Author: uslawessentials

What is the electoral college system in the United States?

The electoral college system in the United States is an example of a compromise in the United States Constitution. Read more about compromises in the Constitution When the United States was founded, some Americans favored a system of direct democracy, in which after each vote is counted the candidate with the most votes would win.   Other American favored a more indirect system in which either Congress or the States would select the President. The Electoral College was a compromise.  The system provides that each state designates a certain number of Electors, based on the state’s population.  The state’s Electors vote for a candidate after the states’ citizens finish voting.  The candidate who wins a majority of votes in the Electoral College becomes the President of the United States. Almost all states follow a winner-take-all system.  That is, the Electors must vote for the candidate who won a plurality of votes in that...

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For diversity jurisdiction, how does a court determine the amount in controversy?

28 USC § 1332 and Calculating Amount in Controversy 28 USC §1332 provides that where plaintiffs and defendants are from different states, a federal court may assert diversity subject matter  jurisdiction if the ‘amount in controversy’ exceeds $75,000. How is the amount in controversy calculated? As a general rule, courts will defer to the plaintiff’s good-faith demand in her complaint.  For example, if a plaintiff alleges, in good-faith, that she suffered $80,000 in damages, this should be enough to satisfy the amount in controversy requirement.  Even if the plaintiff recovers $1,000, significantly less than the threshold requirement, this will not affect subject matter jurisdiction. However, if the court concludes to a “legal certainty” that the amount in controversy is insufficient, then the court should dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.  For example, let’s say a plaintiff sues over an alleged breach of contract.   If the contract has a clause that limits liability to $50,000, then the court will probably dismiss the case on grounds that the amount in controversy does not satisfy the threshold requirements of 28 USC § 1332. Aggregating Claims If a plaintiff has multiple claims against a single defendant then we may aggregate claims.  For example, a $40,000 breach of contract claim and a $50,000 tort claim against one defendant can be combined.  $90,000 > $75,000. But courts may not aggregate claims against multiple defendants or claims by multiple plaintiffs.  ...

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What is due process of law?

Take me to the videos The Right to Due Process The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution provide that no one can be deprived of “life, liberty, or property” without “due process of law.”  Courts refer to these clauses as the “due process clauses.” Meaning of Due Process Due process means that a person has the right to fair procedures before the government takes away her life, freedom, or property.  As one example, the due process clauses protect a person’s right to a fair trial before being sent to prison. Why does the Due Process Clause appear in both the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments? Because  the Fifth Amendment only applies to the federal government.   The Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause  provides, “… nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”  State governments must also provide due process of law. Congress passed the Fourteenth Amendment to insure that state governments did not deprive black people – – former slaves – – of the Constitution’s basic freedoms. Incorporation Over the years, the Supreme Court has gradually held that nearly all of the rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights apply to the states because of the Fourteenth Amendment.  The Supreme Court’s application of the Bill of Rights to the states is called incorporation of the Bill of Rights against the...

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Checks and Balances/Legal English Game

Checks and balances limit the power of each branch of the federal government.  The Constitution provides powers to each branch of government, including the legislative, executive, and judicial branches,  Each of these branches have powers that can prevent other brances from becoming too powerful. How well can you do on this game?   You can also try this quiz:   USLawEssentials Checks and Balances Quiz » Powered by...

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If states traditionally regulate marriage, why can’t states make homosexual marriage illegal?

An international student asked a very good question in our class the other day. He noted that because of federalism, states generally have the power to regulate marriage.  When people get married in the United States, a state, not the national government, certifies the marriage. But the student also noted that he learned that states may not prohibit a same-sex couple from getting married.  That is, if two men or two women want to get married, the state must permit the marriage.   How can this be if states regulate marriage within their borders?  Under what authority can states be required to allow same-sex couples to get married? The Constitution and the Supremacy Clause The answer is connected to the Constitution of the United States and the Supremacy Clause  (more info on the Supremacy Clause here). No law is higher in the United States than the Constitution – – that is why the Constitution is called the Supreme Law of the United States.  If any law violates the Constitution, a court can declare the law unconstitutional through its power of judicial review. You can think of this like a card game.  The Constitution is the highest card in the deck, the Ace of Spades.  Any other card is weaker than the Ace of Spades.  We’ll say a state law is the Queen is Hearts.  Because the Ace of Spades is higher than the Queen, the...

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