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Unit 6 – The Judicial Branch . Structure and Function of Federal Courts. Source of power. All information regarding the structure and function of the Supreme Court is found in Article III of the Constitution.

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unit 6 the judicial branch

Unit 6 – The Judicial Branch

Structure and Function of Federal Courts

source of power
Source of power
  • All information regarding the structure and function of the Supreme Court is found in Article III of the Constitution.
  • All policies regarding the inferior courts (district and appellate) is found in the Judiciary Act of 1789.




district court
District Court
  • Created by Congress with the Judiciary Act of 1789
  • 94 Courts that serve 94 different districts – our is in Tyler
  • Judges are appointed for life by the President, confirmed by the Senate, can be impeached
  • Has a single judge and/or a jury of your peers, bailiff, and a clerk
  • Only place evidence is introduced
district courts
District courts
  • Plaintiff – person bringing the case
  • Defendant – person being accused of wrong doing
  • District Attorney – elected official responsible for representing the people in a case against a defendant
  • Civil Court – someone/something was damaged but a law was not necessarily broken
  • Criminal Court – someone/something has broken a law
special courts
Special courts
  • Courts that hear cases involving expressed powers of Congress.1. Territorial Courts 2. District of Columbia Courts3. United States Tax Court
court of appeals aka appellate court
Court of Appeals (AKA Appellate court)
  • Created by Congress with the Judiciary Act of 1789
  • 12 Courts of Appeals that serve 12 different circuits – ours is the 5th circuit in New Orleans
  • Judges serve for Life, appointed by the President, confirmed by the Senate, can be impeached
  • Uses a panel of judges (usually three)
  • Only judges and attorneys are present
united states supreme court scotus
United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS)
  • Term – For Life
  • Number – 9 (1 Chief & 8 Associate)
  • Appointed – by President, confirmed by Senate
  • Salary – Associates $213,900

(Chief $223,500)

  • Qualifications – None
  • Are referred to as Justices
associate justice antonin scalia 76 years old harvard law conservative ronald reagan 1986
Associate JusticeAntonin Scalia76 years oldHarvard LawConservative Ronald Reagan1986
associate justice clarence thomas 64 years old yale law conservative george hw bush 1991
Associate JusticeClarence Thomas64 years oldYale LawConservativeGeorge HW Bush1991
associate justice samuel alito 62 years old yale law school conservative george w bush 2006
Associate JusticeSamuel Alito62 years oldYale Law SchoolConservativeGeorge W. Bush2006
associate justice sonia sotomayor
Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor

58 years old

Yale Law



First Latina


justice elena kagan
Justice Elena Kagan

52 years old

Harvard Law




which way does the court lean
Which way does the court lean?




Retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor82 years oldRonald Reagan1st woman to serve on the Supreme Court

Retired JusticeThurgood Marshall1967 - 1991Lyndon Johnson1st African American to serve on SCOTUSAttorney who argued and won Brown vs. Board

judicial review
Judicial review
  • Marbury v Madison (1803)
  • The Supreme Court has the authority to review and overturn actions of the other two branches
    • ie. US vs. Lopez – Gun Free Schools Zone Act
    • ie. US vs. Nixon – Executive Privilege
function of district courts
Function of district courts
  • Hear cases involving:
    • Civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, and treaties of the United States;[Certain civil actions between citizens of different states; Civil actions within the admiralty or maritime jurisdiction of the United States;
    • Criminal prosecutions brought by the United States
  • Court cares about are you guilty or innocent
  • What you would see on tv…Judge Judy, Law and Order
function of appellate courts
Function of appellate courts
  • Hear cases on appeal from district courts
  • This is where you would challenge your conviction.
  • Courts cares about whether your rights were violated, due process was granted or was there a procedural error
function of supreme court
Function of Supreme Court
  • Hears cases involving :

1. Ambassadors and Consuls2. A state being sued by another state3. All cases on appeal

  • (Appeals) Only cares about the constitutionality of the law
types of jurisdiction
Types of jurisdiction
  • Original – right to hear the case first
  • Appellate – right to hear the case on appeal after being heard by a lower court
  • Exclusive – only court to hear the case
  • Concurrent – two or more courts have the right to hear the case
examples of jurisdiction
Examples of jurisdiction
  • District – have original jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases under federal law
  • Appellate – have appellate jurisdiction of case heard first by district or special courts
  • Supreme – have original jurisdiction over cases involving ambassadors or cases involving two states; have appellate jurisdiction of cases from Appellate courts,