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  1. Judicial Branch Chapter 16

  2. Federal Court System • American Court System • Helps protect rule of law • Decides 3 things: • If law has been broken • If someone has been harmed • Determines what law or Constitution means.

  3. Judicial Review and the Power of the Supreme Court • Judicial review: the right of the federal courts to rule on the constitutionality of laws and executive actions • It is the chief judicial weapon in the checks and balances system • Marbury v. Madison (1803)- The Supreme Court could declare a congressional act unconstitutional • Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee (1803)- The Supreme Court can review decisions of highest state courts if they involve federal law

  4. Judicial Review and the Power of the Supreme Court…. • Fletcher v. Peck (1810)- Established that the Supreme Court could declare state laws unconstitutional • McCulloch v. Maryland (1819)-Upheld the Constitutionality of the National Bank under the “necessary and proper clause” and denied the State the right to tax a federal instrumentality (Supremacy Clause) noting “the power to tax involves the power to destroy.” • Ex Parte McCardle (1869)- Allowed Congress to change the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

  5. Dual Court System • State Court System • State Constitutions & State Laws • Federal Court System • National Constitution & Federal Laws • Both created by Congress

  6. Dual Court System State Courts • Hear most of the country’s cases • Hear civil and criminal cases about state laws and state constitutions • Cases not under federal jurisdiction Federal Courts • Interprets and applies the constitution, federal laws and treaties • Cases that arise on the high seas • Cases that involve certain parties

  7. Structure of State Courts • Structure varies from state to state. • In general each state has 3 levels: • Trial Court • Court of Appeals • Supreme Court (STATE level)

  8. Structure of Federal Court System • Vague in Constitution - left up to Congress to decide • Judiciary Act of 1789 – Congress sets up 3 tiered structure • Altered somewhat as nation grew • Bottom – Federal District Courts • Middle – Courts of Appeals • Top – Supreme Court “highest in the land”

  9. Structure of Federal Court System… • 94 Federal Court districts; at least 1 in each state – have original jurisdiction • Courts of Appeals – AKA – circuit courts; 13 different appeals districts – have appellate jurisdiction • Supreme Court – highest court in the land • Some original jurisdiction • Made up of 9 judges called justices • Gets 8000 request / year; but only hears about 100 cases

  10. Constitutional vs. Legislative Courts Constitutional Courts • Appointed by President and confirmed by the Senate • Serves a life term • Removed by impeachment • Salaries cannot be reduced • Ex: Supreme Court, District Courts, Courts of Appeal. Legislative Courts • Set up by Congress • Fixed terms of office • Can be removed and have their salaries reduced. • Appointed by President, confirmed by Senate • Ex: Court of Military Appeals and territorial courts

  11. Jurisdiction • Authority to hear & decide a case • Exclusive Jurisdiction – sole right to hear a case • Concurrent Jurisdiction – applies to both federal & state courts • Residents of different states & matters over $75,000 • Plaintiff – makes the legal claim • Defendant – person defending the complaint • Original Jurisdiction – where case is 1st heard • Appellate Jurisdiction – where case goes if it is appealed

  12. Appellate Jurisdiction • Appellate Jurisdiction- Cases heard on appeal from lower courts. • District Courts have original jurisdiction • Both states and the federal government have appellate courts. • Sometimes flows from state courts to federal courts • The Petitioner in the case is the person who is appealing the decision of the lower court.

  13. The Supreme Court’s Jurisdiction • For the most part, the Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction. • However, the court does have original jurisdiction in some cases. For example, in cases involving: • 2 or more states • The U.S. and a state • Foreign diplomats • A state and a citizen of a different state

  14. Appointing Federal Judges: President’s most lasting legacy • Constitution gives power to President, but confirmed by Senate • 4 factors considered: • Legal Expertise – lawyers; American Bar Association • Political ideology – someone w/ similar views as Pres. • Judicial Philosophy • Judicial Restraint – only original intent of Framers • Judicial Activism – judges / justices adapt Constitution to chance w/ the times

  15. President’s most lasting legacy 4. Opinions of the Senate • Senatorial Courtesy – Senator from same state & party as nominee can block the nominee for any reason • Presidents usually consult w/ Senate prior to nomination • Not a legal requirement, just tradition • Does not exist for Supreme Court

  16. Appointment of Judges- The Litmus Test • An examination of the political ideology of the nominated judge. • Has grown in importance • Technically judges should be neutral

  17. Restraintism vs. Activism • Strict Constructionists- follow the Constituion very closely • This idea is also called restraintism • Tend to be more conservative • Loose Constructionists- interpret the Constitution very broadly • This idea is also called activism • Tend to be more liberal

  18. Restraintism vs. Activism • Loose Construction of the Constitution • Deference to personal attitudes, values, and goals • Based on the idea that judges make laws • Interpretation solves problems not considered or addressed by the legislature • “The question comes up, and you decide it.” – you don’t wait for the legislature • Decisions strongly predictable from the individual attitudes • Follow precedents • Strict construction to the constitution • Deference to original “intent” • Restraintist judges stick closely to the constitution and are against to interpreting the Constitution as how it “should be” • Decisions are strongly predictable as they must be in line with the literal Constitution • These judges also show great divergence in their votes from their political values, as they feel their values should not interpret the constitution.

  19. Read “Selecting Judges” section on pages 441-443

  20. Checks & Balances • Judicial Review – Courts rule on whether law fits the Constitution • Checks on Judiciary • President nominates, Senate Confirms • Congress may impeach federal judges • Judges cannot increase pay during a term • Constitutional Amendment can overrule an unconstitutional ruling

  21. Lower Federal Courts

  22. Federal District Courts • 94 Districts, at least 1 per state; 2 judges district court (minimum) • Jurisdiction – involves residents of other states • Hears 215,000 civil cases / year & 70,000 criminal case / year. • Grand Juries – hear evidence to determine if criminal trial is needed • Bankruptcy – federal court jurisdiction for those who cannot repay debt.

  23. Federal Courts of Appeal • Middle Tier – 13 nation wide (12 districts & 1 for Washington DC) • Purpose – if a side believes an error was made in Federal District Court, they may appeal to Federal Court of Appeals in their district • Both Civil & Criminal, although Federal Gov cannot appeal ‘not guilty’ verdict • Only a small % of appeals are heard • Procedure – appellant must show ruling happened b/c of an error made in Federal Court • Usually tried by 3 randomly selected circuit court judges • No new evidence is allowed • Result – ruling is usually final; only small % heard by Supreme Court

  24. Other Federal Courts • US Court of International Trade • US Court for Vets Claims • US Court of Appeals for Armed Forces • Military Commissions • US Tax Court • US Court of Federal Claims • National Security Courts • Washington DC & Territorial Courts.

  25. The Supreme Court

  26. Supreme Court Demographics A Very Exclusive Body • 112 Members • 4 Females • 109 Whites • 93 Protestants • 6 Immigrants • First Catholic-1835 • First Jew- 1916 • First African American- 1967 • First Woman-1981 • First Court to be composed of all law school graduates-1957 • First Italian American- 1986 • First Hispanic- 2009

  27. Figure 16.1: Female and Minority Judicial Appointments, 1963-2003 Source: Updated from Harold W. Stanley and Richard G. Niemi, Vital Statistics on American Politics, 2005–2006 (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, 2006), table 7.5.

  28. Figure 16.1: Female and Minority Judicial Appointments, 1963-2003 Source: Updated from Harold W. Stanley and Richard G. Niemi, Vital Statistics on American Politics, 2005–2006 (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, 2006), table 7.5.

  29. Figure 16.1: Female and Minority Judicial Appointments, 1963-2003 Source: Updated from Harold W. Stanley and Richard G. Niemi, Vital Statistics on American Politics, 2005–2006 (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, 2006), table 7.5.

  30. Supreme Court Procedures • Terms Begins – 1st Monday in October, in session until June – July. • Selecting Cases – few cases selected; writ of certiorari – petition to review a lower courts ruling • 4 of 9 justices must agree (RULE OF FOUR) • Briefs & Oral Arguments – • Briefs – written arguments viewed by each justice • Oral Argument for about 30 min. where justices try to question lawyers for weakness in brief.

  31. Deciding to Decide: The Rule of Four • The first step that takes place is when a case is appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. • Four judges must agree to hear the case • 8,000 cases are appealed only 75-100 are heard each year • If the Supreme chooses to hear a case, it grants a Writ of Certiorari

  32. Granting Certiorari • Presumption against granting cert 1. So little time, so many cases: Court will be selective 2. All cases are fungible: issues are important, not cases

  33. Judging a Case Uncertworthy • “Nut cases” • Frivolous • Lack of percolation (issue not ripe) • Bad Facts=Bad Vehicle • Intractability

  34. Judging a Case Certworthy • Circuit Conflict • Importance (one of a kind, societal impact- serious question of constitutional law, civil liberties) • Impacts many people • Solicitor General’s encourages acceptance • Public pressure • Justice’s interest • Flagrant abuses of justice • Presence of amicus curiae briefs

  35. Discuss List • Internal mechanism to handle the large caseload. • The chief justice circulates a “discuss list” of cases he deems worthy of discussion. • Justices may add a case to the list. Each case presented to the Court is still reviewed in each justice's chambers, but only those cases on the discuss list are talked about at the justices' regular conference. • Approximately 30 percent of the filed cases reach the discuss list. The remaining requests for review are rejected, without further consideration.

  36. Justices Listing Cases Justice Number of Percent of Percent of total cases listed cases listed during tenure 1985-1993 William H. Rehnquist 5,035 60.1 60.1 (1985-1993) (Associate Justice) 19 1.6 (1985) (Chief Justice) 5 ,016 69.8 (1986-1993) Warren E. Burger 819 9.8 68.8 (1985) Byron R. White 1,043 12.5 13.3 (1985-1992) John Paul Stevens 477 5.7 5.7 (1985-1993) Sandra Day O’Connor 368 4.4 4.4 (1985-1993) William J. Brennan, Jr. 216 2.6 4.3 (1985-1989) Harry A. Blackmun 214 2.6 2.6 (1985-1989) Antonin Scalia 129 1.5 1.8 (1986-1993) Anthony M. Kennedy 34 0. 4 0.6 (1987-1993) Thurgood Marshall 19 0.2 0.3 (1985-1990) Ruth Bader Ginsburg 12 0.1 2.2 (1993) Lewis F. Powell 7 0. 0 0.3 (1985-1986) David H. Souter 2 0. 0 0.1 (1990-1993) Clarence Thomas 1 0.0 0.0 (1991-1993) Total 8,378 100.0

  37. Blue: Total cases on docket     Red: Number of cases acted upon

  38. Amicus Curiae • Amicus Curiae= Latin for “friend of the court” • AKA amicus brief • Submitted to the court by a special-interest group, the government, or a party that wants the court to hear its position on a case. • Usually written to give justices information about other cases that may be relevant. • Contain policy statements that apply to the case being heard

  39. Judicial Conference • After oral arguments- the 9 justices meet in a conference • Chief Justice presides • Chief Justice asks each justice (beginning with most senior) for opinion • Once a tentative opinion reached- chief justice assigns one of the justices (representing the majority) to draft an opinion • After the majority of justices agree with the draft, the minority drafts a dissenting opinion. • Opinion announced before the session ends in June

  40. Opinions of the Court • Justices discuss case & arguments; rulings sometimes not given for months • Majority Opinion – actual ruling signed by 5 of 9 justices • Concurring Opinion – agree w/ ruling but gives other legal reason for opinion • Dissenting Opinion – written by minority justices who do not agree w/ ruling on the case.

  41. Stare Decisis • Latin for “let the decision stand” • The principle of a case precedent • Case precedent guides the Supreme Court when ruling on a case. • If a precedent case is reversed by the court, then the precedent is overturned and the new case becomes precedent. • Example: Plessy v. Ferguson was overturned by Brown v. Board of Education

  42. Latin Terms • Per Curiam decision- decision without explanation • Writ of Certiorari- “made more certain” – S.C. accepting an appeal from a lower court • Amicus Curiae- “Friend of the Court” • Briefs written to provide the court with different personal opinions of a particular case. • Stare decisis- Let the decision stand (precedent) • In Forma Pauperis- in the form of a pauper • Allows poor people to appeal their cases to the Supreme Court- Gideon vs Wainwright