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Resources: Semantic Practice

A variety of written English texts pertaining to legal content is presented. These texts can be used to gain a deeper appreciation of the semantic structure of English and the application of legal terminology - how English language users talk about and discuss legal matters. As well, they can be used for translation activities to practice application of an interpreter’s ASL semantic awareness to convey meaning equivalency.

Semantic Awareness and Text Analysis of Legal Texts offer skill development activities to expand the appreciation of semantic structure of English and practice translating English content into ASL. The ASL Legal Dictionary can provide assistance in determining ways to discuss legal concepts in ASL.

Miner provides an ASL overview of this resource section and how it can be used.

Briefing a Case 

When briefing a case, your goal is to reduce the information from the case into a format that will provide you with a helpful reference in class and for review. Most importantly, by “briefing” a case, you will grasp the problem the court faced (the issue); the relevant law the court used to solve it (the rule); how the court applied the rule to the facts (the application or analysis); and the outcome (the conclusion). You will then be ready to not only discuss the case, but to compare and contrast it to other cases involving a similar issue. Before attempting to “brief” a case, read the case at least once.

Case Law     

Most people know that legislatures pass laws, but few are aware that the judicial branch of government, through the courts, also creates law. This kind of law is called case law. One way in which courts create case law is by interpreting statutes. Legislatures cannot always foresee the specific ways in which people and businesses will act in the future. Therefore, they draft most statutes fairly broadly, to cover a spectrum of possible scenarios. This breadth often leads to ambiguities when courts attempt to apply the language of a statute to a situation that has arisen between two specific litigants in a case that is before the court. To apply the statute, the court has to interpret its ambiguous terms. In doing so, courts (that is, the judges on those courts) usually consider the purpose of the statute, the possible meanings of the statutory words, and general issues of fairness. Once a court has interpreted a statute, that interpretation will effectively become part of the law in the court’s jurisdiction.

Crime and Punishment

Social thinkers from the nineteenth century emphasized that crime and punishment play important roles in society. Around that same time, a different set of philosophical and historical speculations came about that better explained the importance of punishment in society. More time and focus was put into explaining the importance of punishment rather than justifying it in given practices. The attention shift came from many different directions that were not necessarily from a common ground. Three key exemplars are the sociological analysis of Emile Durkheim (1858–1917), the Marxian tradition, and the genealogical method of Nietzsche and Michel Foucault (1926–1984)” (Science Encyclopedia). Even though there were differences in the opinions of each, there were also some important likenesses. All three of the theorists did not think that punishment was not important, but they looked at it as a change to already set social order. Second, the theorists were very leery about the justifications given for punishment in the social aspect.

How Frank Got Sent to Juvenile Hall

Barry’s best friend, or lackey, as some would consider, was head of the student safety squad at Florida High. Mugsy, Barry’s lackey, had a lot of control over the halls when teachers were busy teaching or taking breaks. The halls belonged to Mugsy periods 3-6, and everyone knew it. This is why Mugsy could plant cocaine in Frank’s locker. This is why Barry paid Mugsy 50 dollars to do it. This is why Mugsy left the anonymous tip to principle Bowlder. And this is why Frank was arrested, expelled, and sent to juvenile hall for drug dealing charges.


The decisions of a court are binding only in a particular jurisdiction, and even within a given jurisdiction, some courts have more power than others. For example, in most jurisdictions, decisions by appellate courts are binding on lower courts in the same jurisdiction and on future decisions of the same appellate court, but decisions of lower courts are only non-binding persuasive authority. Interactions between common law, constitutional law, statutory law and regulatory law also give rise to considerable complexity.

Odd Location for a Special Event

Few people would choose a prison as the location for a special evening out. However, Italy has launched its first restaurant to be located in a real jail.  At the Ingalera Restaurant in Bollate prison, Milan, there are four prisoners working as waiters and five others cooking in the kitchen, headed by a professional chef and a maître. It is a ground-breaking project, which allows prisoners to be gradually included into society. The restaurant has had great reviews: everyone says the food is worth going to prison for.


Primarily, there are four types of sentences; 1) indeterminate sentencing, which gives the judge the authority to set the sentence; 2) determinate sentencing, which permits the judge to set the sentence with the stipulation that the sentence cannot later be altered by a parole board; 3) mandatory sentencing, which takes discretion away from judges, therefore making the sentence to be set according to the laws, and not the judge; and 4) sentencing guidelines, which are a set of state and federal rules used to set sentences based on offense severity and the offender’s prior record, with some guidelines achieving to strike a balance between determinate and indeterminate sentencing (Worrall, 2010). And, last but not least to consider is that just as in any phase of the criminal process, convicted criminals are able to enjoy a certain amount of constitutional rights during the sentencing process. However, the Supreme Court has drawn a sharp distinction between the constitutional requirements applicable to the guilt/innocence stage of the trial, and those applicable to the sentencing phase.

Young Criminals

Until two years ago, Clearing, Illinois was a tranquil suburb of Chicago. But residents grew alarmed when they noticed armed teenagers on the streets, giving gang signals and shouting at passing cars. Then came a series of burglaries and graffiti messages on storefronts. By the time local authorities realized they had a gang problem, it was too late. Last December, two 13-year-old girls were shot outside their school as they sat in a car with two members of a local gang, the Ridgeway Lords.

Nearly all 50 states have recently passed laws that allow youths aged 14-17 to be tried in court as adults. In about 25 states they have passed laws to punish parents for their children's behavior. And in 146 of the nation's largest cities, they have imposed curfews to reduce juvenile violence. When you look at the spectacular rise of violent crime among young people recently, it's easy to understand the concern. Over the past decade, there has been a decline in adult murders in the US, while murder rates have surged for youths between 14-17.

For young offenders who aren't sent to prison, the punishments vary: some are ordered to perform community service, others are placed in job training programs, still others sent to youth prisons. But the Republicans in Congress want to reverse a basic principle of juvenile justice: the separation of young criminals from hardened adult criminals in prison. The reasons are partly financial - to reduce the cost of having separate prisons for young people - and partly psychological - to end what Republicans consider as society's overly protective attitude towards young criminals.

Grant Recognition

The contents of the Project CLIMB website was developed under a grant (#H160D160001) from the Department of Education. The contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education. Do not assume endorsement by the Federal government.

As of December 31, 2021, this grant project is no longer active or soliciting applications.
This website will remain available as a resource.

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The National Clearinghouse of Rehabilitation Training Materials (NCRTM) website is a central portal for accessing archived and new rehabilitation training resources offering search capabilities, a quality rating system, as well as enhanced usability and accessibility.