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What do all of these images have in common? I love you ms anderson!!! From chrisnorris Have you had a personal experience with the court system? If not, what are your impressions of the court system from film, television, newspapers, magazines, and books? What is the overall goal of the judicial system? A primary purpose of the U.S. court system is to ensure justice. Do you think it does that?
“The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court” --Article III Section 1
The Judicial Branch is outlined in Article III. Article III outlines the Judicial Branch in less than 500 words. The writers of the U.S. Constitution didn’t know whether the U.S. needed inferior courts. Nowhere in the Constitution does it mention the power of judicial review. The U.S. Constitution does allow Congress to create inferior courts. The Constitution says nothing about the qualifications of judges. As our nation has grown, the number of courts and justices to the Supreme Court have grown. The U.S. Constitution does not require the creation of inferior courts.
The U.S. Constitution was passed in June of 1788 and began operating in March of 1789. • Congress promptly moved to create inferior courts by passing the Judiciary Act of 1789. • The Judiciary Act of 1789 did several things: • Established a federal judicial system made up of district and circuit courts and specified the kinds of cases the courts could try. • Laid out the qualifications and responsibilities of federal judges, district attorneys and other judicial officials. • Set the # of Supreme Court justices to six • Established the principle that decisions of the Supreme Court are final and cannot be appealed.
At the heart of every judicial proceeding is the law, and at the heart of every law is a potential conflict. • Conflicts arise between: individuals, businesses, interest groups, or society at large. • The judicial system’s job is to resolve those conflicts peacefully, in accordance with the law, and in a manner most parties to the conflict will see as fair.
Criminal lawrefers to legal measures passed by a legislative body to protect the welfare of society and to provide punishment for those who fail to comply. • The government acts on society’s behalf to prosecute individuals who break the law. • Two sides are: defendant (person who committed the crime) vs. prosecution (the government) • Defendant – the person accused of a crime. • Prosecution – the government lawyer or team of lawyers bringing evidence against the law-breaker. • People who are found guilty of breaking laws are punished through fines, prison sentences, probation or similar penalties.
Civil law refers to legal measures that govern conflicts between private parties or sometimes between a private party and the government. • Two sides are: Plaintiff vs. Defendant • Plaintiff – the person bringing the lawsuit to court. • Defendant – in a civil case is the person who is being sued. • Examples of civil cases are: disputes over property, injuries suffered in an accident or questions about the terms of a contract. • In most civil cases, one party sues another party for damages or compensation of some sort.
The most important decisions in a trial are made by the jury. • Jury duty is required by law. • Jurors listen carefully to the evidence presented to them during a trial. • A typical jury consists of 12 people. • A jury member must be: 18 years old, a U.S. citizen, able to understand English, & not a convicted felon. • Witnesses play a crucial role in the judicial process by providing information to the jury as to who did what, when, and where.
The Judiciary Act of 1789 created a dual court system. • There are State Courts. • There are Federal Courts. • The Judiciary Act of 1789 created a federal court system set up alongside an already created state court system. • The state courts and federal courts operate independently, however, they can overlap.
Jurisdiction – the territory over which the authority of a court is exercised. Also a courts power to hear a case. • For example: State courts have jurisdiction over cases arising under state law. Federal courts are generally limited to cases involving federal law or the Constitution.
Level in the court hierarchy • Hierarchy – a system of rank. • Geographic reach • Type of case
Each court within the state and federal court system has a set of responsibilities. • Trial courts in both the federal and the state systems are at the bottom. • Trial courts have original jurisdiction. • Original jurisdiction – the authority to hear a case for the first time. • Appeals courts are above trial courts. • They have appellate jurisdiction. • Appellate jurisdiction– these courts have the authority to review decisions made in lower courts. • They do NOT second-guess jury decisions by reviewing the facts in a case. Their focus is on whether the trial in the lower court was carried out in a fair manner.
With the exception of the Supreme Court, courts hear cases that arise within certain geographic boundaries. • Within a state judicial system, the geographic jurisdiction of a trial court is usually limited to the city or county in which that court operates. • In the federal system, trial court districts are larger. • Appellate courts are greater than trial courts • Most states have regional appeals courts and a state supreme court. • The federal system has 13 appellate courts. • The U.S. Supreme Court accepts cases from anywhere in the U.S., and its territories.
A case’s subject matter also determines where it will be tried. • At both the state and the federal levels, the typical trial court has general jurisdiction. • General jurisdiction – the court can hear cases covering a variety of subjects. • Some courts have limited jurisdiction. This means they specialize in certain kinds of cases. • For example: Traffic courts, Bankruptcy courts, and Juvenile courts.
State Court systems are the workhorses of the judicial system, handling millions of cases each year. • In 2005, the combined 50 states plus Puerto Rico totaled around 100 million cases. • Nearly half of these cases were traffic related.
Trial Courts of Limited Jurisdiction • Trials Courts of General Jurisdiction • Intermediate Appellate Courts • Courts of Last Resort or State Supreme Courts
These courts specialize in relatively minor criminal offenses or civil disputes. Example of this type of court • Justice-of-the-peace courts • Magistrate courts • Municipal courts • City courts & County courts • Traffic courts • Small-claims courts • These court’s hearings are generally informal and do not involve a jury. • Cases heard in these courts can be appealed to trial courts.
These courts hear serious criminal cases and major civil disputes. • They are often called superior, district, or circuit courts.
These courts hear appeals from general trial courts. • Appeal – to ask a higher court to review a decision made by a lower court. • Most state appeals courts employ three-judge-panels to hear and decide cases.
The name of the top appeals court at the state level. • It is most often called state supreme court. • They most often convene at the state’s capital. • Their jurisdiction includes all matters of state law. • The only appeal left after the state supreme court is the U.S. Supreme Court.
There are three basic routes to becoming a judge: • Election – The oldest method of choosing state judges. • Appointment – Judges are appointed by the governor or state legislature. • Merit selection – This process combines appointments & elections. • Under this system, candidates are nominated by a committee and the governor appoints a judge from that list. • After a fixed period (usually a year), voters are asked to confirm or reject the appointment in a retention election.
In 1803, Marbury v. Madison established the power of • judicial review. • Judicial review has become the judicial branch’s most important check on the other two branches. • Article III gives the federal courts jurisdiction in two types of cases: • Cases involving the Constitution, federal laws, or disputes with foreign countries. • Civil cases involving two different states or citizens of different states.
This is the midlevel court of the federal judiciary. • There are 13 appellate courts. • Of the 13 appeals courts, one deals with cases that arise in D.C., one deals with special subjects (veterans benefits & trade issues) and the other 11 review cases in circuits made up of several states. • The judges who staff appeals courts sit in panels of 3 to hear cases. • From time to time, Congress has established special federal courts to deal with specific categories. • During times of war, the United States has also set up military tribunals to try members of enemy forces. • District Courts are where most cases in the federal system begin. • Ninety-four district courts occupy the lowest level in the federal judiciary. • District court cases are tried before a jury, unless the defendant waives that right.
The Constitution gives the president the power to appoint federal judges with the approval of the senate. • The President submits a nomination to the Senate. The nomination goes to the Senate Judiciary Committee for study. If approved by the committee, the nomination is submitted to the full Senate for a confirmation vote. • A senator can block a nomination to a federal court in his/her home state. This is called senatorial courtesy. • Nominations are blocked through a process known as the blue-slip policy.
Federal judges are appointed for life. The only federal judges not appointed for life are those serving in special courts. The only way to remove a federal judge with lifetime tenure is by impeachment. Judges pay can’t be docked because of unpopular decisions. The House of Representative has impeached 13 federal judges. Of that number, only 7 were convicted and removed from office by the Senate.
There have been 108 male and four female Supreme Court justices. • Supreme Court justices are selected through the same process used for all federal judges. • When a vacancy occurs on the Court, the president pulls together a list of possible candidates to consider. The Department of Justice conducts background checks of all the candidates. • The Senate has rejected around one in five nominations to the Court.
Ruth Bader-Ginsberg Clarence Thomas Chief Justice John Roberts Anthony Kennedy Elena Kagan Sonia Sotomayor Stephen Breyer Antonin Scalia Samuel Alito
The Supreme Court only hears between 100 to 150 cases each year. • The Supreme Court has both original and appellate jurisdiction. • Most of the cases heard by the Supreme Court are appeals from cases that began in lower courts. • The most common way that a case comes to the Supreme Court is through a petition for a writ of certiorari. • A writ is a legal document. A writ of certiorari is a document issued by the Supreme Court ordering that a case from a lower court be brought before it. • For a writ of certiorari to be granted, four of the nine Supreme Court justices must agree to hear the case.
Once the Court decides to hear a case, the attorneys for both sides prepare legal briefs. • These are written documents, sometimes hundreds of pages long, that present the legal arguments for each side in the case. • Attorneys from both sides appear before the Court to present their case. • This phase is known as oral arguments. • They are only allotted 30 minutes to explain why the Court should decide in favor of their client.
Most Supreme Court decisions either uphold or overturn a decision made by lower courts. • If the Court upholds a decision of a lower court, the case ends here. • If the Court overturns a lower court’s decision, it may send the case back to the lower court for further action. • Occasionally, the Court reverses a previous decision, thereby setting a new precedent. • Precedent – a preceding court case that serves as an example in future court cases dealing with the same issue.
Once the Court as a whole decides a case, one justice will be assigned to write the majority opinion. • An opinion is a legal document stating the reasons for a judicial decision. • The chief justice writes this opinion if he/she sided with the majority. • Justices who disagree with the majority opinion may choose to write a dissenting opinion. In it, they lay out their reasons for disagreeing with the majority. • Concurring opinions are those justices who agree with the majority but for a different reason.
The most controversial cases decided by the Supreme Court involve judicial review. • Judicial Review – the power of the court to declare a law or action unconstitutional. • Judicial Activism is based on the belief that the Court has both the right and the obligation to use its power of judicial review to overturn bad precedents. • Judicial Activist support judicial review. They tend to be more liberal. • Judicial Restraint is supported by more conservative groups. They believe that judicial review should be used sparingly, especially dealing with controversial issues.