American Legal System with Jason Leggett


In this course I want you to be able to research a global problem of modern society, using skills and theories from social science, the “civic” humanities, and the arts and sciences.  I want you to be able to thoughtfully contribute to scholarly research for the public good.

Grading:  Project Participation: 80%; Exams 10%; Assignments 10%.

Kingsborough values a measurement of your ability to:

  1. assess information from a variety of sources by locating, reading, commenting on, and listening actively to other points of view about that information;
  2. critically examine (apply understanding), in verbal and written form, how the courts, and law as an extension, affect society through scientific observation and individual experience;
  3. analyze the american legal system as a collective decision making institution, co-equal branch of democratic government through critical theories in social sciences and the humanities (liberal arts);
  4. Examine by theorizing (create) about the basic structure of the U.S legal and political systems, including the functions, historical and modern, of the courts particularly as they relate to global problems and democratic rule of law.


The college allows for you to miss 6 hours of this course for any reason. While those students who attend every class tend to get better grades we all know life events can interfere with the ability to achieve this goal. If you are having trouble attending or foresee absences above 6 hours please see me as soon as possible or email me so that we might find alternatives.

Required Materials:

Human Rights: A Very Short Introduction Chapters 3,6,7,

Extra Credit Enrichment: American Immigration: A Very Short Introduction – abstract as pre-requisite for immigration CPAR project; please email me at jasonmleggettkbcc@gmail.com

My Information:

D-221 Mondays Tuesdays 11:30 – 2:30 x5225


Proposed Course Outline:

Part One:  Introduction to Norms for Course

Please email me if you are having trouble accessing any reading.

Week One:  Introduction and Norms for Course

    • Reading: Why We Can’t Wait (assess information) by clicking here 
    • In Class Writing: 3×5  (critically examine)
    • In Class Discussion: Under a philosophy of right (Hegel & Knox, 1952), do immigrant communities perceive the rule of law differently, when they are denied access outright, or receive unequal access, to socio-legal resources? (analyze)

Week Two: Anatomy of the course: Understanding the American Legal System from the first person point of view.

    • Reading: a Literature Review: Bounded Rationality as it relates to attention, priorities, and policy choices in Congress down to the individual especially as it relates to their political philosophy and their awareness of modern problems (with a current measurement of identity, agency, and advocacy). Economics as broadly defined provides a convenient framework to analyze the gap between law as ideal and law as real, or the inconsistencies in the market of criminal justice. If we are rational choice actors why are there so many blaring injustices in the criminal justice system? At the same time, we are paying exceedingly high taxes to fund a national and local security apparatus that must be held accountable. Samuel Huntington and Elizabeth Kier have provided compelling accounts of the gap in civil-military relations and what that says about democratic politics and war. If the actions of the so-called sovereign are to be representative of my reality as a consequence of this action or inaction, there must be a reasonable standard to which I can suffer, or to be held in suffering. Due Process, thus constitutional authority, as representative of the will of the people, is a very different concept than the actual day-to-day experience with either proper or improper due process encounters between police and pedestrians, or more often car drivers and passengers and humans in their homes or offices. To blame criminal justice actors like police or correctional officers denies the existence of the very gap we agreed existed between law as an ideal world and the actual world that exists with many lawbreakers who are not caught, sentenced, or punished. (model of “create” expectation)
    • Google Forms Writing: Sherlock Holmes Logical Reasoning Response by clicking here  (assess and apply information)
      • Online Reading: The Case of Identity by clicking here(assess information)
    • Discussion: Problem Based Course: How do we design the globally just city in the digital 21st century?(Jurisdiction Building and Voting Activity) – (Practice as experience learning models “create”)

Week Three: Civic Identity and systems of Criminal Justice through Courts.

    • Reading: Human Rights Chapter 6 and 7. (assess information) by clicking here.
    • Writing: In Class Essay response to Chapter 6 and 7; statutory interpretation (NYC Mosqueby clicking here..  (examine)
    • In Class Discussion: We assume that however the criminal justice system, or any governmental institution, affects your outlook and behavior toward that system, you are nonetheless transformed because of this event.  In other words, you cannot escape the impact of the legal system during your life span. When there are violations of law there are numerous inefficiencies that occur as a consequence, often unintended effects. This inefficiency in the system is sometimes purposeful criminal behavior, with malicious intent or premeditated,  but often it is negligent, reckless behavior of so called normal people. How should one be judged and defined by one’s peers then? How does this relate to our ideals and actual encounters with law enforcement, or the cold dark chambers of courthouses. (analyze)

Part Two: Course Problem and Literature Review.

Week Four: Social Identity and laws as society agreed upon norms.

    • Reading: Econ + Global Court Decision by clicking here (assess information)
    • Writing: Liability and negligence thought experiment. duty, foreseeable, breach, cause, damage by clicking here. (examine) 
    • In Class Discussion: Marxists believe that learning can transform society but it requires a so-called revolution because a dominant class is oppressing a submissive class. Many social scientists argue that our experience of the structures around us are products of our economic social groups including work, sports, school, or religious and ideology groups. Our material reality shapes our thinking just as much as the rules and laws that govern our behavior. I argue we experience these differently and thus have different perspectives toward the role of the law in our individual life. (analyze)

Week Five and Six: National Identity & Civic Agency

    • Reading: Courts as a Designed System by clicking here; Franklin by clicking here (assess information)
    • Writing: Mid-Term Examination Response to Clash of Civilizations (create) by clicking here ; You can download a PDF copy of the reading by clicking here.
    • Discussion: I believe Samuel Huntington is arguing that because resources have been manipulated by humans though national economies the only remaining conflict was that of ideology, of what makes a civilization. Multiculturalists argue diversity of culture is a benefit to society and that encounters of change provide useful instruction for future generations. On the other hand, many libertarians argue life is cruel; selfish ambition true. How do we navigate the systems of authority while maintaining our individualism? (analyze)
    • (In Class Activity: Cheating Barista Problem) (Please email me at jasonmleggettkbcc@gmail.com after the midterm if you are interested in ONLINE EXTRA CREDIT: Causes of Crime and Purposes of Punishment analysis). (Create)

Part Three: Law and Identity, Civic Engagement, and Critical Participatory Action Research of Systems.

Week Seven: Criminal Justice Institutions and Legal Theory.

    • Reading:  Current Event in News and Human Rights Chapter 3 (assess information) by clicking here
    • Writing: Practice 3 Paragraph Essay Response to Chapter 3.  (analyze) (see assignment above).
    • Discussion: Many institutions assume people naturally need reminders to help others or to be aware of our common responsibilities. But what of the law evaders? How do we decide how to divide resources? How should we tax and protect our area? Or as some suggest and narratives confirm humans are naturally prone to help each other out in emergencies, to solve common problems, and to desire a positive outcome in collaborative work Finding these allies is important in furthering agency.  click here to participate in the public discussion.

Week Eight: Due Process, Socio-Legal Access, and the 14th Amendment.

    • Reading: Beloved Urban, Supporting Critical Civic Learning with Interactive Technology. (assess and create) by clicking here
    • Writing: Papers Please Statutory & Constitutional Interpretation (examine and analyze) by clicking here
    • In Class Discussion: Gentrification, development, and the chilling effect of Stop and Frisk. (analyze and create)

Week Nine: Civic Advocacy and American Legal Systems

    • Reading: Human Rights Chapter 8. (assess information) by clicking here
    • Writing: Civil Complaint Assignment online. (assess and examine) by clicking here
    • In Class Discussion: How can mapping help minimize the gap between socio-economic groups? (analyze and create)

Part Four: Education as Experience, Civic as Imagination

Week Ten: Coalitions, and the trial of Martin Memorial

    • Reading: Mock Trial Packet Part 1. (examine and create) please email me at jasonmleggettkbcc@gmail.com for your individualized mock trial packet.
    • Writing: Draft due for opening arguments and first position statements. (assess and create) by clicking here
    • In Class Discussion: Trial of Martin Memorial (analyze and create)

Week Eleven: Trial Continued

    • Reading: Mock Trial Part 2. (examine and create)
    • Writing: Final closing arguments and final position statements. (assess and create)
    • In Class Discussion: Trial of Martin Memorial (analyze and create)
    • Jury Form Instructions provided in class

Week Twelve: Reflection on Global Modern Problems

Reading: Teaching to Transgress: Confronting Class. (assess and examine) by clicking here

Writing: Draft of paragraph one of self reflection letter (3 paragraphs) citing to Hooks. (analyze and create) by clicking here

Discussion: How did we do?  (create)

Final Exam Essay Response Format.

Paragraph 1.  How does Bell Hooks use the term “class” to explain how educational institutions contribute to a dominant system of society?

Paragraph 2. What experiences do you have confronting societal institutions that might be of use to those trying to migrate today?

Paragraph 3. How can the American system of courts provide a blueprint for change in this situation?