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					The American Legal System
   & the Federal Courts
      Five Key Functions of Law in
          Democratic Societies

   Provide security for people and property
   Under rule of law, enhance predictability.
   Define rules for acceptable/unacceptable
    behavior and resolving conflict
   Reflect and enforce societal values
   Determine costs and benefits associated
    with societal goods.
    The American Legal Tradition
   Civil v. Common Law
       Most democratic industrialized countries
        (includes European countries & Japan) have
        civil law tradition.
            legal system based on detailed, comprehensive
             legal code.
       In contrast, U.S. has a common law
            legal system based on precedent- the accumulated
             rulings of judges over time. Known as stare
      The American Legal Tradition

Adversarial v. Inquisitorial Legal Systems
 Many democratic industrialized societies
  use inquisitorial systems, designed to
  resolve truth (who is guilty) through use
  of active judges who seeks evidence and
  question witnesses.
     By delegating fact finding to neutral judge,
      such trials are generally faster and cheaper.
     Judges in inquisitorial systems wield more
      power, lawyers less power.
        The American Legal Tradition

   Adversarial v. Inquisitorial Legal Systems (cont.)
   U.S. utilizes an adversarial trial system designed
    to resolve conflict by allowing opposing sides to
    present evidence, moderated by a neutral,
    passive judge who applies the law.
       Trials are longer, and subsequently, more costly.
       Based on fundamental American premise of “innocent
        until proven guilty.”
       Reflects our cultural emphasis on individualism and
        procedural values, and gives more power to lawyers.
        The American Legal Tradition

   The U.S. adversarial system tends to be litigious
    (in other words, its common for citizens to seek
    resolution of conflict through the courts).
       Different views on whether our society is more
        litigious than other nations.
            More civil suits in U.S. than many other countries.
            Amount of litigation tied to cultural values and lack of
             alternative governmental mechanisms to seek compensation
             and security from risk.
       American concept of “total justice” (blaming others
        and expecting compensation)-Discuss
       Large number of “frivolous lawsuits.”
       Types of Law in the U.S.

   Substantive v. Procedural Law
   Criminal v. Civil Law
   Constitutional Law
   Statutory Law
   Administrative law
   Executive Orders
Substantive vs. Procedural Law
   Substantive Laws are laws whose actual content,
    or “substance,” defines what is legal and illegal.
   Procedural Laws establish the procedures
    involved in applying and enforcing laws
       Procedural Due Process refers to our system of
        specifying the procedural rights for individuals dealing
        with the legal system
   Given their different purposes, these two types
    of law sometimes clash.
             Criminal vs. Civil Law
Criminal Law prohibits behavior that government
  determines as harmful to society
      Criminal laws referred to as “crimes against the state”
      Penalty if found guilty is some form of payment to the public
       (such as fines, community service, jail time, or even death)
      Examples include felonies and misdemeanors
Civil Law regulates interactions between individuals or
    A violation of civil law is called a tort, instead of a crime.
    Damages awarded in civil cases can be compensatory as well as
Burden of proof is higher in criminal cases (must prove guilt
  “beyond a reasonable doubt”) than in civil cases (must
  prove responsibility by a “preponderance of evidence.”)
    Statutory Law, Administrative Law
           & Executive Orders
   Statutory laws are made by Congress and state
        Made by the elected representatives of the people, statutory law lies at
         the heart of the democratic process in America.
        Statutory law can address virtually any behavior
        Statutory laws are limited by constitutional law and the will of the
   Administrative laws consist of the rules and regulations
    enacted by bureaucratic agencies and departments.
        Authority for issuing administrative law rests through legislative
         delegation of broad administrative discretion to bureaucrats.
   Executive orders are made by the president, do not
    require congressional authorization, and are not binding
    on subsequent administrations.
               Constitutional Law

   Constitutional law consists of:
        Explicit laws found in the Constitution and
        subsequent amendments establishing: the powers
        and restrictions on government; interrelationships
        between different governmental actors; and
        guarantees of fundamental freedoms and rights.
       The body of judicial decisions regarding the meaning
        and applicability of these laws.
   Constitutional law has evolved over time with
    changing circumstances and judges.
    The Least Dangerous Branch?

   Alexander Hamilton sought to ease concerns held by
    opponents of Constitution regarding the lifetime tenure
    of judges (during good behavior) by declaring that the
    courts would be the least dangerous branch because
    they would have "neither force nor will, but only
       Hamilton saw constitutional checks on the judiciary in
        impeachment or constitutional amendment. But both require
        extraordinary majorities
       At same time, Hamilton spent much time addressing the crucial
        role played by the Supreme Court in serving as an intermediary
        between Congress and the people, making sure that the laws
        passed by Congress were constitutional.
               An Imperial Judiciary
   The Federal Judiciary Today:
       Decides what “is” and what “is not” constitutional
        through exercise of judicial review.
            Has major impact on issues ranging from religious freedom
             and privacy rights to defining the limits of executive,
             congressional, and state powers.
       In our increasingly litigious society, policy issues
        increasingly resolved through the courts:
            Federal courts deal with over 324,000 cases annually (over
             890 million filed at state level!)
     The Constitution & the Federal
   Article III, Section I (Read)
    “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.”
      Federal judges appointed for life on demonstrating
       “good behavior.”
      Judicial pay cannot be reduced while in office.

   Federal judges appointed by the president with the
    “advice and consent” of the Senate.
   Original jurisdiction of the Court narrowly prescribed, all
    other cases fall under appellate jurisdiction.
Judicial Power of the U.S. Supreme
   Original jurisdiction limited to:
       Cases arising under the Constitution & U.S.
       Cases of admiralty or maritime jurisdiction
       Cases in which U.S. is a party.
       Controversies between a state & citizens of another
       Controversies between two or more states.
       Controversies between citizens of different states.
       Controversies between citizens of the same state
        claiming lands under grants of different states.
       Controversies between a state, or the citizens thereof,
        and foreign states
       Cases affecting ambassadors or other public
             Judiciary Act of 1789
   Marks first attempt by Congress to define the
    structure of what has evolved into our modern
    federal court system.
       Established three-tiered structure of federal court
       Initially, circuit courts (courts of appeals) functioned
        as trial court for important cases and composed of
        one district judge & two itinerant Supreme Court
        Justices who met as a circuit court twice annually (did
        not become exclusively appellate courts until 1891)
       Supreme Court initially set at six (6) justices.
How Many Justices on the Bench?

                 •Congress determines
                 the size of the Supreme
                 •The number of Justices
                 on the Supreme Court
                 has varied over time
                 from six to ten. Since
                 1869, there have been
                 nine Justices on the
                 Supreme Court.
    The Origins of Judicial Review
   Judicial review is the power of the Court to
    review whether actions by the other branches
    and states are constitutional.
       Hamilton emphasized the role of the Court as an
        intermediary between Congress and the people,
        making sure that the laws passed by Congress were
   Judicial Review established in Marbury v.
    Madison (1803)
       Three issues involved in this case:
            Is Marbury entitled to the commission granted him by outgoing
             President Adams?
            If Marbury is entitled, do US laws provide remedy?
            Does such remedy lie in the issuance of a Writ of Mandamus from
             the Supreme Court?
                  Judicial Review
   Extension of Judicial Review
       In Fletcher v. Peck (1810) applied to the states.
       In Youngstown Sheet & Tube v. Sawyer (1952),
        judicial review applied to the President.
   Judges have used this power sparingly.
      The power has only been used about 140 times to
       strike down acts of Congress.
      Used more frequently (over 1200 times) to invalidate
       acts of state legislatures.
   Power given to the Court through Judicial Review runs
    counter to democratic theory in that an unelected branch
    can check power of elected branches.
     The American Court System
   The American Court system is a dual system:
       state courts--actually 50 different 'systems'
       federal courts
   Both systems have three tiers:
       trial courts--litigation begins and courts hear the facts
        of the case at hand (original jurisdiction)
       appellate courts--decide questions of law, not fact
        (appellate jurisdiction)
       high or supreme courts
    The Federal Selection Process
   The selection of judges is a very political
   Judges are nominated by the president
    and confirmed by the Senate.
       Often presidents solicit suggestions from
        members of the House of Representatives,
        Senators, their political party, and others.
   Provides president opportunity to put
    philosophical stamp on federal courts
      Who Are Federal Judges?
Typically federal judges have:
   held previous political office such as
    prosecutor or state court judge
   political experience such as running a
   prior judicial experience

   traditionally been mostly white males

   been lawyers
                              Dept. of

Interest Groups              Senate
                           Jud. Comm.

Nomination Criteria
             No constitutional
             Competence
             Ideology/Policy
             Rewards
             Pursuit of Political
             Religion
             Race and gender
Supreme Court Caseload
How A Case Goes to the
   Supreme Court
  How Supreme Court Decisions Get

Case on the Docket    Briefs and Amicus
                                            Oral Argument
   (Approx 88)         Briefs submitted

Justices Conference
                       Opinions Drafted
•Cases discussed
                        and Circulated    Opinions Announced
•Votes taken
                         for Comment
•Opinion Assigned
Factors Influencing Judicial
      Decision Making
                Legal Factors:
                Judicial Philosophy
                  •Judicial Restraint - advocates
                  minimalist roles for judges, and
                  the latter
                  •Judicial Activism - feels that
                  judges should use the law to
                  promote justice, equality, and
                  personal liberty.
                  •Prior judicial decisions serve as
                  a rule for settling subsequent
                  cases of a similar nature.
          Factors Influencing Judicial
               Decision Making
Extra-Legal Factors
 Behavioral Characteristics
       The personal experiences of the justices affect how they vote.
        Early poverty, job experience, friends and relatives all affect how
        decisions are made.
   Ideology
       Ideological beliefs influence justices' voting patterns.
   The Attitudinal Model
       A justice's attitudes affect voting behavior.
   Public Opinion
       Justices watch TV, read newspapers, and go to the store like
        everyone else. They are not insulated from public opinion and
        are probably swayed by it some of the time
The Supreme Court & Public Opinion
      The Supreme Court Today
   According to a 1990 poll, only 23% of Americans
    knew how many justices sit on the Supreme
    Court, and two-thirds could not name a single
   In 1998, a poll of teenagers showed that only
    2% could name the Chief Justice.
   The Supreme Court, and the federal court
    system, have a number of powers and some
    significant limitations.
   The courts are peopled by individuals like all of
    us who are influenced by participation in society.

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