Section 1:The Federal Court System Section 2:Lower Federal Courts Section 3:The Supreme Court Chapter 8: The Federal Courts and the Judicial Branch
Section 1 at a Glance • The Federal Court System • The United States has a dual court system. • The Judiciary Act of 1789 organized the federal courts into three tiers. Today these tiers consist of the district courts, the courts of appeals, and the Supreme Court. • Through its powers of judicial review, the judicial branch plays a critical role in the system of checks and balances.
The Federal Court System Main Idea The Framers created an independent judicial branch as part of the separation of powers of the national government. At the federal level, the judicial branch consists of three tiers of courts, each performing a different function. • Reading Focus • How is jurisdiction determined in the American court system? • How is the federal court system structured? • How are federal judges appointed? • What is the judicial branch’s role in the system of checks and balances?
The American Court System • A Dual Court System • Constitution set up federal court system to clarify rulings between state courts and set national standard. • Authority of state and federal court systems from different sources: powers of state courts from state constitutions and state laws; authority of federal courts from Constitution and federal law • Jurisdiction • State courts have jurisdiction over state law; federal courts have jurisdiction over federal law. • Court that first hears a case has original jurisdiction; if appealed to another court, that court has appellate jurisdiction. • Federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction over matters involving U.S. Constitution • Cases involving residents of different states and sums above $75,000 fall under concurrent jurisdiction, both state and federal courts; plaintiff may file case in either state or federal court
Making Inferences Why is jurisdiction complicated by the nation’s dual court system? Answer(s):Some cases fall under both state and federal jurisdiction.
Judiciary Act of 1789 District Courts • Outlined three-tiered system of federal courts; has remained virtually the same since original proposal • Supreme Court is at top; below are circuit courts, district courts • Each state must have one district court • District courts have original jurisdiction over most federal cases Structure of the Federal Court System The Constitution left much of the structure of the U.S. federal court system to the discretion of Congress.
Structure of the Federal Court System (cont’d.) • Courts of Appeals • Originally circuit courts, courts of appeals hear appeals from district courts and some federal agencies • 12 circuits with a court of appeals in each circuit • The Supreme Court • Supreme Court is mainly an appellate court; has original jurisdiction over some cases as outlined in the Constitution • Court chooses which cases it hears; usually concern issues of constitutionality • Other Courts • Some other courts created by Congress, known as Article I courts, have limited jurisdiction
Summarizing What are the three tiers of the federal court system? Answer(s):the district courts, the courts of appeals, and the Supreme Court
Legal Expertise Judicial Philosophy • Most judges have been lawyers • Party Affiliation • Presidents usually nominate judges from their political party • Presidents usually nominate judges with similar judicial philosophy • Judicial restraint: judges interpret Constitution based on Framers’ original intention • Judicial activism: meaning of Constitution should be adapted to meet modern needs • Most judges respect precedent Appointing Federal Judges Presidents usually consider four items when nominating a federal judge: legal expertise, party affiliation, judicial philosophy, and the opinions of the Senate.
Appointing Federal Judges (cont’d.) • Opinions of the Senate • President consults senators before making judicial nominations • Tradition of senatorial courtesy: senator from same state as judicial nominee and same political party as president can block nomination to federal district court for almost any reason • Individual senators cannot block nominations to courts of appeals or Supreme Court
Drawing Conclusions How does the appointment process ensure that voters have some input on the selection of judges and justices? Answer(s):Nominations are made by the president and nominees must be approved by the Senate; both president and senators are subject to popular election.
Checks and Balances • Judicial Review • Primary check the judicial branch performs on executive and legislative branches • Checks on the Judiciary • Appointment process is check on judiciary by executive and legislative branches • Congress has power to impeach and remove judges from office • Amendment process is legislative check on the judiciary
Summarizing What is the judiciary’s primary check on the other two branches? Answer(s):judicial review
Debating the Issue: Judicial Activism or Judicial Restraint? Should judges be guided by a philosophy of judicial activism or judicial restraint? The question of how much power the judiciary should have in interpreting the Constitution is not one that is likely to have a final answer anytime soon. Most judges declare their belief in judicial restraint. But the power of judicial review, the fundamental power of the judiciary, demands that judges be willing to overturn the acts of the legislative and executive branches—in other words, that they be judicial activists. The tension between judicial restraint and judicial activism is built in to the fabric of judicial decision-making.
Section 2 at a Glance • Lower Federal Courts • The courts in the 94 federal judicial districts have original jurisdiction over most federal and civil cases. They handle more than 300,000 cases a year. • The 12 federal courts of appeals have appellate jurisdiction only. • Under its Article I powers, Congress has established a number of specialized lower courts to hear cases of limited subject-matter jurisdiction.
Lower Federal Courts Main Idea Congress has created a system of lower courts for the federal judicial system. Each court has a specific role to play in the judicial branch. • Reading Focus • What are the roles, jurisdiction, and officers of the federal district courts? • What are the roles, jurisdiction, and procedures of the federal courts of appeals? • What are the functions of some of the other federal courts?
The Jurisdiction of District Courts Court Officials • Constitution mandates cases involving foreign governments, residents of different states be handled in district court • Federal violations: from violation of employment laws to handled in district courts • Panels of citizens called grand juries hear evidence in serious criminal cases. • District courts have separate bankruptcy court • Judge is court’s highest official; judges instruct juries about law, make sure proper trial procedures are followed • Magistrate judges oversee early hearings in criminal trials, also hear civil cases or minor criminal cases called misdemeanors • Clerks of the court handle non-judicial tasks, maintaining records Federal District Courts The 94 federal court districts handle more than 300,000 cases per year.
Federal District Courts (cont’d.) • Other Courtroom Officials • Each federal court district has a U.S. attorney to represent the U.S. government. • U.S. attorneys prosecute individuals charged with federal crimes. • Public defenders are lawyers appointed by court to represent defendants who lack money to hire their own. • U.S. marshals provide security and police protection at federal courthouses.
Identifying Supporting Details Aside from district court judges, who are some of the other officials who make up a district court? Answer(s):magistrate judges, clerks of court, U.S. attorneys, public defenders, U.S. marshals
Federal Courts of Appeals • Purpose of the Courts of Appeals • Appeals courts: middle tier in hierarchy of federal court system • Hear cases on appeal from district courts within their circuit • Few appeals succeed • Appeals Court Procedure • Most appeals heard by panel of judges, reviews court record and reads briefs; appeals courts rely on facts of original case, do not retry • Burden of proof lies with appellant; cases mostly overturned only when improper procedure was followed • Appeals Court Ruling • Court’s ruling usually stands; occasionally reviewed by larger panel of judges or returned to district court for more hearings • The Federal Circuit • Court of Appeals for Federal Circuit has nationwide appellate jurisdiction: cases dealing with patents, trademarks, government contracts, international trade
Sequencing What is the path by which a case travels through a court of appeals? Answer(s):The appellant shows that the original ruling was based on a legal mistake. A panel of judges reviews the trial court record and reads briefs submitted by both sides and may hear oral arguments. The government’s side is then presented. The court makes its ruling, which is usually the final word. The case may be sent back to district court, or it may undergo review by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Other Federal Courts • U.S. Court of International Trade • Hears cases involving laws and rules of international trade • U.S. Tax Court • Hears cases involving federal tax disputes • U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims • Hears cases involving disputes over veterans’ benefits • U.S. Court ofFederal Claims • Hears cases involving claims over $10,000 owed by U.S. government. • United States has sovereign immunity • In some circumstances the government can be sued
Other Federal Courts (cont’d.) • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces • Hears cases involving appeals from courts-martial, or military courts • National Security Courts • Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court reviews requests to spy on “agents of a foreign power” in U.S. • Alien Terrorist Removal Court reviews requests to remove suspected terrorists from U.S. • Military Commissions • Outside normal judicial system, rulings may be challenged in federal court • Washington, D.C., and Territorial Courts • Congress created trial and appellate courts in locations outside federal system
Summarizing What are some of the reasons why Congress created additional courts? Answer(s):to hear particular types of cases over very limited jurisdiction; to hear cases in the District of Columbia and U.S. territories
Section 3 at a Glance • The Supreme Court • The importance of the Supreme Court has grown since the Court’s early days. As it gained in stature, the Court also tended to experience political shifts mirroring those in society at large. • Supreme Court justices are nominated by the president and must undergo a lengthy Senate confirmation process. • The Supreme Court meets from October to June or July, studying briefs, hearing oral arguments, discussing cases in conference, and issuing opinions on about 100 cases a year.
The Supreme Court Main Idea The Supreme Court is the highest court in the nation and the most important component of the judicial branch. It serves as the final word on questions of federal law and the Constitution. • Reading Focus • What are some of the highlights of Supreme Court history? • How are Supreme Court justices chosen? • What are the typical procedures of the Supreme Court?
Highlights of Supreme Court History • Early Visions • Constitution does not explicitly define roles or structure of Supreme Court • Hamilton’s writings in The Federalist explained critical role of Supreme Court in providing checks on executive and legislative branches • The Marshall Court • Chief Justice John Marshall established that courts have power of judicial review. • Marshall led Supreme Court for more than 30 years; Court decisions expanded power of federal government, helped shape U.S. economy • Dred Scott • Supreme Court sided against Scott, held he was still a slave • Court ruled: Congress did not have power to outlaw slavery in territories; therefore Missouri Compromise unconstitutional • Court’s decision in Scott increased tensions leading up to Civil War
From Reconstruction to Plessy • Economic regulation and civil rights dominated Supreme Court • Court’s narrow interpretation of 13th, 14th, 15th Amendments left to states protection of newly freed African Americans’ civil rights • Court made much regulation of economy unconstitutional • The Court and the New Deal • Court continued to quash efforts at economic regulation • Court found many New Deal programs unconstitutional, eventually deferred to Congress regarding economic measures • Court became more liberal during Roosevelt’s time in office • From the 1950s to the Present • Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren was considered activist • Achieved many civil rights victories, including landmark Brown decision mandating desegregation of public schools • Today Court is more conservative
Making Generalizations How has the Supreme Court been shaped by politics? Answer(s):Supreme Court justices are appointed by presidents, who usually make appointments according to their own political leanings.
Landmark Supreme Court CasesPlessy v. Ferguson (1896) Why It Matters: In Plessy v. Ferguson, the Supreme Court examined a Louisiana state law requiring racial segregation on public transportation and determined whether it violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Choosing Supreme Court Justices • Choosing a Nominee • Constitution: no formal requirements for Supreme Court justices; most justices have served in government, had legal background • Presidents typically nominate individuals from same political party who share their judicial philosophy • Presidents first gauge Senate support or opposition for nominee • Confirmation Hearings • Confirmation process: Senate Judiciary Committee questions nominee; nominees hesitant to share opinions on controversial issues • After hearing, committee votes on nomination; full Senate vote usually matches committee’s; most nominees are confirmed
Sequencing What is the process a nominee undergoes to join the Supreme Court? Answer(s):The president chooses a nominee. The Senate Judiciary Committee holds hearings and votes on the nomination. The full Senate may debate the nomination before voting to confirm or reject the nominee.
Supreme Court Procedures • The Term Begins • Court session from October until June or July • Justices work in two-week blocks, first hearing arguments from lawyers and then ruling on cases presented • Each justice has four law clerks as assistants • Selecting Cases • Court usually chooses which cases it hears; most cases come from federal court of appeals; others from high state courts or are cases of Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction • If Court grants appellant a writ of certiorari, it agrees to hear the case; if denied, lower court’s ruling stands • If case is on Court’s docket, usually it deals with important issue of constitutional or federal law