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Robert A. Carp, Ronald Stidham, & Kenneth L. Manning 2011.

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Presentation on theme: "Robert A. Carp, Ronald Stidham, & Kenneth L. Manning 2011."— Presentation transcript:

1 Robert A. Carp, Ronald Stidham, & Kenneth L. Manning 2011

2 Federal Courts U.S. District Courts These tribunals have original jurisdiction in federal criminal and civil cases. Criminal Cases The process of criminal cases begins with indictments (the decision of a grand jury to order a defendant to stand trial because the jury believes that probable cause exists to warrant a trial); after charges are filed, and if no plea bargain (a bargain or deal that has been struck between the prosecutor and the defendants attorney whereby some form of leniency is promised in exchange for a guilty plea) exists, the trial is conducted by a U.S. district judge (76).

3 Criminal Cases If the accused is found guilty, the district judge determines the appropriate sentence within a range set by Congress. The length of the sentence cannot be appealed so long as the sentence is within the range prescribed by Congress. The government may not appeal a verdict of not guilty; however, the defendant is permitted an appeal, if the defendant believes the judge or jury erred (76). Habeas corpus a writ that is usually used to bring a prisoner before a court to determine the legality of his or her imprisonment (414).

4 Civil Cases A majority of the district court caseload is civil in nature, that is, suits between private parties or between the U.S. government, acting in it nonprosecutorial capacity, and a private party. Civil cases that originate in U.S. district courts may be placed in several categories: Litigationconcerns the interpretation and application of the Constitution, acts of Congress, or U.S. Treaties.

5 Civil Cases (continued) LitigationA federal question (if a court case centers around the interpretation of a federal law, the U.S. Constitution, or a treaty, then it contains a federal question and the case may be heard by a U.S. court) (414) must be raised in order for the U.S. trial courts to have jurisdiction (77). Citizenship DisputesInvolves parties from different states or between an American citizen and a foreign country or citizen (78).

6 Civil Cases (continued) Petitions from convicted prisonersPrisoners contend that their incarceration (or the denial of parole) is in violation of their federally protected rights. In the vast majority of such cases, prisoners request a writ of habeas corpus, an order issued by a judge to determine whether a person has been lawfully imprisoned or detained. Prisoners convicted in a state court must argue that a federally protected right was violated; the absence of such an argument would negate federal jurisdiction (78).

7 U.S. Court of Appeals The U.S. appellate courts have no original jurisdiction whatsoever. These tribunals were created by Congress; as a result, Congress has granted the circuit courts appellate jurisdiction over two general categories: Ordinary civil and criminal appeals from the federal trial courts, including the U.S. territorial courts, the U.S. Tax Court, and some District of Columbia courts. Appeals from certain federal administrative agencies/departments and independent regulatory commissions (e.g., Securities and Exchange Commission) (78-79).

8 U.S. Supreme Court The U.S. Supreme Court is the only federal court mentioned by name in the Constitution. Although the Supreme Court is usually perceived as an appellate tribunal, the Supreme Court does possess some original jurisdictionthe most important subject of such jurisdiction is a suit between two or more states (79).

9 U.S. Supreme Court (continued)The high court shares original jurisdiction (with the U.S. district courts) in certain cases brought by or against foreign ambassadors or consuls, in cases between the United States and a state, and in cases commenced by a state against citizens of another state or against citizens of another country (79). Concurrent jurisdiction A situation in which two courts have a legal right to hear the same case.

10 U.S. Supreme Court Appeals may reach the Supreme Court through two main avenues: Appeals may be heard from all lower federal constitutional and territorial courts and also from most, but not all, federal legislative courts. The Supreme Court may hear appeals from the highest court in a stateprovided there exists a substantial federal question (80).

11 U.S. Supreme Court Most of the high courts docket consists of cases in which the Supreme Court has agreed to issue a writ of certioraria discretionary action. Such a writ (which must be supported by at least four justices, according to the rule of four on the Supreme Court, at least four justices must agree to take a case before the Court as a whole will consider the case). Historically, the Supreme Court has agreed to grant the petition for a writ of certiorari in only a small proportion of cases usually less than 10 percent of the time, and in recent years, the number has decreased to only 1 percent (80).

12 State courts are designed in virtually the same manner as the courts within the national court system. Each state has a constitution that provides the authority and decision-making powers of the states trail and appellate judges. Each state legislature ratifies laws that further detail the specific powers and prerogatives of judges and the rights and obligations of those who bring suit in state courts (80).

13 The jurisdictional boundaries of American courts clearly are a product of legislative judgmentsdeterminations often influenced by politics (81). An example of the execution of congressional power over federal court jurisdiction occurred in the case of Ex parte McCardle 74 U.S. 506 (1869) (82). The jurisdictions of courts in the states are governed byand the political product ofthe will of the state legislatures (82).

14 The activities in which judges are forbidden to engage are matters dealing with justiciability the question of whether judges in the system ought to hear or refrain from hearing certain types of disputes. There are ten principles that serve to monitor and maintain the power of American judges.

15 A Definite Controversy Must Exist Since 1789, the federal courts have chosen to interpret the term cases in its most literal sense; there must be a controversy between legitimate adversaries who have mete all the technical legal standards to institute a suit. The dispute must concern the protection of a meaningful, nontrivial right or the prevention or redress of a wrong that directly affects the parties of the suit (83).

16 A Definite Controversy Must Exist (continued) Three corollaries exist to the general principle: 1. Federal courts do not render advisory opinions rulings about situations that are hypothetical or that have not caused an authentic clash between adversaries. A dispute must actually exist and must be current before a court will agree to accept it for adjudication 2. The parties to the suit must have proper standing (the status of someone who wishes to bring a lawsuit; to have standing the person must have suffered (or be immediately about to suffer) a direct and significant injury (417).

17 A Definite Controversy Must Exist (continued) 3. Courts will ordinarily not hear a case that has not become mootwhen the basic facts or the status of the parties has significantly changed in the interim between the period when the suit was filed and when the suit appears before the judge(s). The death of a litigant or the fact that the litigants have ceased to be warring parties would render a case moot, in the most tribunals.

18 A Definite Controversy Must Exist (continued) Although federal judges do not rule on abstract, hypothetical issues, high courts in eleven U.S. states provide advisory opinions on pending legislation when requested by the executive or legislative branch of government (86). Federal legislative courts may give advisory opinions as well. Also, American judges are empowered to render declaratory judgments, which define the rights of various parties under a statute, will, or contract (86).

19 A Plea Must Be Specific Judges will not hear no case on the merits unless the petitioner is first able to cite a specific part of the Constitution as the basis of the plea (87). Beneficiaries May Not Sue A case will be rejected, if the petitioner has apparently been the beneficiary of a law or an official action that he or she has subsequently been chose to challenge. One may not benefit from a particular governmental endeavor or official action and subsequently attack that benefit in court (88-89).

20 Appellate Courts Rule on LegalNot Factual Questions – These courts generally not hear cases if the grounds for appeal are that the trial judge or jury wrongly amassed and identified the basic factual elements of the case. In most jurisdictions, appellate courts will hear appeals under the clearly erroneous rulewhen the petitioner contends that the trial courts determination of the facts was obvious and utterly wrong (89). The fact that U.S. appellate courts are generally restricted to interpreting the law and not to identifying and assembling facts is one additional check on the scope of the courts decision-making (90).

21 The Supreme Court Is Not Bound (Technically) by Precedents If the high court is at liberty to overturn or circumvent past and supposedly controlling precedents when deciding cases, this might appear to be an argument for judicial activism (the view that the Supreme Court and other judges can and should creatively (re)interpret the texts of the Constitution and the laws in order to serve the judges' own visions regarding the needs of contemporary society).

22 Other Remedies Must Be Exhausted Courts in the United States will not accept a case until all other remedies, legal and administrative, have been exhausted. Federal cases must first be heard by the U.S. trail courts, then reviewed by one of the appellate tribunals, and finally heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. The restrained and orderly administration of justice requires that before any court may hear a case, all administrative and inferior legal remedies must first be exhausted (90-91).

23 Courts Do Not Decide Political Questions To U.S. judges, the executive and legislative branches are political in that such branches are elected by the people for the purpose of creating public policy. The judiciary, in contrast, was not designed to be an instrument manifesting the popular will and is therefore not political. A political question is one that ought properly to be resolved by one of the other two branches, although the question may appear before the courts (92).

24 The Burden of Proof Is on the Petitioner An individual that challenges the constitutionality of a statute bears the burden of proof. The only exception to this burden of proof is in the realm of civil rights and liberties. Special scrutiny the burden of proof shifts to the government to demonstrate a compelling or overriding need for differential treatment (94).

25 Laws Are Overturned on the Narrowest Grounds Only Judges are afforded two common methods to exercise restraint: 1. A judge may have to option of invalidating an official action on statutory rather than constitutional grounds. Statutory invalidation means that a judge overturns an officials action because the official acted beyond the authority delegated to him or her by law. 2. Judges may, if possible, invalidate only that portion of a law they find constitutionally defective instead of overturning the entire statute (94).

26 No Rulings Are Made on the Wisdom of Legislation The only basis for declaring a law or an official action unconstitutional is that such law or action violates the Constitution directly. Judges and justices are not entitled to invoke their own personal notions of right and wrong or of good or bad public policy, when examining the constitutionality of legislation ( Griswold v. Connecticut ). A statute may legalize the commission of an official deed that all know to be controversial but does not offend the Constitution (96).

27 No Rulings Are Made on the Wisdom of Legislation The principle of not ruling on the wisdom of the law is difficult to follow, especially in the real world, due to the Constitution being silent on many areas of public life and containing numerous phrases and admonitions that are ambiguous (96).


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