Introduction to American Law

(Einführung in das Recht – Deutsche Version, pdf)


The Historical Foundations of Common Law and Overview of the Adversarial System Students will be introduced to the Common Law legal system and be given a short history on the development of common law and the role equity plays. The discussion will then look at the adversarial system and roles played by judges, lawyers and juries in this system.
Precedent, Stare Decisis and the Structure of Court Decisions One of the unique characteristics of Common Law is the role judicial decisions play in shaping the law. In this class we will look at the ideas of precedent and stare decisis. We will then look at how a typical court decision is structured in order to familiarize students with reading and analyzing cases.
Ratio decidendi of a Case and the Role of Legislation in American Law The “rule” of the case potentially serves two purposes. First, it is the legal theory that the court used to come to its decision. Second, depending on the level of court, it may serve as binding precedent that will be used by future courts. In this class we will look at how lawyers find precedent. We will then look at the growing importance of statutory law. Students will be introduced to several rules and cannons of interpretation that have been used for centuries by judges to help determine the intent of a particular piece of legislation.
Legal Research & Classification of American Law After learning about how the American citation system operates, students will be introduced to basic research techniques and tools that are used by practitioners in the United States, including Westlaw. The lecture will end with a brief comparison of classification of law in the American and German systems.
Introduction to American Constitutional Law We will begin our discussion of American Constitutional Law by looking at Executive power and specifically the power of the President.
Constitutional Law: Legislative Power Congress is primarily responsible for lawmaking. In this class we will look how Congress is structured and the constitutional origins of this lawmaking power.
Constitutional Law: Judicial Power & Federalism The first half of this lecture will focus on the powers granted to the Judicial Branch. The second half will look at the federal structure of the American government.
Criminal Law After a discussion about the general differences between federal and state criminal law, these lectures (27.11 and 01.12) will look at various aspects of the Model Penal Code including broadly: crimes against people, crimes against property and inchoate crimes.
Criminal Law Our discussion of criminal law will continue with special attention being paid to corporate criminal law.
Civil Procedure and an Introduction to Private Law Our focus in this class will be on the practice of discovery and the elements of a civil trial. The lecture will end with a brief overview of legal persons.
Property Law After obtaining a general historical overview of property law, these lectures (08.12 and 11.12) will focus on general property principles concerning personal property and real property.
Property Law As we dig a little deeper into Property Law, we differentiate between personal and real property and look at how one obtains a possessory interest, how one transfers rights, and how a security interest in property can be established. There will also be a discussion on how rights to use real property can be established.
Contract Law After an overview of general contract formation and interpretation principles, students will be introduced to the concept of consideration, which is rather unique to common law.
Contract Law After a short discussion about formation defenses, students will be provided with a broad overview of performance and breach issues.
Tort Law These lectures (05.01 and 08.01) will introduce students to the concepts of intentional torts and defenses (assault, battery, false imprisonment and trespass), negligence (prima facie case and defenses) and strict liability.
Tort Law
Unjust Enrichment and Other Remedies This lecture will discuss the various remedies available to American judges in civil cases, and make a distinction between equitable remedies and damages.
Family Law These lectures (15.01 and 19.01) will introduce students to issues concerning marriage, divorce, allocation of property, child custody and separation agreements.
Family Law
Wills and Estates This lecture covers broadly: (a) intestate succession; (b) wills (including execution, revocation, contests, and interpretation); (c) will substitutes and non-probate transfers; and (d) trusts
Commercial Law Students will be introduced to the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) and look at the article of the Code related to commercial law.
Business Associations These lectures (29.01 and 02.02) introduce students to laws regulating agency, partnerships, sole proprietorship, and corporations.
Business Associations
Administrative Law These lectures (05.02 and 09.02) look at the role of agencies, the delegation of legislative power to agencies, how agencies fit within the concept of separation of powers, proceedings before these agencies, and judicial review of agency decisions.
Administrative Law
Business Regulation In this class we will look at the regulatory power of the U.S. Federal government and state governments with regards to business and professions.
Tax Law A very broad overview of tax law will be given focusing on the questions: what is tax, what forms of tax exist, and how is taxing authority divided between the various levels of government.
Labor Law After an introduction to employment relationships (employee v. independent contractor), this lecture will focus on the difference between an at-will and for-cause employment contract, the role of unions, and various federal laws regulating employment standards.