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Dual-Court System & Sentencing Goals

What is the dual-court system? Why do we have a dual-court system in America? Could the drive toward court unification eventually lead to a monolithic court system? Would such a system be effective?

Describe the various sentencing goals discussed in this unit. Which of these goals do you find most acceptable as the primary goal of sentencing? How might your choice of goal vary with the type of offense? Can you envision any circumstances which might make your choice less acceptable?

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Please see response attached, which is also presented below. I hope this helps and take care.

1. What is the dual-court system? Why do we have a dual-court system in America? Could the drive toward court unification eventually lead to a monolithic court system? Would such a system be effective?

A dual court system is where two court systems are in operation, such as state and federal court systems, in the United States.

America has a dual-court system to share the responsibility between federal and state government. Understanding the federal court system is usually easier than understanding state court systems (see extra reading section below for more detail on the state court system). Much criminal justice study of the court system is aimed at understanding the bewildering array of courts and how they are structured and operate. The U.S. has a complex system of upper and lower courts, all deriving their authority to hear certain kinds of cases from specific uses of the term jurisdiction -- which technically refers to sovereignty over subject matter, geography, or place in the court hierarchy, although the term is also used to describe how much discretionary power a court has in accepting or rejecting cases. America operates under a dual court system, one for the federal system and one for state systems, and the federal system is definitely a three-tier system and state systems are usually four-tier systems (see chart below in the extra reading section at the end of this response (p. 4), which describes each tier in more detail).

One argument against a monolithic court system has to do with the idea of "dual sovereignty." That means that both the state and federal government are "sovereign." They may BOTH bring charges (if there was both a violation of federal and state law and the governments didn't collaborate in the investigation), and in many suits, you could bring your claim in state or federal court. State court is generally believed to be lower quality (due to numbers needed to run the court, higher dockets, etc) but is often considered cheaper. Federal court is considered more "serious," with people being forced to follow the rules more closely. Federal court's main goal is to protect citizens from foreign states (in civil suits) from "locality bias" and to provide a forum to adjudicate federal rights. It would take a serious rethinking for the dual system to go away (like, a new belief that states are not sovereign and can handle their own matters, but rather being an arm of the federal government). This camp argues that we wouldn't want that, either.

Does this fit with your understanding? Can you think of any benefits to a monolithic court system?

2. Describe the various sentencing goals discussed in this unit. Which of these goals do you find most acceptable as the primary goal of sentencing? How might your choice of goal vary with the type of offense? Can you envision any circumstances, which might make your choice less acceptable?

This question is straightforward. It is asking you to describe the various sentencing goals discussed in the unit. You will have to do that, but we can look at some general goals mentioned in the legal literature, which you can compare to your unit content.

What is sentencing? Sentencing is the hearing at which the court imposes sentence. Sentencing follows a guilty plea or a finding of guilt by a jury or judge. It is the judgment of a Court concerning the defendant's punishment. In law, a sentence forms the final act of a judge-ruled process, and also the symbolic principal act connected to his function. The sentence generally involves a decree of imprisonment, a fine and/or other punishments against a defendant convicted of a

What are the goals of sentencing? However, the goals of sentencing will depend on the theory of crime one holds, as sentencing has several different goals based on the theoretical underpinnings. So, this is not an easy question, and, in truth, our sentencing theorists and corrections systems administrators have not done a particularly persuasive job of answering it. A natural place to begin is with the goals of sentencing, themselves a subject of continuing controversy. Those goals most commonly listed are:

(1) Retribution or "just deserts," that is, punishment proportionate to the crime, not individualized to the criminal;
(2) Incapacitation to keep society safe from further predation by proven criminals;
(3) Deterrence of both the convicted offender from future crimes and of others who might be tempted to commit crimes but wait to see what happens to those who do; and much diminished in importance these days but still mentioned,
(4) Rehabilitation of the offender so that she no longer wants to deviate from the path of righteousness.

Some might add a fifth goal:

(5) To preserve institutional or systemic order, permitting society to operate its justice institutions, including prisons, in a way that will inspire confidence in the citizenry that society can and is taking care of the "crime problem" and upholding legal and social norms.

This last goal is important because, for most of us, it is not sufficient that offenders be brutalized or starved and beaten, even if that treatment would contribute to the retribution, deterrence, and incapacitation goals of sentencing. Our courts and prisons, after all, are agents of our society and are expected to project our basic values on how much punishment is just for any crime and what if any adjustments are warranted for particular offenders to ensure that they do not suffer disproportionate punishment.

In fact, the American Bar Association suggests unique sentencing goals for female offenders, so gender further complicates the goal of sentencing. For example, following in that vein, it is commonly understood that women offenders as a group display significant differences from their male counterparts in ways that materially affect the goals of sentencing. As a group, women are far less apt to be convicted of violent crimes, or, in the case of drug-related offenses, to be major dealers or kingpins of drug enterprises. Approximately 80 percent of federal women offenders have no prior records (compared to 54 percent of men), and very few of them are convicted of violent crimes. (Phyllis J. Newton, Jill Glazer & Kevin Blackwell, Individuality and Guidelines, 8 Fed. Sent. Rep. 148, 150-51 (1995).) Women offenders are far more likely to have been the principal caretakers of young children at the time of arrest than male offenders. (Julian Abele Cook, Jr., Gender and Sentencing: Family Responsibility and Dependent Relationship Factors, 8 Fed. Sent. Rep. 145 (1995).) Children are in turn far more likely to be consigned to state care if their mother, rather than their father, is imprisoned. (Myrna S. Raeder, The Forgotten Offender, 8 Fed. Sent. Rep. 157, 159 (1995).) Women offenders have distinct health needs-physical and mental-stemming from their special biological makeup; they are demonstrably more vulnerable than men to physical and sexual abuse from guards and other personnel. They recidivate less and their susceptibility to change in motivation and attitudes is determined by markedly different considerations than men. (See John C. Coughenour, Separate and Unequal, 8 Fed. Sent. Rep. 142, 143 (1995); Kathleen Daly, Empirical Research, 8 Fed. Sent. Rep. 163, 167 (1995).) All of these differences in men and women offenders strongly suggest that the goals of sentencing may be best addressed by looking carefully at differences from, as well as commonalities with, male offenders-both individually and as a group (see more detail at


No! No! Sentence first -- verdict afterwards (Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland)

At a basic level, courts are places where people bring disputes to be settled by law. In order for court systems to have legitimacy, they must responsibly exercise their governmental powers and obligations, for which there are many: the seizure of property and persons; the determination of legal family status; enforcement of ...

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This solution responds comprehensively to the question on the dual-court system and various sentencing goals.