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Unit Five The Judicial Branch. Articles of Confederation 1781-1789. This had no national courts. The states all interpreted laws. US realized they needed a national ct. Alexander Hamilton said, “Laws are dead letters without courts to expound and define their true meaning and operation.”.

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Unit five the judicial branch
Unit FiveThe Judicial Branch

Articles of confederation 1781 1789
Articles of Confederation1781-1789

  • This had no national courts.

  • The states all interpreted laws.

  • US realized they needed a national ct.

  • Alexander Hamilton said,

    • “Laws are dead letters without courts to expound and define their true meaning and operation.”

The creation of the national judiciary
The Creation of the National Judiciary

  • Article Three

    • “The judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.”

  • Two separate court systems in the US

    • National system of courts

      • Span the country, more than 100 of them.

    • Each of 50 States have their own court system.

      • These hear most cases in the country, 1000s of them.

Creation of the national judiciary cont
Creation of the National Judiciary (cont.)

  • Congress can create inferior courts.

  • There are two kinds of inferior courts:

    • Constitutional courts (aka: Regular cts.)

      • Exercise the judicial power of the U.S.

      • Hear federal court cases.

      • Include: The Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, the District Courts, the Court of International Trade

    • Special Courts (aka: Legislative Courts.)

      • Created by Congress

      • Hear only a limited range of specialized cases

      • Include: Court of Appeals for Armed Forces, Court of Veterans Appeals, Claims Court, Tax Courts, Courts of Washington D.C.


  • Jurisdiction is the authority of a ct. to hear & decide a case; the power “to say the law.”

  • Exclusive Jurisdiction

    • Cases heard only in federal courts.

  • Concurrent Jurisdiction

    • A case that can be heard in state/federal court.

  • Original Jurisdiction

    • A court hears a case for the 1st time at trial level.

  • Appellate Jurisdiction

    • A court that hears a case on appeal from a lower court has this, and can overrule an original.

Jurisdiction in the federal courts
Jurisdiction in the Federal Courts

  • Federal courts can hear cases that deal with the interpretation and application of a provision of the Constitution or of any federal statute or treaty.

    • They can also hear cases that arise on the high seas or in navigable waters of the United States.

Jurisdiction in the federal courts cont
Jurisdiction in the Federal Courts (cont.)

  • Federal courts may hear only cases that involved certain parties.

  • All cases that do not fall under the jurisdiction of the federal courts are within the jurisdiction of the State courts.

Appointment of judges
Appointment of Judges

  • Federal judges are nominated by the President and confirmed by Senate.

    • Review Senatorial Courtesy

  • Presidents will nominate…

    • Someone from their political party

    • Someone who shares their legal and political ideology

  • Federal judges have come from:

    • Leading attorneys, legal scholars, law school profs., congressional members, & state justices.

Terms and pay of judges
Terms and Pay of Judges

  • Most federal judges are appointed for life and may be removed only through the impeachment process.

    • Only 13 ever impeached and 7 removed.

  • Congress sets the judicial salaries and benefits.

    • Associate Justices of Supreme Ct - $172,770.

      • Chief Justice will receive about $3,000 more.

    • They can retire at 70, if they served 10 years, and receive full salary for ever!

      • Or at 65, with 15 years of service.

Court officers
Court Officers

  • Each district court has many officials who assist the district judge.

  • These include clerks, bailiffs, stenographers, magistrates, bankruptcy judges, United States attorneys, and federal marshals.

The district courts
The District Courts

  • 632 district judges hear 80% of the federal caseload.

  • There are 12 circuits in the US.

    • States are divided up into these. (AL, GA, FL in circuit 11)

  • Each state forms at least one judicial district, and two judges are assigned to each district.

  • District courts have original jurisdiction over most of the cases heard in the federal courts.

    • District courts hear both civil and criminal cases.

    • District courts use both grand and petit juries.

The court of appeals
The Court of Appeals

  • Courts of appeals were created in 1891 as “gatekeepers” to the Supreme Court.

  • There are now 12 courts of appeals and 179 circuit judges.

  • Appellate courts are regional and usually hear appeals from courts within their circuits.

  • They also hear appeals from the United States Tax Court, the territorial courts, and from the decisions of federal regulatory commissions.

Two other constitutional courts
Two other Constitutional Courts

  • The Court of International Trade

    • Has 9 judges who hear civil cases arising out of tariff and other trade related laws.

    • Appeals from the Trade Court go to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

  • Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

    • Has 12 judges. It was set up in 1982 to centralize the appeals process in certain types of federal cases and in cases from certain lower and special courts.

The supreme court




Guess what

Guess what???

I was wrong…. It happens.


Samuel Alito, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Anthony Kennedy, John Paul Stevens,CJ John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas

John Roberts Samuel AlitoNew Chief Justice Newer JusticeReplaced W. Reinquist Replaced S.D. O’Connnor

Sonia Sotomayor: Newbie!

John Paul Stevens:

Next to go

Who replaced who
Who replaced who???

  • Sandra Day O’Connor wanted to retire

    • They interviewed people:

      • Liked John Roberts

  • Then Chief Justice, William Reinquist died

    • Needed to replace him quickly, O’Connor said, that’s fine.

  • John Roberts confirmed as new Chief Justice.

    • Still need a replacement for O’Connor

Then what happened
Then what happened?

  • Bush nominated Harriet Myers

    • Wouldn’t answer and questions… out!

  • Samuel Alito becomes the fave!

    • His confirmation process… bad…

  • He was confirmed.

  • Then… David Souter wants to retire

    • Obama searches and suggests

  • Sonia Sotomayor confirmed

    • First Hispanic, third woman

  • Now… J.P.Stevens wants to go…

Follow the process

Follow the process:


How they tend to vote


Clarence Thomas

Antonin Scalia

Samuel Alito

John Roberts


Anthony Kennedy


Ruth Bader Ginsberg

Sonia Sotomayor

Stephen Breyer

John Paul Stevens

So, what might a lot of the votes be with this court?

How they tend to vote

Judicial review
Judicial Review

  • The power to decide on the constitutionality of an act of government.

  • The case of Marbury vs. Madison, (1803) established this concept.

  • The Supreme Court has great powers…

    • As the ultimate authority on constitutionality

    • As the arbiter of disputes between States and between States and the Federal Gov’t.

Supreme court s jurisdiction
Supreme Court’s Jurisdiction

  • The Supreme Court has both original and appellate jurisdiction, but most of its cases are appeals.

  • Today, the Supreme Court has almost complete control over its own caseload.

How does a case get there
How does a case get there?

  • “The Rule of Four”

    • At least four judges must agree that the Court should hear a case before that case is selected for the Court’s docket.

  • Writ of Certiorari

    • How most cases reach the court.

    • An order to a lower court to send up the record in a given case.

  • By Certificate

    • When appellate cts, State supreme cts, or others request a ruling on a particular point of law.

The s court at work
The S. Court at work!

  • Oral Arguments

    • Lawyers speak to the justices, emphasizing the major points they made in their written briefs.

  • Briefs

    • Written documents supporting one side of a case, submitted before oral arguments are held.

  • Solicitor General

    • Represents the US before the S.Ct. in all cases to which it is a party.

  • The Conference

    • The justices meet in secret session to discuss in depth and vote on the cases they have heard.


  • Justices of the S. Ct. always write the Opinion of the Courts.

  • Concurring Opinions

  • Dissenting Opinions

  • Plurality Opinions

  • Majority Opinion

  • All opinions may have an influence on subsequent rulings.

Special courts

Special Courts

Just FYI….

The united states claims court
The United States Claims Court

  • The United States may be sued only if it gives its consent.

  • The Claims Court hears cases from all over the county in which there are claims for damages against the Federal Government.

The territorial courts
The Territorial Courts

  • Under the Constitution, Congress created courts for the nation’s territories.

  • The courts operate much like local courts in the State systems.

The court of appeals for armed forces
The Court of Appeals for Armed Forces

  • 5 civilian judges appointed

  • 15 year terms

  • This court hears appeals from court-martial convictions and is usually the court of last resort for members of the armed forces.

The court of veterans appeals
The Court of Veterans Appeals

  • 7 judges appointed by President

  • Serve 15 year terms

  • They hear appeals from veterans who claim that the Veteran’s Administration has mishandled their cases.

The united states tax court
The United States Tax Court

  • 19 judges, appointed by President

  • 12 year terms

  • The Tax Court hears only civil cases involving disputes over the application of tax laws.