Personal Injury

Debating Culture and the Courtroom—Past and Present

In this edition, Students in Action takes you back to Tudor England, out to the Old West, down through decades of censorship rulings, and into today's world of TV courtroom dramas for a look at the influence culture can have on law and the role it can play in trial proceedings and outcomes.

In Cultures, Courts, and the U.S. Constitution, James H. Landman looks at how England's rulers used its laws and courts to impose their own cultural and religious views on their subjects, and the resulting impact their policies had on the work of the U.S. Constitution's Framers. You'll discover how English law laid much of the foundation for U.S. law, and why the Framers were determined to guarantee Americans freedoms prohibited in England.
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Steven Lubet in When Guilt or Innocence Depends on the Era tells the story of the gunfight between Wild Bill Hickok and Dave Tutt-a showdown that resulted in death for one and a murder trial for the other. What did the Law of the West say about shooting matches deliberately staged in the middle of a town square? What do you think the verdict was for the "man left standing"? Read the article for some surprising revelations.
( Activities related to this article.)

Changing Times, Changing Censorship by Wanda Routier details the shifting guidelines that U.S. courts have produced to define what may be expressed in our literature, art, films, and even classrooms. You'll discover how difficult it is to define obscenity and how that definition changes with our culture. Perhaps you'll even try to define standards for acceptability reflecting today's cultural environment.
( Activities related to this article.)

Finally, TV is one highly pervasive cultural element in today's United States. In TV and the Courtroom, Gayle Mertz talks about TV cameras that are trained on real-life and fictional trials and the effect TV has—not only on the trial's participants, but also on viewers like you. You'll get the chance to consider both sides of the issue on whether trials should be televised and decide for yourself which position you support.
( Activities related to this article.)

Completing the Take Action! activities at the end of each article will help you begin to participate in and influence the public debates that your generation will encounter regarding the complex relationship among culture, law, and the courtroom.

Student Central | Students in Action | Debating Culture and the Courtroom—Past and Present
Cultures, Courts, and the U.S. Constitution
When Guilt or Innocence Depends on the Era
Changing Times, Changing Censorship | TV and the Courtroom