1st Edition

American Criminal Courts Legal Process and Social Context

By Casey Welch, John Randolph Fuller Copyright 2013
    614 Pages 30 Color Illustrations
    by Routledge

    American Criminal Courts: Legal Process and Social Context is an introductory-level text that offers a comprehensive study of the legal processes that guide criminal courts and the social contexts that introduce variations in the activities of actors inside and outside the court. Specifically the text focuses upon: Legal Processes. U.S. criminal courts are constrained by several legal processes and organizational structures that determine how the courts operate and how laws are applied. This book explores how democratic processes develop the criminal law in the United States, the documents that define law (federal and state constitutions, legal codes, administrative policies), the organizational structure of courts at the federal and state levels, the overlapping authority of the appeals process, and the effect of legal processes such as precedent, jurisdiction, and the underlying legal philosophies of various types of courts. Although most texts on criminal courts do a credible job of describing legal processes, this text looks more deeply into the origins of criminal law, historic turning points in the criminal law, conditions that affect the decision-making of criminal justice practitioners, and the contentious political process that affects how criminal laws are considered. Social Contexts.

    The criminal courts are staffed by people who represent different perspectives, occupational pressures, and organizational goals. The text includes chapters on actors in the traditional courtroom workgroup (judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys), as well as those outside the court who seek to influence it, including advocacy groups, media, and politicians. It is the interplay between the court legal processes and the social actors in the courtroom that makes the application of the criminal laws so fascinating. By focusing on the tension between the law (legal processes) and the actors inside and outside the courts system (social contexts), this text demonstrates how the courts are a product of "law in action," and it presents the course content in a way that enables students to understand not only the "how" of the U.S. criminal court system but also the "why."

    Chapter 1: Principles and Decision Making in U.S. Criminal Courts Part 1: Formal Social Control Chapter 2: Social Control, Comparative Courts, and the Development of the U.S. Judicial System Chapter 3: The Structure of Federal and State Courts Chapter 4: Criminal Law, Crime, and the Criminal Court Process Part 2: Negotiating Discretion, Making Decisions Chapter 5: The Reality of Legal Action: Principles, Organizations, and Public Pressure Chapter 6: Case Assessment, Case Attrition, and Decision to Charge Part 3: Decision Making in the Pretrial and Trial Process Chapter 7: The Pre-Trial Process Chapter 8: The Prosecutor and the Exertion of State Power Chapter 9: The Defense and Constraint on State Power Chapter 10: The Criminal Trial Process: Judges, Bench Trials, Jury Deliberation, and Sentencing Part 4: Specialized Courts Chapter 11: The Right to Appeal and the Appellate Process Chapter 12: Juvenile Courts Chapter 13: Specialized Courts Part 5: Frontiers of Justice Chapter 14: Fuzzy Justice: Alternatives to Court Chapter 15: Courts in the Future


    Casey Welch is an Associate Professor of Criminology and Sociology at Flagler College. He earned his Ph.D. and M.A. in Sociology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He earned his B.A. in Criminology and Law with a minor in Philosophy from the University of Florida. His research areas include social control, legal decision-making, homelessness, media, and pedagogy. He also works as a consultant with criminal court attorneys.

    John Randolph Fuller brings both an academic and an applied background to his scholarship in criminology. Fuller received his Bachelor of University Studies degree from the University of New Mexico and his Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from the School of Criminology at Florida State University. Fuller has taught at the University of West Georgia since 1981 and has been recognized by students as a superior teacher and advisor. In 1991 he was named the College of Arts and Sciences Faculty Member of the Year, and in 2001 he was given Professor of the Year Award by the Honors College. In addition to numerous journal articles and book chapters, Fuller has published six books on topics ranging from juvenile delinquency to peacemaking criminology. He is a frequent presenter at meetings of both the American Society of Criminology and the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences. Additionally, he serves as the Faculty Ombuds at the University of West Georgia, where he endeavors to resolve conflicts for faculty, students, and administrators.

    "Writing for undergraduate students in criminology, political science, sociology, or pre-law with no prior experience with the subject, Welch and Fuller introduce the structure and operations of the US criminal court system."-- Reference & Research Book News, October 2013