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INTRODUCTION TO THE FEDERAL COURTS. I.Types of law. A. Statutory: deals w/written statutes (laws). Legislative law. law. B. Common: Judicial law. 1. Based.

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Presentation on theme: "INTRODUCTION TO THE FEDERAL COURTS. I.Types of law. A. Statutory: deals w/written statutes (laws). Legislative law. law. B. Common: Judicial law. 1. Based."— Presentation transcript:

1 INTRODUCTION TO THE FEDERAL COURTS

2 I.Types of law. A. Statutory: deals w/written statutes (laws). Legislative law. law. B. Common: Judicial law. 1. Based upon a system of unwritten law. 2. Unwritten laws are based upon precedents. 3. Judges rely upon the principle of stare decisis (“let the decision stand”), i.e., they rule according to precedent. 4. This is the basic system of law in Britain. 5. The Court, not Congress, ordered desegregation.

3 C. Criminal: concerns violations of the criminal code, i.e., violations against society. code, i.e., violations against society. D. Civil: concerns disputes (torts) between two parties rather than violations against society. parties rather than violations against society. 1. Examples: breach of contract, slander, medical malpractice 2. A class action lawsuit involves a suit brought by a group of people who share a common grievance.

4 Name that law! OJ Simpson is tried for murder … Criminal law 5 th Period sues Marco for obstructing their education Civil law Marco sues Mr. Wert for defamation of character Civil law The Court orders all schools to desegregate Common law A kid gets a ticket for riding without a helmet Statutory law The city code prevents people from littering Statutory law Congress passes a law that requires students to bring their teachers gifts every day Statutory law The high school student is arrested for selling drugs Criminal law

5 II. Judicial power is passive. A. Courts cannot reach out and “take” cases. Cases must come to them. B. There must be an actual case (“controversy”) for a court to make a (“controversy”) for a court to make a ruling. Courts cannot “create” cases. ruling. Courts cannot “create” cases.

6 III. Only those with standing may challenge a law or govt. action, i.e., only one who has sustained or is near sustaining an “injury” may bring a case to court. One cannot challenge a law simply because one does not happen to like it. Michael Newdow

7 Which can the Court take? Chief Justice Roberts believes the civil rights of African Americans have been violated when Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of The Chief Justice and 2 Associate Justices of the Supreme Court vote to grant cert A House Republican asks the Court to exercise judicial review to overturn a law he doesn’t like A man asks the Court to review his case because he doesn’t think the evidence in the case proved he was guilty A man petitions the Court to review his case because his rights were violated when the police searched his home without a warrant

8 IV. Judicial law-making. A. Judges are not simply impartial referees who only carry out the law. Judges interpret the law, and in so doing, in fact, make law. It is necessary that they make law because: 1. Statues are often broadly-worded, unclear, or contradictory and need clarification. Clarification is interpretation. clarification. Clarification is interpretation. 2. The Constitution is also very broadly- worded, and requires interpretation too.

9 Which is too broad? No talking while I talk No interrupting the class No racially insensitive language allowed You can’t use the “N” word Why is one considered specific and the other too broadly or vaguely worded? Can you predict what you can do and cannot say or do in both instances? Why?

10 3. Thus, interpretation of statutes and the Constitution is, in effect, making law: a. “The Supreme Court is the Constitution.” (Justice Felix Frankfurter) b. “The Supreme Court is a constitutional convention in continuous session.” (Woodrow Wilson)

11 B. Evidence of judicial law-making. 1. Courts have ruled over 1,500 laws as being unconstitutional. 1. Courts have ruled over 1,500 laws as being unconstitutional. 2. The Supreme Court has reversed itself around 200 times since 1810.

12 V. Jurisdiction: 4 types: A. Exclusive: sole authority of a federal court to try a case (where a state or the federal govt is party to the case: US v Nixon). B. Concurrent: authority of both a federal and a state court to try a case (like a state law violated on federal property). C. Original: authority of a court to first try a case. D. Appellate: authority of a court to hear a subsequent appeal (asking a higher court to review the case lost in a lower court)

13 VI. Jurisdiction of federal courts. Federal courts may try a case if it involves: courts may try a case if it involves: A. The Constitution, a federal law, or a treaty. B. Disputes between two or more states. C. The U.S. government as a party. D. Citizens of different states. E. Ambassadors or diplomats.

14 Name that jurisdiction! A man is sentenced to 25 years for stealing a slice of pizza from some kids. He asks the Supreme Court to review his case after losing in the State Supreme Court Appellate jurisdiction The Supreme Court grants cert to 27 states suing the US govt. over Obamacare Exclusive jurisdiction/ Original jurisdiction The man had to decide whether to petition the federal court of appeals or the California Supreme Court to review his case where a federal crime was committed in Garden Grove Concurrent jurisdiction

15 VII. Dual system of courts: In our federal system, we have both federal and state courts. We will confine our discussion to federal courts. VIII. Structure of the federal court system. Two types of federal courts. A. Article I (legislative, or special) courts. A. Article I (legislative, or special) courts. 1. Created to carry out the enumerated powers of Congress. 2. Judges in these hold fixed, not life, terms of office (4-12 years).

16 3. Examples of these courts: a. Claims Court: hears lawsuits against the federal government. b. Court of Military Appeals. C. District of Columbia Courts.

17 B. Article III (constitutional) courts. 1. Article III of the Constitution deals with the judiciary, and creates a Supreme Court while also giving Congress the power to create “inferior” (lower) courts. These three levels of courts form the main basis of our federal court system. 2. Judges in these courts hold life terms. Alexander Hamilton emphasized the need for life tenure in Federalist #78 to ensure an independent judiciary.

18 3. The three levels of constitutional courts: a. District Courts: 1) Handle 90% of all federal cases. 2) 94 such courts, ~610 judges. 3) Cases are tried by a judge and jury. 4) Use grand juries to issue indictments (orders that charge an individual with a crime. Does not mean that one is guilty; it merely means that one will be tried.) 5) A petit (trial) jury decides the outcome of a case. 6) Use magistrates, who issue warrants, hold preliminary hearings, and set bail. 7) Jurisdiction: original. 8) May try civil, criminal, or constitutional cases. 9) Decisions may be appealed to Courts of Appeals. 10) Recent problems of high turnover among judges.

19 b. Courts of Appeals (Circuit Courts). 1) Are 12 of these, spread out in 12 districts, or “circuits.” Really 11, with an added DC district. 2) 156 judges try ~ 18,000 cases a year. 3) Cases tried by a panel of three judges, except when all judges of a Circuit Courthear a case “en banc.” 4) Jurisdiction: appellate. Hears appeals from District Courts and regulatory commissions. 5) Decisions may be appealed to the Supreme Court. C. Supreme Court: covered in a separate lecture.

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24 10 Questions 1. How many types of laws are there in the federal courts and what are they and their purposes? 2. Why is the Judicial power passive? 3. Why can only those with standing challenge a law? 4. What does Judicial law-making judge? 5. Who has increasingly seemed willing to rule on the political questions rather than solely on legislative questions? 6. What significant ways is the exclusive, concurrent, original, and appellate jurisdiction types different? 7. What type of case can be involved in the jurisdiction of federal courts? 8. What is the role of the dual system of courts? 9. What are two types of federal courts? 10. What are the three levels of constitutional courts and how are they different?

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