Law 101: Everything You Need to Know About the American Legal System (4th edition)

Jay M. Feinman
Pub date
Sep 2014
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In each of the first three editions of the bestselling Law 101, Jay Feinman gave readers an upbeat and vivid examination of the American legal system. Since the third edition was published in 2010, much has happened: several key Supreme Court cases have been decided, we've seen sensational criminal trials, and the legal system has had to account for the latest developments in Internet law. This fully updated fourth edition of Law 101 accounts for all this and more, as Feinman once again provides a clear introduction to American law. The book covers all the main subjects taught in the first year of law school, and discusses every facet of the American legal tradition, including constitutional law, the litigation process, and criminal, property, and contracts law. To accomplish this, Feinman brings in the most noteworthy, infamous, and often outrageous examples and cases. We learn about the case involving scalding coffee that cost McDonald's half a million dollars, the murder trial in Victorian London that gave us the legal definition of insanity, and the epochal decision of Marbury vs. Madison that gave the Supreme Court the power to declare state and federal law unconstitutional. A key to learning about the law is learning legal vocabulary, and Feinman helps by clarifying terms like "due process" and "equal protection," as well as by drawing distinctions between terms like "murder" and "manslaughter." Above all, though, is that Feinman reveals to readers of all kinds that despite its complexities and quirks, the law is can be understood by everyone. Perfect for students contemplating law school, journalists covering legislature, or even casual fans of "court-television" shows, Law 101 is a clear and accessible introduction to the American legal system. New to this edition: Featured analysis of: -the Obamacare case -Citizens United -the DOMA decision -the Trayvon Martin case As well as recent legal developments pertaining to: -online contracting -mortgages -police investigations -criminal sentencing


1 There Are No Secret Books: You Can Understand the Law
2 Constitutional Law and Constitutional Politics: Interpreting and Applying the Constitution
What is constitutional law?
Why do we need constitutional law?
How does the Supreme Court decide what the Constitution means?
Where does the Supreme Court get the authority to interpret the Constitution?
What powers does constitutional law give to the rest of the federal government?
What powers do the states have under constitutional law?
3 First Freedoms: Constitutional Rights
What rights does constitutional law protect?
What is due process?
Does constitutional law require that everyone be treated equally?
How does the Constitution protect freedom of speech?
How does the Constitution protect freedom of religion?
What other rights are protected by the Constitution?
4 Your Day in Court: The Litigation Process
What is civil procedure?
Why do we need civil litigation and civil procedure?
Where do court cases come from?
Where can a lawsuit be brought?
When can you make a federal case out of it?
If you can sue in different places, what law will apply in each place?
How does a lawsuit begin?
What can the defendant do to respond to a lawsuit?
What if there are more than two parties to a lawsuit?
What if there are many parties to a lawsuit?
How do the parties discover the facts about their case?
What else happens before the trial?
What happens at trial?
What evidence can be presented at trial?
What about the jury?
What happens after trial?
5 Auto Accidents, Scalding Coffee, and Medical Malpractice: Personal Injuries and Tort Law
What is tort law?
Why do we need tort law?
Is it a tort when you hit someone?
Is it a tort when you injure someone by not being careful?
What does the law mean by reasonable care?
How does a plaintiff prove that a defendant has been negligent?
What if the victim is partly at fault for an accident?
Suppose someone does not intend to injure someone else and acts with reasonable care. Can he or she still be liable in tort?
When is a manufacturer liable for injuries caused by its products?
What damages can a plaintiff get in a tort case?
When are damages awarded to punish the defendant?
6 When Is a Deal a Deal? Businesses, Consumers, and Contract Law
What is contract law?
Why do we need contract law?
How do you make a contract?
Does a contract have to be in writing to be enforceable?
Can anyone make a contract?
Once two people make an agreement, is it always enforceable?
If a contract is unfair, can a court refuse to enforce it?
How does the law treat form contracts?
Once you make a contract, can you ever get out of it?
What happens if one party's performance depends upon something happening and it doesn't happen?
Will a court order someone to perform a contract?
How much does someone have to pay for not keeping a promise?
7 You Are What You Own: The Law of Property
What is property law?
Why do we need property law?
What kinds of property are there?
Who owns the Internet?
How can someone acquire property?
How is property purchased and sold?
How is property transferred on death?
What is a trust?
How do people own property collectively?
How else can ownership of property be shared?
What are the property rights of a landlord and a tenant?
When can the government take your property?
8 From Insanity to In Cold Blood: Criminal Responsibility and Criminal Law
What is criminal law?
Why do we need criminal law?
What is a criminal act?
Does someone have to mean to commit a crime to be guilty?
When is self-defense justified?
In what other circumstances is someone justified in committing a crime?
Why are criminals allowed to plead insanity as a defense?
What other defenses are available?
Can someone be convicted for almost committing a crime?
What is homicide?
Why is rape law so controversial?
9 Protecting the Innocent, Freeing the Guilty: Criminal Procedure
What is criminal procedure?
Why do we need criminal procedure?
What are the steps in the criminal process?
When can the police conduct a search and seizure?
What is the privilege against self-incrimination?
What happens if police violate a defendant's rights?
What is plea bargaining?
Why do we have juries?
What is the adversary process?
How does sentencing work?
What about the death penalty?
Why does it seem that criminal appeals go on so long?
Index of Legal Cases
Index of Subjects

About the author: 

Jay M. Feinman is Distinguished Professor of Law at Rutgers University School of Law. He is the author of six books, including Delay, Deny, Defend: Why Insurance Companies Don't Pay Claims and What You Can Do About It.

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