Source: Trager, R., Ross, S., & Reynolds, A. (2016). The Law of Journalism and Mass Communication. CQ Press, Thousand Oaks, CA.
Chapter 1 was focused on “The Rule of Law”. This chapter outlined the court system, sources of law, the case process, finding the law, and reading the law. The chapter started with the court system. Different courts have different jurisdiction (meaning they can hear different cases). The United States has a federal court system and each state has a court system. There are trial courts where nearly all cases start. There are courts of appeal that review decisions made by trial courts and either affirm or overrule those decisions. There are a number of sources of the law. The United States Constitution is the “Supreme Law of the Land”, there are state constitutions, statutes which are written laws that are enacted by a city, county, state, or federal bodies. There is also equity law, common law, administrative law, and executive orders. Equity law is when a judge doesn’t use legal rules to decide a case rather, the judge uses principles of ethics and fairness to issue the ruling. When a judge uses precedent to make a ruling, that is called common law (the situations are not covered by written law so the only thing to go on is history). Administrative law is issued by agencies like the Federal Trade Commission to create rules for administrative agencies. Finally, the president (and other government officials) can issue executive orders. The case process starts with an arrest after probable cause then it goes to a grand jury and if there is an indictment, the case goes to trial. There are different types of cases: civil cases and criminal cases. Civil suits often arise when two private individuals or organizations cannot resolve a disagreement. The party that files the complaint is the plaintiff and the other party is the defendant. Either party can ask the court to dismiss the case by filing for summary judgement which means a judge decides the case without a trial but there must be evidence to file for summary judgement. The chapter points out different places to find the law including: “Media Law Reporter” and “Corpus Juris Secundum”as well as online resources such as FindLaw and Justia. Finally chapter one ends with tips on reading cases: “pre-read the case, skim the entire case, read carefully the sections you have identified as important (the issue, the facts, the case history, common law, analysis)” (Trager, et al., 2016, p. 36-37)
Chapter 2 was all about the First Amendment. The First Amendment lists five basic freedoms: freedom of speech, press, assembly, petition, and religion. The book mostly focused on free speech.