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					The Federal Courts

Chapter 16
The Nature of the Judicial System
    Introduction:
     – Two types of cases:
         Criminal Law:

        The government charges and individual with violating
          one or more specific laws.
         Civil Law:

        The court resolves a dispute between two parties and
          defines the relationship between them.
     – Most cases are tried and resolved in state
       courts, not federal courts.
The Nature of the Judicial System
    Participants in the Judicial System
     – Litigants
         Plaintiff-

        the party bringing the charge
         Defendant-

        the party being charged
         Jury-

        the people (normally 12) who often decide the
          outcome of a case
         Standing to sue:

        plaintiffs have a serious interest in the case.
     The Nature of the Judicial
   Participants in the Judicial System
    – Groups.
        Use the courts to try to change policies.

        Amicus Curiae briefs to influence the Supreme

    – Attorneys.
        Legal Services Corporation- lawyers to assist the

        Not all lawyers are equal.
The Structure of the Federal
       Court System

            Figure 16.1
    The Structure of the Federal
           Court System
   District Courts
    – Original Jurisdiction:
    – courts that determine the facts about a case- the
        trial court.
    –   Federal crimes
    –   Civil suits under federal law / across state lines
    –   Supervising bankruptcy / naturalization
    –   Reviews some federal agencies
    –   Admiralty and maritime law cases
    The Structure of the Federal
           Court System
   Courts of Appeal
    – Appellate Jurisdiction: reviews the legal issues
        in cases brought from lower courts.
    –   Hold no trials and hear no testimony.
    –   12 circuit courts
    –   U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit-
        specialized cases
    –   Focus on errors of procedure & law
    The Structure of the Federal
           Court System
   The Supreme Court
    – 9 justices- 1 Chief Justice, 8 Associate Justices
    – Supreme Court decides which cases it will hear
    – Some original jurisdiction, but mostly appellate
    – Most cases come from the federal courts
    – Most cases are civil cases
        The Politics of Judicial
   The Lower Courts
    – Senatorial Courtesy:
        Unwritten tradition where a judge is not confirmed

         if a senator of the president’s party from the state
         where the nominee will serve opposes the
        Has the effect of the president approving the

         Senate’s choice
    – More influence on appellate level
        The Politics of Judicial
   The Supreme Court
    – President relies on attorney general and DOJ to
      screen candidates.
    – 1 out of 5 nominees will not make it.
    – Presidents with minority party support in the
      Senate will have more trouble.
    – Chief Justice’s position can be a sitting justice,
      or a new member.
    The Backgrounds of Judges
          and Justices
   Characteristics:
    – Generally white males
    – Lawyers with judicial experience
   Other Factors:
    – Generally of the same party as the appointing
    – Yet the judges and justices may disappoint the
      appointing president
         The Courts as Policymakers
   Accepting Cases
    – Use the “rule of four” to choose cases.
    – Issues/grants a writ of certiorari to call up the case.
    – Very few cases are accepted each year. 7 reasons to deny:
    Absurd, Clear Denies, Frivilous, Lack of Percolation, In Pipeline, Bad
       Facts=Bad Vehicle, Intractability
    - 4 reasons to grant cert:
    Circuit court conflict, Importance, Area of interest to Justices, Egregiousness

                                         Figure 16.4
      The Courts as Policymakers
   Making Decisions
    – Oral arguments may be made in a case.
    – Justices discuss the case in case conference: role of the Chief
      Justice and/or the senior most justice, role of junior justice
    – One justice will write an opinion on the case. Why do they
      circulate and share these opinions??
    – Role of law clerks

                                Figure 16.5
        The Courts as Policymakers
   Making Decisions, continued…
    – Opinion:
    Statement of legal reasoning behind a judicial decision.
      All opinions, majority, dissenting and concurring, are
    – Stare decisis:
    basically to let the previous decision stand unchanged.
    – Precedents:
    How similar past cases were decided. Precedents are
      more important than federal laws, just a step below the
      Constitution: A basis of decisions.
    The Courts as Policymakers
   Ways of interpreting the Constitution
    – Literal meaning of the Constitution
    – Original Intent:
    The idea that the Constitution should be viewed
      according to the original intent of the framers.
    - The “Living” Document interpretation
    As our society changes, the Constitution must be
      interpreted at the time of each case.
    The Courts as Policymakers
   Implementing Court Decisions
    – Must rely on others to carry out decisions
    – Interpreting population: understand the decision
    – Implementing population: the people who need
      to carry out the decision- may be disagreement
    – Consumer population: the people who are
      affected (or could be) by the decision
The Courts and the Policy Agenda
   A Historical Review: John Marshall
    Established the principle of Judicial Review through Madison v.
    “It is emphatically the province of the judicial department to say
       what the law is.”
    “An act of the legislature repugnant to the Constitution is void.”
    Expounded upon the Constitution in McCulloch v. Maryland
    “…the government of the United States, though limited in its
       power, is supreme within its sphere of action.”
    As long as the national government behaved in accordance with
       the Constitution, its policies take precedence over state
       policies. This is the idea of implied powers (Thanks to Chief
       Justice and arch-Federalist John Marshall.)
The Courts and the Policy Agenda
   – The “Nine Old Men”
   FDR’s bitterness over the Court’s rejection of
     many New Deal programs as unconstitutional
     lead to his “court packing scheme”.
   It never passed, but 2 justices, Chief Justice
     Charles Evans Hughes and Associate Justice
     Owen Roberts, began to support the New Deal.
   Soon a few justices retired and FDR got his
     nominees on to the Court.
The Courts and the Policy Agenda
  – The Warren Court
  An Activist Court - Rulings that shaped public policy
  Brown v. Board of Education desegregated public schools
    across the country
  The Court expanded criminal defendant rights, including the
    right to counsel (Gideon v. Wainwright), the protections
    against unreasonable search and seizure (Mapp v. Ohio) and
    self-incrimination (Miranda v. Arizona)
  The Court also established the principle of “one person, one
    vote” ordering the states to reapportion their state legislatures
    and congressional districts based upon the number of people
    living in them (Baker v. Carr and Reynolds v. Sims)
  The Court struck down prayer in schools as unconstitutional in
    Engel v. Vitale
The Courts and the Policy Agenda
The Burger Court
Nixon appointed strict constructionist Judge Warren
   Burger to replace Earl Warren as Chief Justice
The Burger Court narrowed defendants’ rights
It did not overturn Miranda
It issued a split decision to establish a consti-
tutional right for women to an abortion (Roe v. Wade)
It required school busing to eliminate segregation
It upheld affirmative action holding that quotas are
   unconstitutional but using race as a factor is fine.
It ruled against Nixon in Watergate case, US v. Nixon
The Courts and the Policy Agenda
    – The Rehnquist Court
 Conservatives made up a clear majority of the
  Justices during the Rehnquist Court
 (See packet)
 It limited rather than reversed defendants rights
  and abortion rights
 It ruled in favor or protecting free speech and
  free press
 It has restricted the power of the federal
  government in federalism cases
 Judicial activism in the Bush v. Gore decision
     Understanding the Courts
   The Courts and Democracy
    – Courts are not very democratic
        Not elected

        Difficult to remove

    – But the court does reflect popular majorities
    – Groups are likely to use the courts when other
      methods fail- promoting pluralism
    – There are still conflicting rulings leading to
      deadlock and inconsistency
     Understanding the Courts
   What Courts Should Do: The Scope of
    Judicial Power
    – Judicial restraint: judges should play a minimal
      policymaking role- leave the policies to the
      legislative branch.
    – Judicial activism: judges should make bold
      policy decisions and even charting new
      constitutional ground.
        Internet Resources
 U.S. Supreme Court
 Decisions of the Supreme Court
 Audio files of oral arguments
 Deciding cases
 Federal Court system
 FDR’s court-packing plan
 Vacancies and appointments