The Judiciary

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					The Federal Court System
      Background Information

• Article III, Section 1 :
     “The Judicial Power of the U.S. shall be vested
    in one Supreme Court and in such inferior
    Courts as the Congress may from time to time
    ordain and establish.”
• This is the only mention in the Constitution
  of a federal judiciary.
      Background Information

• The Judiciary Act of 1789
  – Established a Supreme Court
  – Chief Justice and five Associate Justices.
  – Created a structure of lower courts.
     Background Information

• Alexander Hamilton Federalist No. 78
  – Least dangerous branch
  – “… could exercise neither force nor will, but
    merely judgment.”
       Background Information
• John Marshall
   – a Federalist
   – Third Chief Justice
   – Elevated Court to powerful branch
   – Marbury v. Madison – Judicial Review
   – McCulloch v. Maryland – Necessary and
     Proper Clause
       Precedent & Stare Decisis
• Precedent

   – The practice of deciding cases with reference to former decisions.
   – This is a cornerstone of our Judicial system.

• Stare Decisis
   – Latin for “let the decision stand.” It obligates judges to follow the
     precedents set previously be their own courts or by higher courts.
     However, it does not apply across states.
Types of Federal Courts

 U.S. District Courts

 U.S. Courts of Appeals

 U.S. Supreme Court
         U.S. District Courts
• Trial Courts
  – Criminal and Civil

• At least one in every state

• Hear more than 275,000 cases annually
         U.S. Courts of Appeal
• 13 U.S. Courts of Appeal
   – 156 Judges
   – Three-judge panel/Majority vote.
• Hear appeals from District Courts under their
• Another trial is not conducted
• Reviews the proceedings/whether the lower court
  committed an error.
• Does not look at questions of fact but at questions
  of law
• Decisions are usually final
          U.S. Supreme Court
• Highest court in the land
• Nine justices
   – Chief Justice presides
   – Each Justice has one vote
• Congress can change Court’s size.
• Supreme Court nominations have to be approved
  by the Senate.
• Most of its work is from appeals
   – Lower Federal Courts
   – State Supreme Courts
      The Current Supreme Court
• Conservative
• Members:
  –   John Roberts/Chief Justice
  –   7 appointed by Republican Presidents
  –   2 appointed by Democratic Presidents
  –   4 liberal/moderates (Stevens, Souter, Ginsberg, Breyer)
  –   4 conservatives (Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Alito)
  –   Kennedy swing vote
  –   One woman
  –   One African American
  –   5 Catholics, 2 Protestants, 2 Jews
   Basic Judicial Requirements
• Before a case can be brought before
  either a state or federal court 2
  important criteria must be met:
   – Jurisdiction
   – Standing to Sue
• Jurisdiction is the authority of the court to hear and
  decide a case
• Federal courts’ jurisdiction are limited to cases
   – Federal question – pertains to the U.S.
     Constitution, acts of Congress, or treaties
   – Diversity of citizenship
      • Lawsuits between citizens of different states
      • Lawsuits between U.S. citizens and citizens of
        a foreign country.
             Standing to Sue
• Sufficient stake in the outcome of the case.
  The party bringing a lawsuit must have
  suffered or been threatened by some harm
• Must be a justiciable controversy.
• Must be a real and substantial issue – no
  hypothetical questions.
• Court does not give advisory opinions.
  Which Cases Reach the Supreme Court
• No absolute right of appeal
• Justices never explain reasons for hearing cases
• Factors that bear on the decision to hear a case:
   – A legal question has been decided differently
     by various lower courts
   – Lower court’s decision conflicts with existing
     Supreme Court ruling
   – Issue has significance beyond the parties
   – Solicitor General is pressuring the Court to hear
 The role of the Solicitor General
• High-ranking member of Justice Department.
• Represents national government in the Supreme
• Promotes presidential policies in the federal
• Decides which cases government will ask
  Supreme Court to review
• Decides the positions the government will take.
  (The Court will hear 75% of those cases)
• Power so great referred to as “Tenth Justice”
• Solicitor General is Paul Clement
       Role of Interest Groups
• Bring to trial cases involving:
  – Racial/gender discrimination
  – Civil liberties
  – Business
• File class-action suits
• File amicus curiae briefs
       The Supreme Court Process
1. Court grants petition for review and issues a writ of certiorari ordering
    lower court to send up the record of the case for review.
     - Court denies 90 percent of petitions
     - Court only hears case if four justices agrees. Called the Rule of

2. Deciding Cases:
    - Extensive research on legal issues and facts involved in case.
    - Do not hear evidence.
    - Attorneys present oral arguments
    - Justices ask questions. These are tape recorded.
    - Justices then meet to discuss and vote on cases. Strictly private
       sessions. No records of it.
    The Supreme Court Process
3. Decisions and Opinions
  - Court writes an opinion explaining the legal reasoning
     on which ruling is based.
  - In many cases decision of the lower court is affirmed.
  - If a reversible error was committed the decision of the
     lower court will be reversed.
  - Some cases remanded back to lower court for new trial
  - Opinions are signed by all justices who agree with it.
        The Supreme Court Process
3. Decisions and Opinions
   - Unanimous opinion - all justices agree on the opinion
   - When opinion is not unanimous a majority opinion is
      written, outlining the view of the majority
   - Concurring Opinion - a separate opinion written by a
      justice who supports the decision but wants to clarify a
      point or to voice disapproval of the grounds on which the
      decision was made
   - Dissenting Opinion - one or more written opinions written
      by justices who do not agree with the majority. Important
      because it forms the basis in later years to establish a new
4. After opinion is written Court announces it from the
Judicial Activism
Judicial Restraint
  Judicial Activism and Judicial Restraint
• Liberal
• Constitution living document
   – Meaning not fixed
   – Many times intention of framers cannot be determined
   – Language must be adapted to new times and conditions
• Activist judiciary has an essential role in adapting
  Constitution to new political problems.
• Federal judiciary should take active role in checking
  activities of President, Congress, state legislatures,
  and administrative agencies when they exceed their
                 Judicial Restraint
• Conservative
• Judges should apply the Constitution not rewrite it
   – Judges must adhere strictly to the intent of the framers
   – To do otherwise is to substitute personal views for those
     specified in Constitution
• Courts should defer to the decisions made of
  legislative and executives branches because they were
  elected by the people.
• Judiciary should only be involved if a law clearly
  violates specific language in the Constitution.

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