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Course Planning by Program


Essential Objectives

Course Syllabus

Revision Date: 08-Nov-22

American Judicial Process

Semester Dates: Last day to drop without a grade: 06-12-2023 - Refund Policy
Last day to withdraw (W grade): 07-10-2023 - Refund Policy
This course has started, please contact the offering academic center about registration


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Course Description

This course provides students with an overview of the American judicial process, examining its history, structure, and operation. Topics considered include court organization and administration, the courtroom work group, the trial and appellate processes, problems that plague the courts, and alternatives to courts for conflict resolution. Prerequisite: Introduction to Criminal Justice.

Essential Objectives

1. Describe the history and structure of the federal and state courts.
2. Discuss the role and functions of special courts and appellate courts.
3. Evaluate the constitutional protections in criminal law and their effects on criminal courts.
4. Contrast the adversary law system with civil law systems.
5. Assess the professional and ethical obligations of prosecutors and judges, the role of defense attorneys, and the functions of other court personnel.
6. Discuss the role of judges in the courtroom and beyond and their role in balancing the rights of victims and defendants.
7. Evaluate current trends in sentencing and their impact on incarceration disparities, including mandatory minimums and three-strikes legislation at federal and state levels.
8. Analyze the use of bail and plea-bargaining in the criminal justice system.
9. Outline the evolution of the juvenile justice system.
10. Explore how inequities within the American judicial system both reflect and impact societal disparities of race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation.

Required Technology

More information on general computer and internet recommendations is available on the CCV IT Support page. https://support.ccv.edu/general/computer-recommendations/

Please see CCV's Digital Equity Statement (pg. 45) to learn more about CCV's commitment to supporting all students access the technology they need to successfully finish their courses.

Required Textbooks and Resources

This course uses one or more textbooks/books/simulations.

Summer 2023 textbook details will be available on 2022-11-28. On that date a link will be available below that will take you to eCampus, CCV's bookstore. The information provided there will be specific to this class. Please see this page for more information regarding the purchase of textbooks/books.

Link to Textbooks for this course in eCampus.

The last day to use a Financial Aid Advance to purchase textbooks/books is the 3rd Tuesday of the semester. See your financial aid counselor at your academic center if you have any questions.


This is a discussion based course where students and faculty will interact via written postings in Canvas several times during the week.

Evaluation Criteria

Students write discussion answers weekly that are graded on content and use of college level writing skills.

Grading Criteria

CCV Letter Grades as outlined in the Evaluation System Policy are assigned according to the following chart:

A Less than 9893
A-Less than 9390
B+Less than 9088
B Less than 8883
B-Less than 8380
C+Less than 8078
C Less than 7873
C-Less than 7370
D+Less than 7068
D Less than 6863
D-Less than 6360
FLess than 60 
NPLess than 600

Weekly Schedule

Week/ModuleTopic  Readings  Assignments


This is the schedule for weeks 1-12.

Class Schedule and Reading Schedule:

*Week 1 Begins Tuesday 5/23 Ends Monday 5/29 – Introductions

Syllabus Reading: Read the course syllabus and related documents in the top of screen area of class. You are responsible for knowing and following all the information there.

Textbook: No textbook reading this week, see below for online reading.

Photo Upload: Upload a head/shoulders photo of yourself via your Canvas profile, upper right corner of class where the blank profile now appears. Do not upload a photo of anything or anyone other than yourself. This is how we replicate seeing one another in a traditional class.

Online Reading: We start our semester by studying Vermont’s state courts, the second part of the semester we study federal courts and use our digital textbook. We’ll use the Vermont Judiciary website extensively, bookmark it now. https://www.vermontjudiciary.org/ Go to the site, scroll down and read the home page, and then read the About the Vermont Judiciary (link found under the white search box mid-page). You can skip the green links at the bottom of the page, we’ll get to those later. Also read the Self-Help Center (link to far right of About link).

Discussion: Write a 450-500-word essay in which you discuss your education and career plans and goals, to include CCV, any college you plan to attend after CCV (or that you’ve already attended) and your professional working world plans. Discuss how you see your study of the material in this course assisting in each stage of your education and work. An answer of this length should be two to three correctly written paragraphs.

*Week 2 Begins Tuesday 5/30 Ends Monday 6/5

Read: In our digital textbook read Chapter 1 Criminal Proceedings: From Arrest to Trial through section 1.2 (stop when you get to section 1.3) AND read the Bail for Profit article posted in week 2, and read Vermont's bail laws posting also in week 2.

How to Navigate Our Online Textbook: https://support.flatworldknowledge.com/en/articles/5082530-how-to-navigate-your-online-textbook-student

Discussion: There are two this week, answer each one, put both answers in the same posting box. Each answer should be 225 to 250 words long, and one to two paragraphs. Do not type the questions into your answer in this or any future weeks when we use questions from our book, type the page/question # only.

  • It’s Your Call box found just under the Bail and Pretrial Detention section


  • Its Your Call box found in the Why Plea Bargaining Is So Common section, just under the Prosecutors heading. The question states “Do you accept this plea bargain?” Answer this and give a complete explanation of why you would or would not accept it.

*Week 3 Begins Tuesday 6/6 Ends Monday 6/12

Read: Start reading at section 1.3 Criminal Trials and read through the end of the chapter.

Discussion: At the end of the chapter find the Questions for Exploration section (there are 6 questions in it) and answer all six. Write each answer in a separate, numbered paragraph of 150-200 words. Put all six answers in one posting box.

*Week 4 Begins Tuesday 6/13 Ends Monday 6/19

Read: In our digital textbook the second chapter is titled Criminal Courts: History, Organization, and Principal Players read from the start of the chapter through section 2.2. Stop at the section Principal Courtroom Players.

Discussion: Look for the Learning Objectives box found just under the Formal Organization of Criminal Courts today heading. There are three questions there. Write each answer in a separate, numbered paragraph of 150-200 words. Put all answers in one posting box.

*Week 5 Begins Tuesday 6/20 Ends Monday 6/26

Read: Starting at the section titled Principal Courtroom Players read to the end of the chapter.

Discussion: Look for the Public Defenders heading, a few paragraphs after it you’ll find a box titled It’s Your Call. Answer that question fully in 225 to 250 words.


Look for the heading A Final Word on Defense Attorneys, just below it is a box titled It’s Your Call. Answer those questions fully in 225-250 words. This means your total words for the two answers will be 450-500 words.

*Week 6 Begins Tuesday 6/28 Ends Monday 7/4 - We begin our study of Vermont’s state court system

Online Reading: At the Vermont Judiciary website homepage https://www.vermontjudiciary.org/ look underneath the white search box for several light blue icons on a white background. Find the Court Divisions icon and click it, read the material there, and then click on each of the green links below about the seven (7) divisions of state courts in Vermont. Be sure to click the greenish/blue box/link that appears because there’s a lot more information there.

Then go back to the screen with the light blue icons and look left to where it says Find A Court and locate the courthouse or courthouses in your county. Vermont has 14 counties. Each county has a Vermont Superior Court: Civil Division; a Vermont Superior Court: Criminal Division; a Vermont Superior Court: Family Division; and a Probate Court. The Vermont Judicial Bureau (traffic court and other civil violation matters such as underage drinking violations and fish and game violations) travels around the state to hold court in each county. Vermont Superior Court: Environmental Division also travels around the state to hold court in each county as needed. The Vermont Supreme Court is one court and has its courthouse in Montpelier, just to the right of the Vermont Statehouse.

In some counties all the courts are in the same building. In some counties Civil Division, Probate Court, and Small Claims Court, which is a sub-unit of Civil Division are in one courthouse in one town in the county while Criminal Division and Family Division are in another courthouse in another town. This is just how courthouses developed over the decades and centuries of our state’s history.

Discussion: Write a 450-500-word essay in which you must use college level writing skills. Pick any three (3) of the seven (7) courts and explain what types of cases that court hears, how judges are selected, whether or not there is a jury, and where, in the county you live in, those courthouses are found (street address and town/city). Create a new paragraph for each court and use a bolded heading with the court's correct name, eg. Vermont Superior Court: Civil Division.

*Week 7 Begins Tuesday 7/4 Ends Monday 7/10

Read: This is the second part of learning about Vermont’s state courts. The reading assignment is the same as it was last week, there’s enough information that having two weeks to read it will benefit you. At the Vermont Judiciary website homepage https://www.vermontjudiciary.org/ look underneath the white search box for several light blue icons on a white background.

Discussion: Refer to week 6 and follow the same instructions generally, and specifically, pick the four (4) courts you didn’t write about last week (out of the seven (7) courts Vermont has) and explain what types of cases that court hears, how judges are selected, whether or not there is a jury, and where, in the county you live in, those courthouses are found (street address and town/city).

*Week 8 Begins Tuesday 7/11 Ends Monday 7/17

Read: This is the history of Vermont's state courts. https://www.vermontjudiciary.org/sites/default/files/documents/History_VT_Judiciary.pdf

Read: At the Vermont Judiciary website homepage https://www.vermontjudiciary.org/ look below the white search box for the box/link Jurors and click it open. Read what’s at the main page. Look screen right for boxes/links. Skip Jury Questionnaire as you need a pass # /badge # to access it, if you’d been contacted about jury duty, you’d have been given this number by the court clerk. Everything at the Jury Services link/box and open and read all links you find as you work your way through that link.

Come back to the main jury page and click the link/box labelled Jury Orientation in Vermont. This is an 18 min. video on YouTube by Vermont Supreme Court Justice Harold Eaton, watch it.

Discussion: Write a 450-500-word essay where you select the county where you live or work or go to college, your choice, and explain 1) the county you selected and the street address of the courthouse; 2) whether you want to write about civil or criminal court (your choice); 3) the duties you’ll fulfill if selected for jury service, and the expectations of you in serving, and what you can expect as part of the process and experience.

*Week 9 Begins Tuesday 7/18 Ends Monday 7/24

Read: At the Vermont Judiciary website homepage https://www.vermontjudiciary.org/ look below the white search box for the box/link Self Help and click it open. These pages are for anyone planning to represent themselves in a civil, criminal, family, probate, environmental, judicial bureau, or even Vermont Supreme Court case. You’ll find boxes/links at the right side and lower part of the screen. Open and read all, you’ll be re-directed to outside websites for some organizations such as the Vermont Bar Association for their lawyer referral service, and to Vermont Legal Aid and Vermont Legal Services. This combined site has a lot of helpful information, it will take time to read it all so don’t rush.

Discussion: Write a 450-500-word where you put yourself in one (1) of these roles below and explain how you would prepare to represent yourself in court using these resources, and what other options to self-representation you have. Note the Latin phrase for appearing in court by one’s self without an attorney is called proceeding pro se. Here are your options for types of cases, begin your answer by stating which one you’re using. See below for ideas about how to approach this question.

1) You are being sued in Vermont Superior Court: Civil Division in a breach (breaking) of contract case where the amount in dispute is $25,000.

2) You have been arrested for burglarizing your neighbor’s home and stealing $15,000 worth of electronics.

3) Your partner is suing you for divorce and custody of the two children you share and is seeking child support.

4) Your aunt (never married, no children) died and named you as executor of her Will (capitalized because it’s the proper name of a document), you were aware of this and agreed to do it. Now your three siblings are contesting the Will in probate court because your aunt left you $50,000, and each of them only $30,000.

5) You own a small family ski area in Vermont that the State is alleging has been polluting a nearby stream and river with runoff from the skiing operations. The case is heard in Environmental Court.

6) You were stopped by a Vermont police officer on Interstate 89 for doing 20 miles an hour over the speed limit (speed limit is posted at 65 mph, officer says you were doing 85) in your 2009 Honda Civic Coupe. You know you weren’t going that fast because the car’s engine was partly blown and the car wouldn't do more than 55 miles an hour.

7) You rent a small house from Jose' Landlord under a one year written lease for monthly rent of $1,000. The lease calls for Jose' to provide as part of your rent, snow plowing and shoveling and sanding/salting. He never once did so last winter despite plenty of snow and ice storms. You had to hire a plowing service and pay yourself, and buy and spread sand/salt. You kept receipts from all that total $450. You're suing him to recover this amount.

There is no example for the Vermont Supreme Court.

*Week 10 Begins Tuesday 7/25 Ends Monday 7/31

Read: 1) Guide to the Vermont Judiciary


Download this and read it this week, please. Also save it and refer to it for the semester.

2) Guide to the Vermont Constitution

The Guide to Vermont Judiciary mentions the Vermont Constitution in several places so you need that document to refer to. Here's the link.


Download this and read it this week, please. Also save it and refer to it for the semester.

Discussion: Write a 450-500-word essay where put yourself in the role of law clerk to the Chief Justice of the Vermont Supreme Court who’s assigned you to give a 20 minute briefing to newly elected Vermont legislators about the Vermont Judiciary.

*Your job in this briefing is to explain the points that will be most importantto explain to these public officials.

*Write one short paragraph for each of Vermont's seven courts, use the court's full name, the primary subject matter jurisdiction of the court, and how judges are selected for that court. Be sure to include Small Claims Court as a unit of the larger court it belongs too, and include how side/assistant judges are selected. Do not repeat information if it applies to more than one court, as the justice and judge selection process applies to several courts.

*If you're stuck on this question draft some ideas and email me early in the week so we can talk it through via email or if you prefer, via a Zoom session. Don't guess, don't wait until late in the week because this answer will take longer than you think it will.

*Use this format of bolded headings in this order to give your answer organization.

"Good morning, Vermont legislators. I'm Anne Buttimer, Chief Justice Reiber's law clerk. Our presentation will provide you a basic overview of Vermont's state court system. [Use your name instead of mine, and pick a Justice other than CJ Reiber.]

Vermont Supreme Court- xxxx

Vermont Superior Court: Civil Division - xxxx

Vermont Superior Court: Criminal Division - xxxx

Vermont Superior Court: Family Division - xxxx

Vermont Superior Court: Environmental Division - xxxx

Vermont Superior Court: Probate Division - xxxx

Vermont Judicial Bureau - xxxx

*Week 11 Begins Tuesday 8/1 Ends Monday 8/7

View and Read: This week you’ll view two online documentaries: 1) True Justice about the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) and its founder and director, attorney Bryan Stevenson. Also read the EJI website. Note: there’s a lot of information at the site, give yourself plenty of time to read it all. Bookmark it for future use. https://eji.org/projects/true-justice/


2) 13th by director Ava DuVernay about mass incarceration in the United States. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krfcq5pF8u8

Discussion - Write a 300-350 word answer of two paragraphs about each documentary. Clearly title each answer, and post both answers in the same posting.Here are your questions: write about any aspect of attorney Stevenson’s, and the EJI’s work. Explain why you viewed those issues and or cases as especially important and discuss how this week’s video and website readings have affected and influenced you. THEN, write about your response and reaction to Ms. DuVernay's film. What moved you, what distressed you, how will you use your career in criminal justice to change the current, sad reality in our nation that this film exposes.

* Week 12 Begins Tuesday 8/8 Ends Monday 8/14

Discussion: TED Talks Week! - go to:
https://www.ted.com/ and find the tab at top of screen Discover. First item is Topics. At Topics scroll to C and open topics for Crime or Criminal Justice OR at Topics scroll to A and open topics for Addiction OR at Topics scroll to B and open topics for Brain (make sure they have a CJ connection) at Topics scroll to E for Education or scroll to F for Forensics or scroll to G for Guns OR J for Justice System or L for Law OR N for Narcotics OR T for Trafficking or V for Violence OR P for Poverty. From all the Talks at these many Topics select any four (4) Talks (only four) and watch each one, then complete the format below for each Talk and post in class all in one posting.

The thesis of a Talk is one-to-two sentence(s) that concisely state what the author seeks to prove in giving the Talk. The summary of Talk is three-to-five sentences that state what the Talk is about. The two are different. Be sure you understand what a thesis statement is and then craft your thesis statement for each Talk. If you need to work with Tutor.com on this please do so.

Use this exact formatting for your four Talks, all made in one posting.

My Four TED Talks

Full Title of Talk:

Author’s Name:

Thesis of Talk:

Summary of Talk:

How Does This Talk Relate to our Class Readings, Discussion, and Learning? This should include a focused explanation of the chapter(s) and sections/page numbers of relevant information in our book and any additional learning we had such as websites I provided, research sources you found and used in answering questions this semester.

Link to Talk:

Use same format in one posting for Talks 2,3,4

END of course


Attendance Policy

Regular attendance and participation in classes are essential for success in and are completion requirements for courses at CCV. A student's failure to meet attendance requirements as specified in course descriptions will normally result in a non-satisfactory grade.

  • In general, missing more than 20% of a course due to absences, lateness or early departures may jeopardize a student's ability to earn a satisfactory final grade.
  • Attending an on-ground or synchronous course means a student appeared in the live classroom for at least a meaningful portion of a given class meeting. Attending an online course means a student posted a discussion forum response, completed a quiz or attempted some other academically required activity. Simply viewing a course item or module does not count as attendance.
  • Meeting the minimum attendance requirement for a course does not mean a student has satisfied the academic requirements for participation, which require students to go above and beyond simply attending a portion of the class. Faculty members will individually determine what constitutes participation in each course they teach and explain in their course descriptions how participation factors into a student's final grade.

Participation Expectations

Students must post a discussion answer and reply to two classmates' discussion answers each week, and must also answer any follow-up questions I ask.

Missing & Late Work Policy

Work posted after the 6 pm Friday due time incurs a 10 point per hour or any segment thereof deduction. Not posting two substantive replies to classmates and or not answering any follow-up questions I ask by the 11 pm Saturday due time incurs a 15 point deduction from the discussion grade.

Accessibility Services for Students with Disabilities:

CCV strives to mitigate barriers to course access for students with documented disabilities. To request accommodations, please
  1. Provide disability documentation to the Accessibility Coordinator at your academic center. https://ccv.edu/discover-resources/students-with-disabilities/
  2. Request an appointment to meet with accessibility coordinator to discuss your request and create an accommodation plan.
  3. Once created, students will share the accommodation plan with faculty. Please note, faculty cannot make disability accommodations outside of this process.

Academic Integrity

CCV has a commitment to honesty and excellence in academic work and expects the same from all students. Academic dishonesty, or cheating, can occur whenever you present -as your own work- something that you did not do. You can also be guilty of cheating if you help someone else cheat. Being unaware of what constitutes academic dishonesty (such as knowing what plagiarism is) does not absolve a student of the responsibility to be honest in his/her academic work. Academic dishonesty is taken very seriously and may lead to dismissal from the College.