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The Federal Courts

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  1. 15 The Federal Courts

  2. Video: The Big Picture 15 http://media.pearsoncmg.com/ph/hss/SSA_SHARED_MEDIA_1/polisci/presidency/Edwards_Ch15_The_Federal_Courts_Seg1_v2.html

  3. 15 Learning Objectives • Identify the basic elements of the American judicial system and the major participants in it 15.1 Outline the structure of the federal court system and the major responsibilities of each component 15.2

  4. 15 Learning Objectives • Explain the process by which judges and justices are nominated and confirmed 15.3 Describe the backgrounds of judges and justices and assess the impact of background on their decisions 15.4

  5. 15 Learning Objectives • Outline the judicial process at the Supreme Court level and assess the major factors influencing decisions and their implementation 15.5 Trace the Supreme Court’s use of judicial review in major policy battles in various eras of American history 15.6

  6. 15 Learning Objectives • Assess the role of unelected courts and the scope of judicial power in American democracy 15.7

  7. Video: The Basics 15 http://media.pearsoncmg.com/ph/hss/SSA_SHARED_MEDIA_1/polisci/presidency/Seg2_Judiciary_v2.html

  8. Nature of the Judicial System 15.1 • Participants in the Judicial System

  9. Participants in the Judicial System Litigants Actual disputes, no hypothetical cases Standing Class action suits Justiciable disputes Attorneys Large profession; 1 million attorneys Not only for the rich anymore Groups Amicus curiae briefs 15.1

  10. 15.1 Linda Brown

  11. 15.1 15.1 In which type of case can the defendant receive imprisonment as a punishment? Criminal Civil Class action All of the above

  12. 15.1 15.1 In which type of case can the defendant receive imprisonment as a punishment? Criminal Civil Class action All of the above

  13. Structure of the Federal Judicial System 15.2 • District Courts • Courts of Appeals • Supreme Court

  14. 15.2 FIGURE 15.1: Organization of the federal court system

  15. District Courts Organization and jurisdiction 91, at least one in each state 2-28 judges per court; 675 in total Original jurisdiction only Hold trials and impanel juries One judge, occasionally 3 2% of criminal cases; 1% of civil cases 309,000 cases in 2010 Federal magistrates 15.2

  16. Courts of Appeals Review district court decisions 75% of 55,000 cases come from district courts Review and enforce IRC orders 12 circuits, serving at least 2 states 15.2

  17. 15.2 FIGURE 15.2: The federal judicial circuits

  18. Courts of Appeals 6-28 judges; 179 total 3 judges per case; en banc occasionally Errors of procedure and law Set precedent 15.2

  19. Supreme Court Unique responsibilities Resolving conflicts among states Maintaining national supremacy in law Ensuring uniformity in interpretation Composition 8 associate justices; 1 chief justice Controls its docket 80 cases/year Appeals must involve a substantial federal question 15.2

  20. 15.2 FIGURE 15.3: How cases reach the Supreme Court

  21. 15.2 TABLE 15.1: Sources of full opinions in the Supreme Court, 2010-2011

  22. 15.2 15.2 How many cases does the Supreme Court hear per year? 100 50 80 10,000

  23. 15.2 15.2 How many cases does the Supreme Court hear per year? 100 50 80 10,000

  24. Politics of Judicial Selection 15.3 • Lower Courts • Supreme Court

  25. Lower Courts Senatorial courtesy DoJ and FBI background checks Politics of judicial selection Interest groups increasingly active Partisan divide growing 15.3

  26. Supreme Court Vacancies infrequent Chief justice vacancy unique Senatorial courtesy not relevant Partisan balance in Senate key 15.3

  27. 15.3 TABLE 15.2: Unsuccessful Supreme Court nominees since 1900

  28. 15.3 Elena Kagan

  29. 15.3 15.3 How is the chief justice chosen? Voted on by the other 8 justices The most senior justice gets the position Nominated by president, confirmed by Senate Picked by the Senate Judiciary Committee

  30. 15.3 15.3 How is the chief justice chosen? Voted on by the other 8 justices The most senior justice gets the position Nominated by president, confirmed by Senate Picked by the Senate Judiciary Committee

  31. Backgrounds of Judges and Justices 15.4 • Backgrounds • Criteria for Selection • Background Characteristics and Policymaking

  32. Backgrounds Typical background White, male, lawyer Diversity v. ideology Older, 50s-60s Protestant Upper-middle class backgrounds Prominent lawyer or judge 15.4

  33. 15.4 TABLE 15.3: Supreme Court justices, 2013

  34. 15.4 Swearing in of Sonia Sotomayor

  35. Criteria for Selection Geography Religion Ideology/partisanship 15.4

  36. Background Characteristics and Policymaking What presidents expect v. what they get Disappointed ¼ of the time Diversity: More than a symbolic difference? 15.4

  37. 15.4 U.S. Supreme Court, 2013

  38. 15.4 15.4 What is the main criterion presidents use to select judicial nominees? State where they are from Religion Race Ideology

  39. 15.4 15.4 What is the main criterion presidents use to select judicial nominees? State where they are from Religion Race Ideology

  40. Courts as Policymakers 15.5 • Accepting Cases • Process of Decision Making • Basis of Decisions • Implementing Court Decisions

  41. Accepting Cases First step in process 10,000 appeals per year Justices meet in conference once a week Rule of four Writ of certiorari Type of cases selected Civil liberties Discrepancies in interpretation of a law Solicitor general’s request 15.5

  42. 15.5 FIGURE 15.4: Obtaining space on the Supreme Court’s docket

  43. Process of Decision Making Oral arguments Briefs Amicus curiae briefs 30 minutes for each side Opinion writing Chief justice assigns opinion, if in majority Explain legal reasoning Concurring opinion Dissenting opinion 15.5

  44. 15.5 William Rehnquist

  45. 15.5 FIGURE 15.5: Supreme Court’s decision-making process

  46. Basis of Decisions Principle of stare decisis Respect for precedent Overturning precedent 15.5

  47. Basis of Decisions Why do justices disagree? Ambiguity and vagueness Judicial philosophy Originalism 15.5

  48. Video: Thinking Like a Political Scientist 15.5 http://media.pearsoncmg.com/ph/hss/SSA_SHARED_MEDIA_1/polisci/presidency/Seg4_Judiciary_v2.html

  49. Implementing Court Decisions Judicial implementation Interpreting population Implementing population 15.5