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Here Comes the Judge!. Article III: The Judicial Branch. Role of the Courts. Make up the 3 rd branch of the federal government Use the law to settle civil disputes (between people, companies or organizations)

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Here comes the judge

Here Comes the Judge!

Article III: The Judicial Branch

Role of the courts
Role of the Courts

  • Make up the 3rd branch of the federal government

  • Use the law to settle civil disputes (between people, companies or organizations)

  • Applies the law to the facts presented to determine the guilt or innocence (Criminal)

Equal justice under the law
Equal Justice Under the Law

  • Means that all the laws are applied equally to every person

  • Constitution guarantees trial by jury, presumption of innocence, right to council, right to appeal

  • Why is equal justice hard to achieve?

Federal courts
Federal Courts

  • Under the Articles of Confederation there were no federal courts

  • Each State had its own system

  • What does this mean for equal justice under the law?

  • Supreme Court only court mentioned in the Constitution

  • Article III Gives Congress the power to establish “inferior courts”

Federal court system
Federal Court System

  • District or Circuit Courts-federal cases start here

  • Appeals Court-when either party questions the ruling of the lower court or (district court)

  • Supreme Court- has final authority over legal matters

What type of cases go to a federal court
What type of cases go to a federal court?

  • Constitutional issues

  • Breaking Federal laws (tax evasion, kidnapping)

  • Disputes between states ex: water rights

  • Disputes between citizens of different state

  • Federal Government ex: when the Feds bring a case against someone or entity

What type of cases go to a federal court1
What type of cases go to a federal court?

  • Foreign governments and treaties ex: When any foreign government is involved in a dispute with a US citizen, company or government

  • Admiralty or Maritime Laws – crimes on the open seas

  • US Diplomats: Example Ambassadors breaking laws

Types of jurisdiction
Types of Jurisdiction

  • Exclusive Jurisdiction: only feds hear the case

  • Concurrent Jurisdiction: feds and state courts may hear case

Us district courts
US District Courts

  • Where all federal trials and lawsuits begin-known as “original jurisdiction”

  • Witnesses testify and juries hear cases


Us court of appeals
US Court of Appeals

  • Other names: Appellate Courts, Circuit Courts

  • Reviews the decisions of the lower courts which is “appellate jurisdiction”

  • No jury a panel of 3 judges reviews and makes a decision

  • 12 US courts of appeals has jurisdiction over a specific region

  • Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has nationwide authority

Decisions of the court of appeals 3 options
Decisions of the Court of Appeals 3 Options

  • Upholding the findings of a lower court

  • Reversing the findings of a lower court

  • Remanding to send the case back to a lower court for a retrial

  • Rulings are only on whether any of the defendants rights have been violated

  • Opinion of the Court is an explanation of the ruling

  • Opinion often based on Precedent-prior rulings

So you want to be a judge
So You Want to be a Judge

  • The President along with the advise and consent of the Senate appoints federal judges

  • It’s a political thing/usually the same party and like philosophy of the Prez

  • A job for life!

Other jobs
Other Jobs

  • Magistrates take care of the minor judicial duties (issue warrants, determine whether a case should go to trial, set bail)

  • US Attorneys: Each district court has 1 US Attorney and several deputies-they prosecute people who are accused of breaking federal laws

  • US Marshalls: Collect fines, make arrests, serve legal papers

Jurisdiction of the supreme court
Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court

  • Can preside over disputes between states and cases involving foreign countries

  • Otherwise it hears cases on appeal from lower courts

  • Gets to choose the cases it hears

  • Refusal to hear a case means the decisions of the lower court stand

About the court
About the Court

  • 8 Associate and 1 Chief Justice

  • Main duty is to decide on cases/ but also make policy indirectly

  • President nominates a justice and the individual must be confirmed by the Senate

  • Appointed for life

  • No constitutional requirements to be a justice

Powers of the court
Powers of the Court

  • Executive and Legislative Branches must follow the decisions of the court

  • Judicial Review: The court can review any federal, state or local law or action to make sure it is constitutional

    • Judicial Review was established in the case of Marbury v. Madison in 1803 (page 260)

Limits to power
Limits to Power

  • Court relies on the executive branch and local officials to carry out its decisions (think desegregation)

  • Congress can change or tweek laws deemed unconstitutional

The workings of the court
The Workings of the Court

  • Meets from the first Monday in October- until the business of the court is complete usually late June/early July

  • 4 of the 9 Justices must agree to hear a case before it is placed on the court docket

  • Many cases are appealed to the Supreme Court only a small fraction are heard and even a smaller percentage get full hearings

How do they decide what to hear
How do they decide what to hear?

  • Major constitutional issues

  • Cases must deal with real people and events

  • Legal rather than political issues

  • Writ of Certiorari- “make more certain” directs a lower court to send its case records to the Supreme Court

The process to deciding a case
The Process to Deciding a Case

  • Written Arguments: Briefs explain each sides position in a case

  • Lawyers present oral arguments (30 min) justices then ask questions

  • Conferences in secret to discuss the merits of the case- 5 need a majority of justices

  • Opinions

  • Announcement of Opinions

Types of opinions
Types of Opinions

  • Majority Opinion: written by one justice presents the view of the majority of justices

  • Concurrent Opinion: Justices may agree with the majority but have different legal reasons for doing so

  • Dissenting Opinion: Justices who oppose the majority opinion

  • Unanimous Opinion: All Agree

Influences on the justices opinions
Influences on the Justices’ Opinions

  • The Law based on the concept of “stare decisis” let the decision stand

    • Precedent matters

  • Social and Political Conditions- while mostly immune from these pressures, court reinterprets laws based on social norms think Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education

  • Differing Legal Views: Activist v. Constitutionalist

  • Personal Beliefs