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Your Supreme Court. The Justices. National Judiciary. Created by Article III in the Constitution “The judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.”. Dual Court System.

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Your Supreme Court

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Your supreme court

Your Supreme Court

The justices

The Justices

National judiciary

National Judiciary

  • Created by Article III in the Constitution

    • “The judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.”

Dual court system

Dual Court System

  • Two separate court systems: National and State

    • Federal Courts: Constitutional and Special Courts (ex: Court of Appeals for Armed Forces, Tax Court)

  • Federal judges chosen by the President and confirmed by Senate

  • Judges/Justices serve for life

  • Number of judges determined by Congress



  • Jurisdiction: authority of a court to hear a case and decide the outcome

  • Original Jurisdiction: case is heard for the 1st time

  • Concurrent Jurisdiction: cases that can be tried in either the state or federal courts

  • Appellate Jurisdiction: cases that are heard on appeal from a lower court

What is the main purpose of the supreme court

What is the Main Purpose of the Supreme Court?

  • To interpret laws/actions of the government & Constitution

  • Decide to hear cases for final appeal from lower state/federal courts

Courts of appeals

Courts of Appeals

  • Courts of Appeals were created by Congress to relieve the Supreme C0urt of hearing appeals from the district courts

  • 12 circuit courts & 1 special appeals court w/national jurisdiction & 1 military appeals court

Federal circuit courts

Federal Circuit Courts

  • U.S. is divided into 12 judicial circuits, with one court of appeals for each of those circuits (DC is 12th)

  • Georgia is in the 11th circuit with Alabama and Florida

Federal district courts

Federal District courts

  • The 1st national/federal court to hear a case.

  • It is said to have Original Jurisdiction

  • There 94 district courts, 1 in every state, with some large states having more

Equal justice for all

“Equal Justice For All”

  • Justice symbolized by a blindfolded woman holding a balanced scale

  • Represents equal justice for all

  • Those words are chiseled into the marble above the entrance to the Supreme Court

Titles of the supreme court

Titles of the Supreme Court

  • 9 judges make up the court:

  • 8 Associate Justices

  • 1 Chief Justice: who presides over the court and monitors all procedure

The make up of the supreme court

The make up of the Supreme Court

  • 4 Conservative judges: strict interpretation of the Constitution:

    • Use only language & precedence

      Chief Justice: John Roberts

      Associate justices: Sam Alito, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas

The make up of the supreme court1

The Make up of the Supreme Court

  • 4 Liberal judges: loose interpretation of the Constitution:

    • Determine the intent of the framers, and apply modern values to rulings

      Associate Justices: Ruth Ginsburg, John Stevens, Stephen Breyer, David Souter

The make up of the supreme court2

The Make Up of the Supreme Court

  • 1 moderate associate justice: decide issues on a case by case basis

  • 1 associate justice: Anthony Kennedy

  • Believed to hold the “Swing Vote” or the deciding vote

Judicial review

Judicial Review

  • Court can determine if laws and actions of government are unconstitutional

  • Established in court case Marbury v. Madison in 1803

    • Constitution is the supreme law of the land

    • All actions of govt. are subordinate to the supreme law

    • Judges must refuse to enforce any governmental actions they find to be in conflict with the Constitution



  • Supreme Court has both original (state involved or ambassadors) and appellate jurisdiction…but mostly hears cases under appeal

  • About 8,000 cases are appealed to the Supreme Court each year

  • Court only accepts a few hundred

How do most cases reach the s c of usa

How do most cases reach the S.C. of USA?

  • Most cases reach the SC by writ of certiorari (“to be made more certain”): An order by the Court directing a lower court to send up the a case for its review

  • May also reach by certificate: Used when a lower court is not clear about how procedure/law applies in a case

Supreme court at work

Supreme Court at Work

  • Court begins on the first Monday in October and generally ends the following June/July

  • Once Court begins…so does process:

  • Oral Arguments: 30 minute presentations by both sides

  • Briefs: Written documents filed with the Court before oral arguments…outline key points/facts/cases to support each side

    • Amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs can also be filed by people who are not parties in the case but have a strong interest in the outcome



  • Held in secrecy

  • Presided over by Chief Justice

  • Each associate gives his/her view…in order of seniority

  • Debate and vote

  • About 1/3 of all SC’s decisions are unanimous…most are divided



  • Unanimous opinion: all justices vote the same way (9-0)

  • Majority Opinion: Official opinion of the Court – its decision along with their reasoning for it (6-3)

  • Concurring Opinion: Justice agrees with the decision but for a different reason or wants to make a different point (2 of 6)

  • Dissenting Opinion: opinion of those who do not agree with the majority ruling (3 against majority)

Session of supreme court

Session of Supreme Court

  • A usual session begins:

    • First Monday in October until

    • End of June (or business before the court required)

    • Typically 9 months

    • Since 1979: pretty much continuous session with periodic recesses.

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