Answer- a written pleading filed by a defendant to respond to a complaint in a lawsuit filed and served upon that defendant. An answer generally responds to each allegation in the complaint by denying or admitting it, or admitting in part and denying in part. The answer may also com-prise "affirmative defenses" including allegations which contradict the complaint or contain legal theories If you want to learn more check out math 122 university of south carolina
o Discovery- a pre-trial procedure in a lawsuit in which each party, through the law of civil procedure, can obtain evidence from the other party or parties by means of discovery devices such as a request for answers to interrogatories, request for production of documents, request for admissions and
o Deposition- part of permitted pre-trial discovery (investigation), set up by an attorney for one of the parties to a lawsuit
demanding the sworn testimony of the opposing party
(defendant or plaintiff), a witness to an event, or an expert intended to be called at trial by the opposition.
o Resolving a lawsuit (how do these two approaches work?): o Binding arbitration- a means of resolving a dispute that is private, less formal, less costly, and less time-consuming than traditional litigation. The parties agree to submit their dispute to an impartial arbitrator authorized to resolve the controversy by rendering a final and binding award.
o Mediation- the attempt to settle a legal dispute through active participation of a third party (mediator) who works to find points of agreement and make those in conflict agree on a fair result, mediation does not always result in a settlement. If you want to learn more check out petrosal bulla
o Economic (“compensatory”) and noneconomic damages (know examples of each):
Economic damages- further categorized into special damages, which are economic losses such as loss of earnings, property damage and medical expenses
Non-Economic damages- pain and suffering and emotional distress. o Tort reform in Texas:
o Caps on noneconomic damages
1. Caps on Punitive Damages: In Texas, punitive damages may not exceed more than two times the amount of
economic damages plus the amount equal to non
economic damages not to exceed $750,000 or $200,000, whichever is greater.
2. Medical Malpractices Cases: Texas passed The Medical Malpractice and Tort Reform Act of 2003 that limited the maximum money amount a person can receive for non
economic damages. Currently a person can sue for the
total amount of economic damages, but the caps come in when calculating non-economic damages. A person can sue a doctor or healthcare practitioner for no more than $250,000 and each healthcare facility involved for
$250,000 not to exceed $500,000 among all facilities
involved in the incident. In medical malpractice for
wrongful death cases, the cap for total recovery We also discuss several other topics like producer s guide to neutron 2 uploaded
(combined economic and non-economic damages) is
$500,000 (adjusted for inflation since 1977:
3. Personal Injury Cases Filed Against Gov’t Entities: Government entities have immunity from liability in
personal injury cases and, when they do have liability,
caps on how much they can be sued for. When someone’s suffers injury due to negligence by a government entity such as the state, a municipality, or an emergency service organization (police, the EMS, etc.) the cap for each We also discuss several other topics like gvsu speech pathology
person involved is $250,000 but cannot exceed more than $500,000 total for a single occurrence.
o Effects? - Realistically, many lawyers say, the cap is thus held at $250,000. The legislation includes several other restrictions, such as requiring plaintiffs to file an experts’ report after taking only two depositions in a case. Class action certification is subject to interlocutory appeal, and cases can be moved to administrative remedy with state agencies when applicable. No more contingency fees are allowed; instead, fees are based on time worked and expenses.
o Lawsuit abuse:
o Torts and tort reform- proposed changes in the civil justice system that aim to reduce the ability of victims to bring tort litigation or to reduce damages they can receive. Tort actions are civil common law claims first created in the English
commonwealth system as a non-legislative means for
compensating wrongs and harm done by one party to another person, property, or other protected interests
o Medical malpractice insurance and lawsuits- the increases in medical costs in so many ways. Preventive medicine as practiced by most physicians is increasing the cost of health care. Malpractice insurance is skyrocketing owing almost
exclusively to inordinately high settlements. And a diminishing number of capable people are going into specialties where risk for lawsuits is high. When doctors become targets, everyone suffers in health care delivery.
o 60 Minutes and Hot Coffee clips- Liebeck v. McDonald's Restaurants,  also known as the McDonald's coffee case and the hot coffee lawsuit, was a 1994 product liability lawsuit. A New Mexico civil jury awarded $2.86 million to plaintiff Stella Liebeck, a 79-year-old woman who suffered third-degree burns in her pelvic region when she accidentally spilled hot coffee in her lap after purchasing it from a McDonald's restaurant. Liebeck was hospitalized for eight days while she underwent skin If you want to learn more check out isen 320
grafting, followed by two years of medical treatment. The jury damages included $160,000 to cover medical expenses and compensatory damages and $2.7 million in punitive damages. The trial judge reduced the final verdict to $640,000, and the parties settled for a confidential amount before an appeal was decided. Some said the case to be an example of frivolous litigation
o Caps on damage awards and punitive damages- damages intended to reform or deter the defendant and others from engaging in conduct like that which formed the basis of the lawsuit. Although the purpose of punitive damages is not to compensate the plaintiff, the plaintiff will receive all or some of the punitive damages award. Punitive damages are often
awarded if compensatory damages are deemed an inadequate remedy. Because they are usually paid more than the plaintiff's provable injuries, punitive damages are awarded only in special
cases, usually under tort law, if the defendant's conduct was egregiously insidious. Punitive damages cannot generally be awarded in contract disputes.
Local Governments in Texas (Chapter 5)
∙ Responsibilities of local governments, (i.e. what government functions do they alone handle)? Major responsibilities include building and maintaining roads, recreational facilities and, in some cases, county airports; constructing and operating jails; operating the judicial system; maintaining public records; collecting property taxes; issuing vehicle registration and transfers; and registering voters. Counties also provide law enforcement, conduct elections, and provide
health and social services to many poor county residents. Increasingly, county governments are playing a vital role in the economic development of their local areas.
∙ Scope of power for local governments
o General purpose governments (city and county governments)
1. Counties: Organized local governments established to provide general government services; includes those
governments designed as counties, parishes in Louisiana, and boroughs in Alaska.
2. Municipalities: Organized sub county local governments established to provide general government services for a specific concentration of population in a defined area;
includes those governments designated as cities, villages, boroughs (except in Alaska), and towns (except in the six New England states, Minnesota, New York, and Wisconsin)
o Limited purpose governments (HCTRA, HISD, etc.): provides a narrow range of services not provided by general purpose local governments such as cities or counties. A
government that has very limited authority or control over its finances and is governed by a set structure. Performs ONLY ONE FUNCTION. HISD performs educational functions!
∙ County commissions- a group of elected officials charged with administering the county government in some states of the United States. County commissions are usually made up of three or more individuals. The commission acts as the executive of the local government, levies local taxes, administers county governmental services such as prisons, courts, public health oversight, property registration, building code enforcement, and public works such as road maintenance.
∙ Power arrangements in city governments
o Mayor-council governments: ½ of the predominant forms of local gov’t
Weak executive- has no formal authority outside of the council; the mayor cannot appoint or remove officials, and lacks veto power over council votes. As such, the mayor's influence is solely based on personality to accomplish
desired goals. The weak-mayor form of government may be found in small towns in the United States
Strong executive (Houston does this)- usually
consists of an executive branch, a mayor elected by
voters, and a unicameral council as the legislative branch. In the strong-mayor form the elected mayor is given
almost total administrative authority and a clear, wide
range of political independence, with the power to appoint
and dismiss department heads without council approval and little or no public input. In this system, the strong
mayor prepares and administers the city budget, although
that budget often must be approved by the council.
o Council-manager governments- 2/2 of the predominant forms of local gov’t
The elected governing body (commonly called a city
council, city commission, board of aldermen or board of
selectmen) is responsible for the legislative function of
the municipality such as establishing policy, passing local
ordinances, voting appropriations, and developing an
overall vision. The city manager position in this form of
municipal government is like that of corporate chief
executive officer (CEO)
o City Commissions- In a city commission government, voters elect a small commission, typically, from five to seven members, on a plurality-at-large voting basis. These commissioners
constitute the legislative body of the city and, as a group, are responsible for taxation, appropriations, ordinances, and other general functions. Individual commissioners are also assigned executive responsibility for a specific aspect of municipal affairs, such as public works, finance, or public safety. As such, this form of government blends legislative and executive branch functions in the same body.
Public Policy Overview (see the slides for this topic)
∙ Steps in the policymaking process (note that these are cyclical):
o Agenda setting: Used to help the gov’t decide which issues to address and which to ignore. There’s only so much time, money, etc. available to address myriad matter of public policy.
Sometimes the goal is to keep something off this agenda.
o Policy deliberation & enactment: Debating over what to do about a policy; Many different actors involved: Lawmakers, Interest groups, Think tanks, News media, and Citizens.
Enactment: Passage of laws or bureaucratic regulations, verdicts in court cases.
o Policy implementation: Frequently involves all three branches of government, though now the bureaucracy is the main actor (think about traffic safety) Examples: Law enforcement of rules and regulations, Government programs established, Research dollars spent and allocated, e.g. National Science Foundation, and Public service announcements.
o Evaluation: standardized test
o Change or termination: Very often it becomes necessary to tweak certain policies (or abandon them altogether) The cycle never ends: New problems arise; sometimes, problems are not solved adequately; perhaps one problem creates another, etc./ Think about Obamacare; this is applicable regardless of the outcome of last week’s election/ Think about highway safety: It Can Wait, Houston
∙ Components of public policy (more than just laws, e.g. Click-it or-Ticket as public policy):
1. Legislation: establish guidelines to be followed by members of the society.
2. Administrative acts: things gov’t does to put a law into practice. These are often more important than the laws
themselves; mailing social security checks, or giving tickets for illegal parking’s.
3. Judicial decisions: takes place when courts apply the law to a specific situation. They may have the effect of both
administrative and legislative acts.
∙ How elections and public opinion affect public policy- elections determine the official who can produce a government's public policy. Inversely, it is ultimately the public's happiness with the policy of elected officials that determines whether they will elect this official to make policy again. If an official is responsible for unpopular policy, the public will (hopefully) not elect him/her again. Public opinion is everything, it has been claimed to can change the course of history. A consequence of ignoring public opinion is the public's long memory, which can hold their leaders to account for their decisions long after leaving office
Domestic Policy (Chapter 14)
∙ Differences between entitlements and contributory programs ∙ For each of the programs listed below, know who benefits, how they are funded and about current challenges associated with this funding
∙ Programs to help the elderly
o Social Security: OASDI Stands for Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (AKA Social Security) Began in 1935 as part of the New Deal. At that time poverty was quite common among senior citizens. Several factors determine how much money you will receive: How much did you contribute? At what age, do you retire? AND What about inflation? (Cost of living adjustment AKA “COLA”)
o Medicare: Created by the Lyndon Johnson administration in 1965. This program provides health insurance for Americans
aged 65+. Not to be confused with Medicaid (provides care for poor people)
Funding: Comes from Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax: 12.4 percent of your income for social security, 2.9 percent for Medicare (you pay half, and your employer pays half; also for social security). Currently stops at $113,700 (adjusted for inflation), which makes it a regressive tax. That money goes into trusts so that it can be used to pay current beneficiaries. But both programs, particularly Medicare, are becoming increasingly expensive and must be restructured in some manner so that they will be there for future generations
Crisis: Growing costs w/ more baby boomers retiring, there will be many more beneficiaries. People now live about 19 years after they retire. Shrinking Revenues w/ less children from baby boomers, so there are now fewer contributors.
∙ Recent proposals to reform both programs
o Why are they in financial trouble going forward? - 2018- 2023: Starting then, Social Security funded solely by surpluses from previous years, i.e. nothing else goes into the trust fund. 2030s: Social Security goes bankrupt because the trust fund will have been used up by this time. These dates depend on many different data sources, so they vary somewhat
o What have Democrats and Republicans proposed doing to them?
Social Security: In 2005 George W. Bush offered these solutions to this coming challenge: No tax increase of any kind, People would receive the option to invest some of their Social Security benefits in the stock market, Those nearing retirement (and those already retired) would not experience any changes to the program, and Benefits to be based on “progressive indexing” consisting of a sliding scale that indexes them such that poorer people receive more money while wealthier people receive less
Yet these reforms never had much support, even among
Republicans; meanwhile, Democrats accused him of wanting to ‘privatize’ Social Security
Medicare: President Obama- Wealthier and newer beneficiaries would pay higher premiums, Payments to hospitals and for prescription drugs would be lower, especially for providers thought to be less effective, and NO vouchers. Ryan Plan- “Premium
support” Beneficiaries receive a payment with which to purchase private insurance of their choosing; critics say it’s a “voucher” and NO new taxes
∙ Programs to help the impoverished
o TANF (“welfare”) and the 1996 reforms: Clinton/GOP
reforms in 1996: Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) -> Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF)/ TANF administered as block grants to the states who now administer it. Key
requirements: 5-year lifetime limit, Maximum of 2 consecutive years, must be employed if child(Ren) over 5 years’ old
o SNAP (food stamps): offers nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families and provides
economic benefits to communities. SNAP is the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net. The Food and Nutrition Service works with State agencies, nutrition educators, and neighborhood and faith-based organizations to ensure that those eligible for nutrition assistance can make informed decisions about applying for the program and can access benefits.
o Medicaid: help you cover medical expenses for children and people with disabilities who meet income requirements.
o SCHIP: The State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) is a partnership between the Federal and state governments that provides health coverage to uninsured children whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but too little to afford private coverage. All states provide immunizations and well-baby/well-child care at no cost.
Economic Policy (Chapter 13)
∙ American Dream- the ideal that every US citizen should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative.
∙ Definition of the word “economy”- the wealth and resources of a country or region, especially in terms of the production and consumption of goods and services.
∙ Government approaches to regulating the economy: o Laissez-faire- a policy or attitude of letting things take their own course, without interfering of the government; free market. o Pure capitalist economy- production is determined by market demand, without government interference. Producers produce whatever consumers are willing and able to buy. The laws of supply and demand determine prices.
o Regulated capitalist economy (mixed economy)- that the operation maintenance and development of the global political economy increasingly depends on administrative rules outside the legislatures and the courts.
∙ Characteristics of a strong economy and government measurements of them
o High productivity – Gross Domestic Product (GDP)- Business is booming and expanding.
o Low unemployment – Unemployment rate and Current Population Survey- Everyone who wants a job CAN find one o Low inflation – Consumer Pricing Index (CPI)- People are spending money and buying what they want/need.
∙ Types of economic policies:
o Monetary policy and inflation- Concerns the availability of money, which is the responsibility of the federal reserve. 7 members with presidents appointing them to 14-year terms. JANET YELLEN IS THE CHAIRMAN. The goals include the need of having just the right amount of money available: Too little – growth slows as investment/expansion are less feasible--- Too much – inflation rises; spending declines
o Fiscal policy (includes discussion between Pres. Obama and Joe the Plumber & which presidents have followed these approaches)
Keynesian economics- During a recession, gov’t should lower taxes and spend more (G. W. Bush & Obama) In
better times, government should spend less while taxing more (Clinton)
Supply side economics- Lower taxes and fewer
regulations. (Popular w/ Reagan and George H.W. Bush & later George W. Bush).
o Problems with fiscal policy:
1. The budgetary process: LOTS of red tape & President makes recommendations to Congress, which has its own procedures for passing a budget
2. Politics: Everyone hates taxes, so politicians try to
accommodate their interests, therefore, we have LOTS of tax loopholes. Reforming the tax code is one of President Elect Trump's top priorities
3. Globalization: You can create excellent plans, but then something happens in another country, and your plans
won’t work; Ex. Brexit. President-Elect Trump also wants to renegotiate and/or pull out of trade deals like NAFTA
o Regulatory policy (can recognize examples)
Business regulations- often trying to maintain healthy competition, preventing monopolies, etc.
Social regulations- insuring worker safety,
environmental protection, etc.
Extra Credit (Trump’s Appointees):
Mnuchin J. Mattis
Gen. Interior Agriculture
J. Sessions — —
Commerce Labor Health
W. Ross — T. Price
B. Carson E. Chao —
E. DeVos — J. Kelly
Except for Pence, all appointees
N. Haley S. Pruitt —
Budget Economy Small
Executive Office of the President
White House Chief of Staff
Bannon M. Flynn K.
c Policy Economy
Counsel Drug Control Science