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Constitutional Guardians

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1 Constitutional Guardians
The Judicial Branch Constitutional Guardians

2 Introduction Today, there are 51 court systems in the US (one for each state & a separate federal system) 95% of all cases are heard in state court- only 5% make it to federal court Under the Articles of Confederation, there was no federal court The Constitution established the Supreme Court and gave Congress the power to create all other federal courts

3 What is Jurisdiction? Jurisdiction- the authority of a court to hear a case There are 4 types of jurisdiction: Exclusive- case can only be heard in a particular court Concurrent- state & federal courts could both hear the case Original- a court is the first to hear a case Appellate- a court hears the case from a lower court on an appeal

4 Federal Courts can hear a case if:
The subject matter deals with the Constitution, a treaty, or a law passed by Congress The subject matter arising on the high seas or navicable waters of the US US Gov’t officials are involved An ambassador or foreign minister are involved A US citizen is suing a foreign gov’t One of the parties are from the same state where both claim land in a different state

5 Federal District Courts
Federal Trial Courts of original jurisdiction hear both civil and criminal cases District Courts handle 80% of all federal cases (300,000 cases a year) 89 Federal District Courts nationwide that are divided into 12 regions (circuits) Over 600 judges preside over district courts

6 Federal Circuit Court Created by Congress in 1891 to reduce the work load of the Supreme Court Only has appellate jurisdiction They hear 55,000 cases a year Usually hear appeals from District Courts 12 of these courts nationwide Approximately 180 judges Judges usually hear cases in panels of three (en banc)

7 Supreme Court Made up of a Chief Justice and 8 Associate Justices (9 in total) Sometimes called “court of last resort” Has both original and appellate jurisdiction, but almost always hears cases on appeal 7 to 8,000 cases appealed to Supreme Court each year but they only hear a few hundred

8 Judges The president appoints federal judges and the Senate confirms the appointments Most judges are leading attorneys, scholars, professors, or state judges Terms: Constitutional Court Judges- Life Special Court Judges- 15 years Pay: Chief Justice $202,900 Associate Justices $194,200 Federal Circuit Court of Appeals judges $164,100 Federal District Court Judges $154,700

9 More on the Supreme Court
Cases arrive at the Supreme Court in 2 ways From one of 50 State Supreme Courts From one of the Circuit Courts of Appeals Once a case has arrived on the docket, the Court decides rather or not to hear it

10 Hear or no Hear? At least four justices must agree to hear a case before it is accepted Writ of Certiorari- directs lower court to send up record of the case for review (appealing to the Supreme court is asking for a writ of “cert”---most are denied) The Supreme Court will not usually hear a case unless it raises some important Constitutional question

11 Court Operation The Court considers cases in 2 week cycles from October to May Briefs are filed with the court that support each side of the case Sometimes, the court hears oral arguments (each side gets 25 minutes to speak) Justices meet in conference on Wednesdays and Fridays to consider cases It usually takes months for the court to reach a decision (sometimes they speed up the process)

12 Decision Time A decision is made by majority vote
3 Opinions are written: Majority Opinion- The official written opinion of the court Concurring Opinion- A justice gives of different explanation of why he/she agrees with the majority Dissenting Opinion- Justice(s) give an explanation of why they disagree with the majority

13 Influences on Opinion Judicial Activism- a judge uses his/her opinion to promote desirable social ends (ex. Civil Rights, social welfare) Judicial Restraint- a judge should defer his/her opinion to the actions of other two branches (expect when actions are clearly unconstitutional)

14 Who makes up the Supreme Court?
There are 4 justices considered to be conservatives on the Supreme Court From L to R- Chief Justice John Roberts (50 yrs old- appointed by GW Bush), and associate justices Antonin Scalia (66- Reagan)

15 Who, Part II From L to R-Associate Justices Samual Alito (55 yrs old- appointed by GW Bush), and and Clarence Thomas (54- H.W. Bush)

16 Who else? There are 3 justices considered to be liberals on the Supreme Court From L to R- Associate Justices John Paul Stevens (82 yrs old- appointed by Ford), Stephen Breyer (64- Clinton) and Ruth Bader Ginsburg (69- Clinton)

17 Who else, else? There are 2 justices considered to be swing votes on the Supreme Court From L to R- Anthony Kennedy (66- Reagan) and David Souter (63- H.W. Bush)

18 What are Special Courts?
Special Courts- courts created by Congress to hear certain cases 8 of these have since been created

19 Some Special Courts US Court of Federal Claims- hears civil claims against the US Government US Tax Court- hears civil cases dealing with taxes US Court of Int’l Trade- hears civil cases arising out of trade related laws Territorial Courts- Courts set up for US Territories (Guam, Puerto Rico)

20 Some more Special Courts
Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims- hears appeals from decisions made by the Dept. of Veterans Affairs Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit- hears appeals from the Court of Int’l Trade, Court of Federal Claims, and Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims Military Court- conducted by military (court martial) Court of Military Appeals- hears appeals from military court (civilian judges)

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