1. Do you think the death penalty should be done away with considering that taxpayers spend more on death penalty cases and the appeals than life without the possibilities of parole cases? Do you...

1. Do you think the death penalty should be done away with considering that taxpayers spend more on death penalty cases and the appeals than life without the possibilities of parole cases? Do you think there are any moral objections to the death penalty

2. Why do you think white collar crimes are treated differently than other crimes?

3. Do you think drug use, gambling, prostitution should be legalized in USA?

4. Do you think the court should be involved in dispute resolutions when it comes to individual v. individual, where the court does not have subject matter jurisdiction, but the court is requested by the individuals to get involved? 

Asked on by mariam15

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lorrainecaplan's profile pic

Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I would like to weigh in on the fourth question, regarding jurisdiction of the court, because there seems to be some confusion in the question itself regarding what jurisdiction is, and I am also unclear about what court is being asked about. 

Let's begin with a distinction between original jurisdiction and appellate jurisdiction.  Any court of original jurisdiction is a trial court, meaning that parties come before the court for a trial, presenting the evidence that will result in a ruling from the court on the matter.  A court of appellate jurisdiction does not hold trials and only reviews the evidence from the trial court.  It can affirm a trial court decision, reverse a trial court decision, or send the case back to the trial court with instructions, for example, on further evidence that should have been admitted.  The Supreme Court of the United States is unusual in that it is a court of original and appellate jurisdiction, although its original jurisdiction, to hold an actual trial, that is, is limited to only that given to it in Article III of the Constitution.  That can include two individuals, for example, two ambassadors.  But mostly, it is a court of appellate jurisdiction, reviewing the decisions of trial courts. 

Courts also have what is known as subject matter jurisdiction, referring to the subject matter of the cases that may come before them.  For example, the Bankruptcy Court can hear only bankruptcy cases, or a local magistrate can hear landlord-tenant cases but cannot hear a case involving a custody dispute.  In some states, the trial courts are separated into divisions, so the criminal court division cannot hear a dispute concerning a contract, while the family court division cannot hear a case involving a crime. Those are the subjects of the lawsuits. Each court has a subject matter jurisdiction that is strictly delineated and observed. 

Finally, there is the question of jurisdiction over the parties, which is called in personam jurisdiction.  This is a completely different issue from jurisdiction over the subject matter.  Does the court have authority over these parties?  Sometimes this is a matter of the party's role, as in the case of ambassadors from other countries, whom a state court does not have jurisdiction over.  Sometimes this is a matter of geography, where a business has no presence in a particular state and thus is not within the jurisdiction of the state court. Sometime it is a question of time, as for example, in the case of a divorce, in which parties must have resided in the particular state for some minimum period of time.  Without meeting the requirements of in personam jurisdiction, no party can proceed. 

Thus, in order to discuss jurisdiction in any court, we must have an understanding of the three different kinds of jurisdiction involved.  Whether those different types of jurisdiction should be altered or not is a much more complex question than most people realize, and the way court systems have been created, by means of constitution, means that to alter any or all kinds of jurisdiction would require constitutional amendment. 

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billdelaney's profile pic

William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

It doesn't seem moral to argue for or against capital punishment on a dollars-and-cents basis. If it were economically more practical to limit punishment for murder or treason to life imprisonment,  then would it be acceptable to impose capital punishment if it turned out that this was actually the cheapest form of punishment? If so, we might find ways to expedite executions by limiting the number of permissible appeals and shortening the time period between sentencing and execution. In other words, we might streamline capital punishment and save money. The only valid objection to capital punishment must be a moral one, especially since it is not cost effective and doesn't seem to be to be effective in prevention (someone said that if executions were intended to set examples, then they ought to be shown on prime-time television). If it is wrong for an individual to take a human life, can it be right for the state to take a human life? I don't know. Does anybody?

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

1. There is no question that the death penalty is not working as it was intended. Since inmates can remain on death row for on an average of ten years and up to twenty years in contrast to mere weeks when the Constitution was first written, it seems that revisions should be made. Furthermore, in a recent study conducted by Radelet and Lacock of the University of Colorado, it was revealed that 88% of the nation's top criminologists do not believe in the effectiveness of the death penalty as a deterrent to crime.

2. Famous attorney Johnny Cochran declared after the O.J. Simpson trial that "the color of justice is green." With regard to white collar crimes, there are many cases in which many high-level attorneys are involved and often the defendants are politically and socially powerful people with connections that can make a difference in their sentencing. For instance, billionaire Raj Rajaratnam convicted of insider trading received a sentence of only two years when an eight to ten-year term was asked for by prosecutors. A letter-writing campaign was initiated to point to the positive qualities of Mr. Rajaratnam: such prominent figures as Bill Gates and Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations, wrote on his behalf. Such letters are written to provide evidence of the positive attributes of the defendant. 

The emphasis is usually on charitable contributions and close family ties to show that a reduced punishment reflects the sentencing factor to “provide just punishment for the offense.

In 2005, the Supreme Court restored in such cases the discretion of the district court judges the determination of sentences. In United States v. Booker, sentencing guidelines were made advisory.

3.Gambling, marijuana use, and prostitution are already legal in some locations and states in the U.S. Certainly, there have been arguments made on both sides of these issues; however, drug dealers in federal prisons have observed that if drugs were made legal, their kind would be put out of business (prison populations would be reduced, as well, saving taxpayers). Colorado's lucrative business in marijuana seems to underscore arguments for legalization.
In most states gambling is legal already. However, Alabama is one state in which gambling is illegal; so, citizens of this state who wish to gamble buy lottery tickets in bordering states such as Florida and Georgia, donating to these states. There are gambling casinos that belong to Indian nations in Alabama, but no money goes into state coffers because they are on federal property. When Alabama's neighbor, Georgia, initiated its lottery, the state profited enough that it instituted a state scholarship program and built new schools among other things, so it is apparent that Alabama hurts itself by not having a lottery of its own by trying to legislate moral behavior.

4. At present, the court system is weighed down with cases, so to add disputes between individuals would further burden the system, for one thing. Presently, however, an individual's case may be taken up by a state if there are wrongs which the national claims to have suffered from another state because the dispute then changes to one between states.  

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