Federalism and the Legal Appeal Process
Federalism • What is it? The division of power between the states and the federal government. • Why is it important to us? It helps creates the essential framework for how laws are created, enforced and interpreted.
A little Constitutional History • Origins of the U.S.A. as a “confederation” of states • The inadequacies of the Articles of Confederation; the need for a stronger federal government • The balancing act: Creating a national government without risking of tyranny?
Three Key Constitutional Principles for the American Judicial System • Separation of Powers • Limited Government • Supremacy Clause • Judicial Review
Four Key Constitutional Principles cont. • Separation of Powers: To further check the power of the federal government, the Constitution divided its authority into three branches. Each branch possesses unique powers (balance) and each can overrule some decision of the other. (checks)
Separation of Powers Dealing with Law • Legislative: Congress is empowered to write laws. These are called statutes. • Executive: The President and federal agencies are empowered to enforce the law. • Judicial: Courts are empowered to interpret the laws.
Four Key Constitutional Principles cont. • Limited Government: • The Constitution was designed to explicitly limit the powers of the federal government and reserve the remaining powers to the states. This means most law is state law. • Supremacy Clause: • HOWEVER… if there is a conflict between a state law and a federal law (as an exercise of power reserved by the Constitution) then the federal law will trump the state law.
Federalism Pyramid It’s called the…. SUPREMACY CLAUSE!!!
The Appellate Process • We have a myriad of courts interpreting either state or federal laws. • Appeals raise questions as to whether the law was correctly apply in that case. • When deciding on an appeal, the appellate court will follow the previous decisions of their court for guidance. This is called precedents.
The Appellate Process cont. • Each side prepares a legal brief; a report supporting their interpretation of precedent. • The briefs are submitted to a panel of judges. • The judges then hear an oral arguments. • The panel of judges renders a decision which become part of the court record. This becomes the new precedent.
Judicial Review Defined • Defined: “The process by which courts decide whether laws passed by Congress or state legislatures are constitutional.”
Judicial Review Significance • As different courts interpret the same legal issues, they may establish difference precedents. • This may also occur between state courts as the interpret the US Constitution • The Supremacy Clause empowers the Supreme court to review and establish precedent for all courts
Judicial Review Example “Separate but Equal” From Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) To Brown v. Board of Education (1954)