Category: Federalism

What does “national law” mean in the United States? Is it the same as federal law?

In the United States, national law and federal law are the same thing.  National laws are enacted by Congress and signed into law by the President of the United States. Because of  federalism, power is divided in the United States between the national government based in Washington, D.C. and state governments.  Both the state and national governments have the power to pass laws.  For example, New York State can pass a law that criminalizes certain types of conduct,  such as robbery, and the United States federal government can pass laws that would criminalize certain types of conduct, such as smuggling illegal goods into the country.  Here is a video on federalism:     Recognizing Federal and State Laws There are some ways to recognize federal and state laws. First, federal laws typically have a recognizable  popular name and a citation.  Popular name just means the name politicians give the law so people can recognize it.  For example, President Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. But citation tells you where the law was published and that will always inform you whether the law is a federal law or not.  Federal laws are published in the United States Code, abbreviated as USC. For example, let’s say you see a  law cited as: 18 USC § 2113 This tells you that the law is a federal law because it is in...

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Introduction to Federal and State Court Systems: Part I

Introduction to Federal & State Court Systems Take me to the video Federal and State Courts in the United States Because of federalism, which provides power to both the federal and state governments, there are federal and state court systems in the United States.  For example, if you took a walk in New York City you could see federal and state courts in lower Manhattan standing side-by-side.  But although these courts may be geographically close to each other, state courts and federal courts are separate and independent.  This short introduction will help you understand both court systems.     e>...

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Constitution and the Distribution of Power Part I: Forming the Constitution

The Constitution and the Distribution of Power Steps to forming the Constitution The Constitution and Distribution of Power Go to Part II: Constitution and Compromise The Constitution as the Supreme Law of the United States Go to Part III: The Supremacy Clause The constitution before the Constitution On July 4, 1776, representatives of the 13 American colonies met at the Continental Congress and approved the Declaration of Independence.  In the Declaration, the 13 former colonies referred to themselves as the United “States,” because each state considered itself, not only independent of Great Britain, but also independent (at least to...

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I heard that the Boston Marathon bomber, Tsarnaev, can face the death penalty. So this means that Massachusetts has the death penalty? What about other states?

This is a really good question.  The answers are: Yes, Tsarnaev could receive the death penalty. No, Massachusetts does not have a death penalty. Yes, other states do impose the death penalty. The US has both federal and state court systems. Remember, because of federalism , the United States has both a federal court system and also state court systems.   Tsarnaev is currently on trial in a federal court, not state court.  The federal court is located in Massachusetts but the defendant is  facing federal charges, not state charges.  For some of his crimes, the federal court could sentence Tsarnaev to death.    Some, but not all states, impose the death penalty for certain crimes.  Massachusetts abolished the death penalty but that will not help Tsarnaev in federal court.   Tsarnaev could be tried on state charges, too. After his federal trial is over, Tsarnaev could be tried again on state charges in a Massachusetts state court.  That court could not punish Tsarnaev with the death penalty. Below is a video discussing...

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