The Supreme Court

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					The Supreme Court
   How do you get there?
            The Supreme Court
 Let’s start with a little vocabulary…
   Writ of certiorari (writ): an order by a higher
    court directing a lower court to send up a case for
   In forma pauperis: a method whereby a poor
    person can have his or her case heard in federal
    court without monetary charge.
                  The Supreme Court
Deterrents to the courts acting as democratic institutions
  1. Supreme Court rejects all but a few of the applications for certiorari
    (96% rejected!!)
  2. Costs of appeal are high
       a. Financial costs may be lowered
                1) In forma pauperis: plaintiff indigent, with costs paid by
                government (Like in Gideon)
                2) Indigent defendant in a criminal trial: legal counsel
                provided by government at no charge
                3) Payment by interest groups (e.g. ACLU—usually liberal)
       b. Cost in terms of time is also high, & cannot be mitigated
                 The Supreme Court
Fee Shifting
1. Usually, each party must pay their own legal expenses
2. The losing defendant pays the plaintiff’s expenses (fee shifting)
   in certain cases
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1. Guidelines regarding who is entitled to bring a new case
  a. There must be a real controversy between adversaries
  b. Personal harm must be demonstrated
  c. Being a taxpayer does not ordinarily constitute entitlement to
     challenge federal government action; this requirement is relaxed
     when the First Amendment is involved
2. Sovereign immunity
  a. Government must consent to being sued (usually have to show harm)
  b. By statute, government has given its consent to be sued in cases
     involving contact disputes and negligence (rules have been relaxed)
                  The Supreme Court
Class-Action Suits
1. Brought on behalf of all similarly situated persons
2. Number of class-action suits increased because there were
  financial incentives to bring suit and because Congress was not
  meeting new concerns
3. In 1974, Supreme Court tightened rules on these suits for
  federal courts, though many states courts remain accessible
4. Big class-action suits affect how courts make public policy (ex.:
  asbestos, silicone breast implants)
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What is the procedure of a case?
  Court grants WRIT OF CERTIORARI to any petition that gets votes
   of four or more justices
  Attorneys for each side file their BRIEFS, explaining their arguments
    If federal government is a party in the case, the Solicitor General
      (3rd ranking officer in the Department of Justice) represents it
  Justices then listen to the oral arguments
    Each side gets half an hour
    Justices frequently interrupt with questions (a lot of them!)
  Since federal government is a party to almost half the cases, the
   solicitor general frequently appears before the courts
    Solicitor general = federal government’s top trial lawyer
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Procedure (Continued)
  Justices read any amicus curiae briefs submitted, consider all opinions
  On Fridays, justices meet to conference and argue each case they
   heard that week
    Very private! No stenographers, tape recorders or video cameras allowed!
  Vote is taken, opinions assigned
                    The Supreme Court
  Per curiam: brief and unsigned, “by the court”
  Opinion of the court: means majority opinion
  Concurring opinion: agree with the ruling of the majority opinion,
   but modify the supporting reasoning. (agrees but for different
  Dissenting: this is the minority opinion (those that disagree with
   the majority within the Supreme Court justice vote)
         On the record to protest the majority; have been used over 200 times to
          help overturn a previous opinion
         About 40% of votes are unanimous
 John G. Roberts   Antonin Scalia    Anthony Kennedy    Clarence Thomas
  Chief Justice

               Ruth Bader Ginsburg     Stephen Breyer      Samuel Alito

Associate Justices

                                     Sonia Sotomayor      Elena Kagan
Fun facts…
 Each Justice is entitled to 4 law clerks
 Supreme Court justices make about $205,000/year and federal
  judges make about $165,000/year.
 Chief Justice assigns majority opinions when in the majority
   Senior Justice on majority side does it when the Chief is in
 United States Reports: Official printed record of Court’s
 The Court is in session for 36 weeks of the year (Oct-June)
 There is never an explanation given for which cases are selected
  by the Supreme Court

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