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The Judicial Branch. Foundations of the Judicial Branch. Article III. Establishes Judicial Branch Creates the Supreme Court Cannot be changed by Congress Gives Congress the power to create the lower courts (the inferior courts). State and Federal Courts.

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the judicial branch

The Judicial Branch

Foundations of the Judicial Branch

article iii
Article III
  • Establishes Judicial Branch
  • Creates the Supreme Court
    • Cannot be changed by Congress
  • Gives Congress the power to create the lower courts (the inferior courts)
state and federal courts
State and Federal Courts
  • Our system has both state and federal courts
    • Example of Federalism
  • State Courts deal with violations of state laws and constitutions
  • Federal Courts deal with violations of federal laws and the U.S. Constitution
how judges are chosen
How judges are chosen
  • Nominated by the President
  • Confirmed by the Senate
  • Remain in office for life or good behavior
    • Can be impeached
  • Founders chose this method instead of election so that judges would not have to listen to public opinion.
selection criteria
Selection Criteria
  • Experience
  • Party Affiliation
    • (90% of the same party)
  • Ideology (beliefs)
  • Race and Gender
  • Senatorial Courtesy – for district judges
    • The practice of seeking the advice and consent of Senators who serve that state.
  • Jurisdiction is the right or authority of a court to hear a case and interpret the law.
  • In other words…
    • What cases can they decide?
    • Can be geographical
    • Can be based on law
types of jurisdiction
Types of Jurisdiction
  • Original Jurisdiction – where a case is first heard
  • Appellate Jurisdiction – when a case is heard on appeal to a higher court
the judicial branch1

The Judicial Branch

The Federal Court System

the district courts
The District Courts
  • 94 total
  • At least one per state, also one for the US. Territories
  • Trial Courts, Civil or Criminal
u s courts of appeal
U.S. Courts of Appeal
  • 12 total
    • 11 circuits throughout the states
    • 1 additional in DC
  • Hears mostly appeals
  • Cases are not retried, no juries
  • Must be grounds for appeal to higher cour
supreme court
Supreme Court
  • Only mandated court in the Constitution
  • 9 justices
    • 8 associate justices
    • 1 chief justice
  • Controls it’s caseload for appeals
    • Discretionary – chooses its cases
  • Original & appellate jurisdiction - in cases of
    • Diplomats of other nations
    • Disputes between states
    • Disputes between a state and the federal government
judicial review
Judicial Review
  • The Power of the Courts to declare acts of Congress or acts of the President unconstitutional
  • Power was intended by the Framers but not exercised by the Court until Marbury v. Madison
marbury v madison 1803
Marbury v. Madison (1803)
  • 1800 controversial election
    • Jefferson (Democratic-Republican) vs. Adams (Federalist)
  • The night before leaving office Adams signed several judicial commissions that had been confirmed by the Senate
  • Jefferson ordered Madison (secretary of state) to not deliver the commissions.
the case
The Case
  • Marbury hoped to force Jefferson to deliver the Commission and appealed to the Supreme Court.
  • Argued the Judiciary Act of 1789 allows him to take his case directly to the S.C.
  • In a unanimous decision the Supreme Court ruled the Judiciary Act unconstitutional.
why this is important
Why this is important…
  • The case established the power of the court to determine the constitutionality of government actions.
    • John Marshall (chief justice) wrote the opinion
    • Marshall led the movement to strengthen the power of the court.
  • Assured the strength of the judicial branch of government.
  • Made it an equal player in the system of checks and balances.
the judicial branch2

The Judicial Branch

The Supreme Court


The Justices from Left to Right

Standing: Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito, Jr., Elena Kagan,

Sitting: Clarence Thomas,Antonin Scalia,John Roberts,Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg





John Roberts

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court

how the court works
How the Court works
  • Begins the first Monday in October
  • Meet in Conference to choose appeals cases.
  • Approximately 7,000 - 8,000 appeals cases request to be heard.
    • Justices choose cases
    • Rule of Four – if four justices vote to hear a case it is placed on the docket.
    • Docket – the schedule of cases the court will hear.
  • Cases can appeal from:
    • The highest courts in the 50 states.
    • The U.S. Courts of Appeals
  • Cases of Original Jurisdiction are automatically placed on the docket.
cases on appeal
Cases on Appeal
  • Those who are a party to the case and want to take their case to the S.C. request a Writ of Certiorari.
    • A writ of certiorari is a court order to send the case up from a lower court.
    • Latin for “to be certain”
    • If the court “grants cert” - case is placed on the docket.
    • If the court “denies cert” - lower court’s decision is left standing.
  • Some cases reach the S.C. by certificate
    • When a lower court is unclear about the procedure or law and want the S.C. to certify their decision.
the case1
The Case
  • Each lawyer files a “brief”
    • Written document that supports their case.
  • Groups that may be affected by the case but are not party to the case may file an amicus curiae brief
    • Means “friend of the court”
  • Each lawyer then presents an “oral argument”
    • Limited to 30 minutes per side. When the red light finishes the lawyers are done.
    • Lawyers are interrupted by questions from justices during this time
the decision
The Decision
  • Justices return to private conference.
  • Discuss the case and vote.
  • Voting begins with the newest member and ends with the Chief Justice.
  • The Chief Justice or senior justice of the majority opinion then chooses who will write the majority opinion.
the majority opinion
The Majority Opinion
  • The Chief Justice or senior justice of the majority chooses who will write the majority opinion.
  • The Majority Opinion reflects the views of the majority of the court. It tells the outcome of the case and the reason for deciding it.
other opinions
Other Opinions
  • A justice may issue a concurring opinion that agrees with the outcome of the case but disagrees with the reasons stated in the majority opinion.
  • A justice may issue a dissenting opinion that disagrees with the majority and explains the reasons for the disagreement.
about the decisions
About the Decisions
  • When making decisions the Supreme Court relies on precedent:
    • The way cases were decided by the court in the past.
    • Stare decisis - Latin for let the decision stand.
  • Rarely the court will reverse its decision
    • Example: Plessy vs. Ferguson and Brown v. Board
  • After decisions are made, they are announced in the news media.
types of court cases

Types of Court Cases

Civil vs. Criminal

5th and 6th amendment

Occurs when an individual has broken the law.

Prosecution – bring the case to the court.

Defendant – Individual accused of the crime.

7th amendment

Relations between individuals, when one individual is taking another to court

Plaintiff – brings the charges in a suit to the court

Defendant – Individual who must defend against the complaint.



The Question: Court must determine if the defendant has violated a law.

The Standard: Presumption of Innocence – Innocent until proven guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The Question: The court must determine if one party caused harm to another party.

The Standard: Preponderance of Evidence. In order to win the plaintiff must prove his/her claims are “most likely” true.



Punishment being sought – jail time, fines, house arrest, death penalty

Jury determines guilty or innocence.

Requires unanimous agreement amongst jurors.

Punishment being sought – damages in the form of money.

Jury determines liability.

Usually does not require unanimous agreement



constitutional cases
Constitutional Cases
  • Any case can become a constitutional case if a constitutional question is involved.
  • This can allow cases to move to higher courts such as the supreme court.