Judicial Review –The power of the federal courts to declare laws or executive actions void and unenforceable if they are judged to be in conflict with the Constitution –Established with “Marbury v Madison” –Since 1789 the Supreme Court has declared over 160 federal laws unconstitutional –The chief weapon the Supreme Court has in Checks and Balances
The Supreme Court protects and interprets the Constitution
Structure of the Federal Courts Constitutional Court –On exercising the judicial powers found in Article 3. –Judges are appointed by the President and confirmed by a majority vote of the senate. –They can’t be fired or have their salaries reduced. –Can be impeached for treason, bribery, high crimes or misdemeanors.
Nominating a Judge Of 145 Supreme Court nominations the Senate has on rejected 9 (5 in the 20 th Century) Senatorial Courtesy –(Doesn’t apply to Supreme Court) –The practice of the senior Senator from the state that the judge will preside in, to suggest a judge –IF a Senator is in the President’s party and he opposes a judge, the judge will most likely by rejected by the Senate.
The “litmus” test –This is when a President appoints a judge that reflects political and philosophical beliefs of the President. –Party membership does make a difference on how judges vote on cases. –A review of 84 studies show that Democratic judges are more liberal than Republican judges.
Jurisdiction of Federal Courts We have a dual court system in the USA Both state and federal courts have jurisdiction over different types of cases Some cases can be tried in both or either – (Drugs are the best example)
Hearing a case Writ of Certiorari Pronunciation –This is when 4 or more justices agree to hear a case petitioned to it. –They get around 7000 requests each year and hear about 100 cases –96% of all requests get turned down –How do they decide which cases to hear? If two or more federal courts have decided the same issue in different ways. If a state Supreme Court has ruled a state or federal law unconstitutional Other reason
Supreme Court in action In session 36 weeks a year (October – June) Lawyers file a brief –A document filed by lawyers that outline the case, precedents, etc. –Justices read this prior to hearing oral arguments Oral arguments –Court hears oral arguments Monday- Wednesday mornings –Lawyers typically have a 30 minutes to present their case and answer questions
“amicus curiae” (Friend of the Court) –PronunciationPronunciation –A written brief or oral argument by a person or party not directly related to the case. –Both parties and the court must grant permission Each Friday the justices meet in their conference room and debate the cases heard that week. The chief justice speaks first followed by the others in order of seniority They will then vote traditionally in the opposite order It takes a majority ruling. If it ends in a tie the lower courts ruling stands
Majority opinion Dissenting opinion Concurring opinion Precedents –Case that sets standard for future similar cases –This gives the court consistency and guidance Stare demises (Let the decision stand) Pronunciation Judicial review Remedy –A judicial order setting forth what must be done to correct a situation
Checks on the Judicial System A judge doesn’t have a police force or army Impeachment –15 federal judges have been impeached (4 convicted) and 9 others stepped down when it looked like they would be impeached. President appoint and Senate confirms Congress can alter the number of judges on the Supreme Court and create other courts Congress can try to change the Constitution to allow what court refused (Income tax) Re pass a law with minor changes
Public opinion of the court Supreme Court approval rating Obama approval rating Congress approval rating The court must be aware of popular opinion –If they make very unpopular decisions they risk that people will simply disregard them –If they know they have popular opinion they may take a more activist stance.