Presentation on theme: "The Federal Courts GOVT 2305. In this section we look at the development of the federal courts over time, with special attention paid to the Supreme Court."— Presentation transcript:
The Federal Courts GOVT 2305
In this section we look at the development of the federal courts over time, with special attention paid to the Supreme Court. It concludes with a look at the current Supreme Court, including information about its current members.
Some links: The History of the Supreme Court. History of the Supreme Court of the United States – Wikipedia. The Supreme Court Historical Society. The Federal Judicial Center. The History of the Supreme Court History of the Supreme Court of the United States – Wikipedia The Supreme Court Historical Society The Federal Judicial Center
And for even more, there’s this from the Supreme Court Website The Court and Constitutional InterpretationThe Court and Constitutional Interpretation
The United States court system has evolved over time due to the passage of several redesigns of the court system in one of the many Judiciary Acts passed over American history. Judiciary Acts
For a good survey of the history of the Federal courts read: Creating the Federal Judicial System.Creating the Federal Judicial System
And here are links to Wikipedia pages that describe the major pieces of legislation that impacted the design of the judiciary over time: - Judiciary Act of 1789, established the federal judiciary. - Judiciary Act of 1801, also called the Midnight Judges Act. - Judiciary Act of 1802, repealed the 1801 Act. - "Judiciary Act of 1866" may refer to two different laws. Ch. 210, 14 Stat. 209 (July 23, 1866) is more commonly called the Judicial Circuits Act Ch. 288, 14 Stat. 306 (July 27, 1866) provided for the removal of certain cases from state courts to the federal courts. - Judiciary Act of 1869, also called the Circuit Judges Act of Judiciary Act of 1891, also called the Evarts Act or the Circuit Courts of Appeals Act. - Judiciary Act of 1925, also called the Certiorari Act or the Judges' Bill.Judiciary Act of 1789Judiciary Act of 1801Judiciary Act of 1802Judiciary Act of 1866Stat.209 Judicial Circuits ActStat.306Judiciary Act of 1869Judiciary Act of 1891Judiciary Act of 1925
For a bit of history, here are maps of the federal courts over history. These are pulled from Creating the Federal Judicial System.Creating the Federal Judicial System
As seen in a few different places: here is the map of the current design of the judiciary:
For as much detail as you want, click on these: United States District Courts United States Courts of Appeals United States Supreme Court United States District Courts United States Courts of Appeals United States Supreme Court
Next Topic: The Politics of Appointment and Confirmation.
Remember that the purpose of the appointed judiciary is to ensure a qualified judiciary, as well as one that is removed from the political pressures that ultimately stem. The basic appointment process is established in Article II of the Constitution. It is one of the president’s powers.
The president makes the appointments, but the Senate must confirm those appointments. Click here for info on the appointments clause. These people then serve during good behavior – until they die or resign – which means they can be on the court for a long, long time. Click here for longevity records. appointments clauseClick here for longevity records
Federal Judges and Justices are supposed to be apolitical, but Presidents and Senators are not. Each is aware that appointees to the court will be making decisions well into the future. They take the ideological and political leanings of these appointees into account when deciding who to appoint, or who to confirm. How are they likely to interpret the Constitution? What do they see the role of the court to be? The political objectives of a legislator or president can sometimes be achieved by the people they get into the courts.
The more appointees a president can make to the federal courts, especially the Supreme Court – the greater impact they will have over time. Click here for an article about President Obama’s impact on the judiciary. Click here for an article about President Obama’s impact on the judiciary
Click here for a review of presidential judicial appointments since 1980: Judicial appointment history for United States federal courts. Judicial appointment history for United States federal courts
The appointment process varies depending on whether it is for a position as federal judge, a judge on the court of appeals, or the Supreme Court.
For a look at the current state of federal judicial nominations – as of May 2014 – click on judicialnominations.org. Here is the breakdown of appellate court judges by party, and listing the number of vacancies as of May 2014 judicialnominations.org
Why allow for vacancies? Sometimes the party out of power in the presidency tries to keep vacancies open in case one of their candidates wins the next election.
Eras of the Supreme Court
There have been 17 Supreme Court Chief Justices. Eras of the court are generally divide into “courts” based on who happened to be chief justice at that time
List of Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States
First, a quick word on what a Chief Justice is exactly. The Chief Justice’s responsibilities are mostly administrative. The office has no special judicial powers.
The Chief Justice leads the business of the Supreme Court. He or she presides over oral arguments before the Court. When the Court renders an opinion, the Chief Justice—when in the majority—decides who writes the Court's opinion. Finally, the Chief Justice has significant agenda-setting power over the Court's meetings. In the case of an impeachment of a President of the United States, which has occurred twice, the Chief Justice presides over the trial in the Senate. In modern tradition, the Chief Justice also has the ceremonial duty of administering the oath of office of the President of the United States. – Wikipedia.oral argumentsimpeachmentPresident of the United Statestwice ceremonial dutyoath of office of the President of the United States
For a quick overview of the history of the Supreme Court based on the different times that a specific person held the job of Chief Justice, I highly recommend this page from the Supreme Court Historical Society’s website.this page from the Supreme Court Historical Society’s website
More detailed information can be found here: Oyez Project It separates all courts based on who served together for a period of time. And of course, here’s the relevant wikipedia page.Oyez Projectthe relevant wikipedia page
Some detail on each
John JayJohn Jay / The Jay Court September 26, 1789–June 29, 1795The Jay Court
The Supreme Court was the only court of appeals for the nation. It was composed of six Justices. All the original Justices had helped write the Constitution. The court had little business, but the Justices also has to serve as trial (circuit court) judges, which required travel and a lot of work.
Major case during this era: Chisholm v Georgia. Led to the 11 th Amendment and restrictions on the ability of the national government to hear lawsuits against states by citizens of other states. Chisholm v Georgia11 th Amendment
Jay – who had helped write the Federalists Papers – was sent to negotiate a treaty with Britain that was meant to resolve lingering problems left over from the Treaty of Paris which ended the American Revolution. This was called Jay’s Treaty. Disputes over the treaty were political in nature. Federalists supported it, Democrat-Republicans opposed it. The dispute helped solidify conflict between the emerging parties, and led to future disputes on the court.Jay’s Treaty
John RutledgeJohn Rutledge / The Rutledge Court July 1, 1795– December 28, 1795 The Rutledge Court
Rutledge was a recess appointment by Washington. His opposition to the Jay Treaty put him at odds with Washington and his appointment was rejected by the Senate.
Oliver EllsworthOliver Ellsworth / The Ellsworth Court March 4, 1796– September 30, 1800 The Ellsworth Court
Ellsworth suggested that the court had the power of judicial review in Hylton v United States, and stated that a presidential signature was not necessary for constitutional amendments to pass Was responsible for encouraging the Justices to sign on to opinions rather than each write their own.Hylton v United Statespresidential signature was not necessary
John MarshallJohn Marshall / The Marshall Court January 31, 1801–July 6, 1835 The Marshall Court
Commonly argued to be the greatest Justice in Supreme Court history. Was a cousin of Thomas Jefferson. They would fight over the nature of national power.
"My gift of John Marshall to the people of the United States was the proudest act of my life." John Adams.John Adams
Increased the power of the court. Established Judicial Review Marshall pushed for the idea that the union was “the supreme government of the whole American people.”
Presided over the impeachment of Samuel Chase. Chase – a Federalist - was attacked by opponents, including Thomas Jefferson. His impeachment was considered to be politically motivated. The failure to remove him was argued to help establish the independence of the judiciary, and the Supreme Court especially.impeachment of Samuel Chase
Various cases heard by the Marshall Court strengthened the court. Examples: McCullough v Maryland Cohen v Virginia Gibbons v Ogden McCullough v Maryland Cohen v Virginia Gibbons v Ogden
"We must never forget," he said, "that it is a constitution we are expounding... a constitution, intended to endure for ages to come, and consequently, to be adapted to the various crises of human affairs.“ – John Marshall
From the Supreme Court Historical Society: “When he took the judicial oath the public hardly noticed; when he died the Nation mourned him. ‘There was something irresistibly winning about him,’ said the Richmond Enquirer and Niles’ Register, which had long denounced his decisions, said, "Next to Washington, only, did he possess the reverence and homage of the heart of the American people."
Marshall was one of the longest serving members of the court. He is #4 on this list. He is #4 on this list
Major appointment during that time: Joseph Story. Joseph Story
Story wrote the first major book elaborating on the nature of the Constitution: Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States
Roger B. TaneyRoger B. Taney / The Taney Court March 15, 1836– October 12, 1864 The Taney Court
Taney was appointed by Andrew Jackson in many ways to push back against many of the accomplishments of John Marshall.
He interpreted corporation charters more strictly, state powers more generously, than Marshall had. But found community rights to be as important as corporate rights, so he did not expand the rights of corporations beyond that of communities.
Trivia: Taney was the first justice to wear pants – not knee breeches.
Most controversial decision: Dred Scott. v. Sanford (1857). This is argued by many legal scholars as the worst decision in the history of the Supreme Court. Some claim it made the Civil War inevitable. Dred Scott. v. Sanford
He both overruled the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and mandated that people of African descent could not be “citizens” and had no right to use the courts to redress grievances, especially against whites.Missouri Compromise of 1820
“According to Taney, the authors of the Constitution had viewed all blacks as ‘beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.’”authors of the Constitution
By overturning the Missouri Compromise, the arguments could be made that no state could deny the right of slave owners to have slaves wherever they choose. The enhanced the rise of the abolition movement, the growth of the Republican Party, and led to the election of Abraham Lincoln which in turn led to the secession of slave states and the start of the Civil War.abolition movement
Chief Justice Taney administered the oath of office to Lincoln on March 4, 1861, and heard him disclaim "any assault upon the Court." But Lincoln warned solemnly: "if the policy of the Government, upon vital questions affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made, in ordinary litigation... the people will have ceased to be their own rulers...."
Salmon P. Chase Salmon P. Chase / The Chase Court December 6, 1864–May 7, 1873The Chase Court
Chase had run against Lincoln in Presided over a period of constitutional transformation following the end of the Civil War. The 13 th, 14 th and 15 th Amendments were added to the Constitution during his term of office.
He protected the court from efforts to dismantle it. Radical Republicans attempted to minimize the power of the courts and the executive branch.
The court heard a variety of cases related to legal tender beginning with Hepburn v. Griswold, a test case challenging constitutionality of the Legal Tender Act Click of Click here for Legal Tender Cases. The question was whether Congress could allow for legal tender to be printed that was not based on gold or silver. This was a method used to finance the Civil War, it also allowed for the use of paper money.Hepburn v. GriswoldClick here for Legal Tender Cases
Morrison WaiteMorrison Waite / The Waite Court March 4, 1874– March 23, 1888 The Waite Court
Fights heated up over shipping rates charged by railroads to farmers. The Granger Cases – States passed laws regulating rates and the railroads claimed they were unconstitutional.Granger Cases
Munn v Illinois Munn v Illinois The Fourteenth Amendment does not prevent the State of Illinois from regulating charges for use of a business' grain elevators.
The court argued that states could regulate railroads, the rights of private property could be balanced against the rights of the community.
The court agreed that the Civil Rights Acts of 1875 was an unconstitutional violation of the 14 th Amendment’s equal protection clause. Click here for the Civil Rights Cases. It only applied to state actions, not private actions.Civil Rights Acts of 1875Click here for the Civil Rights Cases
The workload of the court led to the creation of the circuit courts of appeals.
Melville FullerMelville Fuller / The Fuller Court October 8, 1888–July 4, 1910 The Fuller Court
This was the first court where justices did not have to ride the circuit. From now on, justices only had to sit in DC.
The Fuller Court oversaw the transition of the United States from an agrarian to a commercial nation. The court heard a large number of cases that concerned the extent of Congress’ ability to regulate commerce. These conflict are ongoing in many ways.
Many of these cases concerned the impact of The Sherman Anti-Trust Act which allowed the national government to break apart monopolies.The Sherman Anti-Trust Act
The Court weakened the act by overruling cases breaking apart monopolies, though some actions were allowed to proceed, notable in Northern Securities Co. v. United States.Northern Securities Co. v. United States
Ruled that Congress could pass laws punishing price-fixing under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. Restraint of trade can be made illegal by Congress. This strengthened the law.
Punished organized labor Injunctions against leaders of the Pullman Strike, including Eugene v Debs were allowed to go forward. See In re Debs (1895). Pullman StrikeEugene v DebsIn re Debs
The court narrowly voted a federal income tax unconstitutional in Pollock v. Farmers' Loan & Trust Co. The unapportioned income taxes on interest, dividends and rents imposed by the Income Tax Act of 1894 were, in effect, direct taxes, and were unconstitutional because they violated the rule that direct taxes be apportioned. This would be overturned by the 16 th Amendment. Pollock v. Farmers' Loan & Trust Co16 th Amendment
The fuller Court made separate but equal the law in Plessy v Ferguson (1896) The court actively weakened the impact of the equal protection clause.Plessy v Ferguson
During this time the nation was also expanding its activities overseas. As a result of the Spanish-American War the United States acquired a small handful of territories including Cuba, the Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico. Since these areas were already populated, questions were asked about the legal status of these residents.Spanish-American War
Insular Cases Insular Cases These were several cases in the early 1900s where the court responded to the expansion of American territories around the world. They ruled that constitutional rights did not automatically extend to people who lived in those territories.
Theodore Roosevelt Theodore Roosevelt becomes president during this era of the court: He faced what he called the "absolutely vital question"— whether the United States Government had the power to control the giant corporations of the day.
Roosevelt was a progressive and wanted to actively use the powers of the national government to achieve his objectives. Business interests used the courts to push back against these efforts. The courts were more often than not supportive.progressive
One example: Lochner v. New York. This was a 1905 case that recognized a right to contract as implicit in the die process clause of the 14 th Amendment. The state of New York could not establish limits on working hours – 10 hours per day, 6 days a week – if an employee was willing to work longer. This began an era in the Supreme Court – the Lochner Era - where a series of cases struck down laws meant to impact working conditions.Lochner v. New Yorkright to contractthe Lochner Era
States, ruled Justice Rufus W. Peckham, must not pass such laws, "mere meddlesome interferences" to keep grown men from taking care of themselves. States have a "police power" to protect the public, but they may not limit such individual rights as liberty of contract: A worker must be free to make his own contract with his employer. Justice Harlan dissented, citing evidence that bakers suffered eye and lung troubles, that New York might protect their health. And Oliver Wendell Holmes, who had joined the Court in 1902, dissented separately, to say that "a constitution is not intended to embody a particular economic theory," that laws might rest on "novel and even shocking" ideas and be constitutional. – Source. Source
An exemption from these cases was Muller v Oregon. A law placing restrictions on the labor of certain classes of women was upheld. The case was argued by future Justice Louis Brandeis.Muller v Oregon
Brandeis – as a lawyer before the court - began the practice of introducing facts, not just legal arguments, in his arguments. His argument in Muller relied on scientific information as much as legal arguments.His argument in Muller
This would lead to an expansion of court activity in the 20 th Century. The court began accepting an increased role of the national government, partly because the states were not sufficiently regulating the economy in the interest of the general public. They were more likely to protect the interests of large corporations, generally because the corporations were able to control the state governments.
"When an evil is a national evil, it must be cured by a national remedy," cried Senator Albert J. Beveridge of Indiana. Reformers were demanding change in politics, business, society in general; in response, Congress was assuming a "police power" for the whole country. – Source.Source
The Fuller Court would uphold the constitutionality of the Mann Act (which made it a federal crime to transport women across state lines for “immoral purposes”) and the Pure Food and Drug Act (which allowed for the federal inspection of food and drugs).Mann Act Pure Food and Drug Act
Major appointment during that time: Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. He was appointed in 1902 and served until Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr
He would be responsible for many decisions that would enforce the freedom of speech.
Edward Douglass WhiteEdward Douglass White / The White Court December 19, 1910–May 19, 1921The White Court
Developed the exclusionary rule, but only applied it to federal officials. It would not be applied to states until Mapp v Ohio in Reformers – like Louis Brandeis – are appointed to the bench. They were more likely to accept a role for the federal government in economic regulation, but they were still in a minority on the court.Mapp v Ohio
They were not that successful early on. The Supreme Court overturned the Keating- Owen Act of 1916 which prohibited interstate commerce in products produced by child labor. The case which overturned it was Hammer v. Dagenhart (1918). The court ruled that production is not commerce, so Congress had no ability to impact child labor.Keating- Owen Act of 1916Hammer v. Dagenhart
Oliver Wendell Holmes issued a strongly worded dissent.
Legislation can begin where an evil begins, retorted Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, dissenting. If Congress chooses to prohibit trade in "the product of ruined lives," the Court should not outlaw its choice. He added: "I should have thought that if we were to introduce our own moral conceptions where in my opinion they do not belong, this was preeminently a case for upholding the exercise of all its powers by the United States.“ – Source.Source
Congress passed two critical laws during WWI. The Espionage Act The Sedition Act
The Sedition Act was written broadly, which allowed for a high level of prosecution. The clear and present danger rule was established to distinguish between words uttered during times of conflict and times of peace.clear and present danger rule
Holmes’ dissent in Abrams v US upheld the right of people to be critical of government. It helped narrow the ability of government to use sedition to punish speech – we will discuss this further in an upcoming section.dissentAbrams v US
William Howard TaftWilliam Howard Taft / The Taft Court July 11, 1921– February 3, 1930The Taft Court
Ruled that federal child labor laws were unconstitutional.
Gitlow v. New York Gitlow v. New York Upheld the New York Criminal Anarchy Law, but ruled that the 14 th Amendment made speech and press freedoms applicable to the states.
Oliver Wendell Holmes and Louis D. Brandeis would have set Gitlow free. As Holmes explained, they did not think his "redundant discourse" a public danger. The majority called it "a direct incitement." Holmes replied calmly: "Every idea is an incitement."
Moore v. Dempsey Moore v. Dempsey Mob-dominated trials were a violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Federal courts were furthermore duty-bound to review habeas corpus petitions that raised claims of discrimination in state trials, and to order the release of unfairly convicted defendants if the alleged violations were found to be true. Eastern District of Arkansas reversed and remanded.
How does the Constitution protect the right to a fair trial in state courts?
Judges Bill – 1925 By limiting the right of appeal, this law let the Supreme Court devote its attention to constitutional issues and important questions of federal law. In most cases since 1925, the parties ask permission to be heard; the Justices grant or deny it at discretion.
This changed procedures on the court and allowed the court the ability to choose cases.
Adkins v. Children’s Hospital Adkins v. Children’s Hospital Minimum wage law for women violated the due process right to contract freely. D.C. Court of Appeals affirmed.
The court was dominated by: The Four Horsemen Actively overturned many laws. The Four Horsemen
Sometimes joined by the two roving Justices
The Three Musketeers
Charles Evans HughesCharles Evans Hughes / The Hughes Court February 24, 1930–June 30, 1941The Hughes Court
This is the court that dealt with the constitutionality of New Deal legislation.
Near v Minnesota
if a defendant lacks a lawyer and a fairly chosen jury, the Constitution can help him.
Tom Mooney... if a state uses perjured witnesses, knowing that they lie, it violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of due process of law; it must provide ways to set aside such tainted convictions.
Court packing plan
Expansion of the commerce clause
Constitution in Exile Movement
Harlan Fiske StoneHarlan Fiske Stone / The Stone Court July 3, 1941– April 22, 1946The Stone Court
Upheld the constitutionality of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.
Upheld the West Virginia’s requirement that kids salute the flag in Gobitis, then reversed itself in Barnette.
It is a "fixed star in our constitutional constellation" this fact—"no official, high or petty," can prescribe orthodoxy in politics, nationalism, or religion, for any citizen. – Justice Robert Jackson.Justice Robert Jackson
Trivia: one of Jackson’s law clerks was future Chief Justice William Rehnquist.
Upheld the internment of Japanese American citizens in Korematsu v. United States. Argued it feel under the president’s war powers.Korematsu v. United States
Defended its powers against attempts by the executive to limit access to the courts.
Fred M. VinsonFred M. Vinson / The Vinson Court June 24, 1946– September 8, 1953 The Vinson Court
He events that would lead to Brown v Board of education were set in motion during this period of time. Racially segregated school were unequal – in violation of the separate bit equal doctrine.
Facts drove the cases. Vinson dies before the case concluded
Earl WarrenEarl Warren / The Warren Court October 5, 1953–June 23, 1969 The Warren Court
Overturned separate but equal doctrine
Began to strengthen equal access to the courts. Griffin (?)
Mapp v Ohio
The court weighed in on apportionment Baker v Carr
Engel v Vitale "Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our Country."
No government should compose official prayers for Americans to recite.
Griswold v Connecticut
Ruled that the application of the death penalty – its racial unbalance – violated the 8 th Amendment.
Warren E. Burger Warren E. Burger / The Burger Court June 23, 1969– September 26, 1986The Burger Court
Continued to clarify the dividing line between church and state
Freedom of speech and press
Obscenity and pornography
Defendants rights enhanced But established good faith exemption to the exclusionary rule.
Watergate tapes Executive Privilege What can the courts command a president to do?
Began focusing on sex discrimination
Began narrowing justifications for affirmative action
Roe v Wade
Ruled that the application of the death penalty – its racial unbalance – violated the 8 th Amendment.
William RehnquistWilliam Rehnquist / The Rehnquist Court September 26, 1986–September 3, 2005The Rehnquist Court
Rehnquist clerked for Robert Jackson and advised that he vote against Brown in Brown v Board. Appointed as an associate Justice by Nixon, made Chief Justice by Ronald Reagan.
John G. RobertsJohn G. Roberts / The Roberts Court September 29, 2005–present
Each era of the court is influence by the results of previous Presidential and Senatorial elections. If the electorate votes in a liberal direction, the courts will – as positions are made available – shift in that direction, and vice versa.
Let’s pay special attention to transition from the Warren to the Rehnquist court.
Earl Warren, if you recall from the last set of slides, was one of Eisenhower’s self described mistakes. He became Chief Justice at a moment when the court was composed of people nominated by FDR or Truman.the court was composed
They were primed to begin to accept arguments developed by liberals and progressives over previous decades. Cases involving segregation, speech and due process were coming to the court with greater frequency.
The Warren Court’s decisions tended to be activist and were based on broad interpretations of Constitutional language
Their decisions included some of the more famous an consequential of the 20 th Century, but they also led to a backlash.
Brown v. Board of Education Baker v. Carr Mapp v. Ohio Engel v Vitale Griswold v. Conn
This is especially true of Brown v. Board of Education which led to the dismantling of public education in southern states, and a slow mobilization against the court. Nixon’s Southern Strategy involved using resentment against the court as a way of getting the votes of the South.Southern Strategy
Once Nixon became president, he appointed William Rehnquist (who had been a law clerk when Brown was decided) an Associate Justice. He would be elevated to Chief Justice when Ronald Reagan became President.
From 1968 – 1993, no Democratic President would be able to make an appointment to the Supreme Court. Many, though not all, of the Justices appointed during this time promoted judicial restraint and narrow interpretations of the Constitution.
They rolled back many Warren Court decisions.
Three Examples: One, they made it difficult to prove racial discrimination. Two, they made it easier for illegally obtained evidence to be introduced into court. Three, they made it easier to have religious displays on public ground.
Click here for the current court
Clarence Thomas - Clarence Thomas's Originalism - What Clarence Thomas's Video- Games Dissent Tells Us About 'Originalism‘ - Clarence Thomas’ Jurisprudence Unexplained.Clarence Thomas's OriginalismWhat Clarence Thomas's Video- Games Dissent Tells Us About 'Originalism‘Clarence Thomas’ Jurisprudence Unexplained
Appropriate Readings Creating the Federal Judicial System Creating the Federal Judicial System
Ideological Leaning of US Supreme Court Justices
The U.S. Supreme Court
The Conservatives Antonin Scalia Clarence Thomas John Roberts Samuel Alito Antonin Scalia Clarence Thomas John Roberts Samuel Alito
The Liberals Ruth Bader Ginsburg Stephen Breyer Elena Kagan (expected) Sonia Sotomayor (expected) Ruth Bader Ginsburg Stephen Breyer Elena Kagan Sonia Sotomayor
The Swing Voter Anthony Kennedy Anthony Kennedy
Each justice is allowed to hire a small handful of law clerks to assist them. It is not unusual for law clerks to later serve on the court. See list of clerks here.law clerks See list of clerks here
Data Regarding Recent Court Decisions: The Supreme Court Data Base Scotus StatPack The Supreme Court Data Base Scotus StatPack
How do cases get to the Supreme Court? Procedures Procedures
A case from a lower court is appealed by the lowing party. Specifically they request a Writ of Certiorari. This is a writ where the court asks the lower courts to send it the trial and appellate records so the court can search for errors.Writ of Certiorari
If four justices choose to hear the case it is placed on the court’s calendar. The Rule of Four. The Rule of Four.
If you won at the lower level, its generally bad news if the Supreme Court agrees to hear your case. More often than not the case will be overturned.
The petitioner – the party that initiates the process – sends a legal brief. The respondent – the party that won at the lower level – can also if it chooses. It doesn’t have to.legal brief
The court also considers amicus briefs – friend of the court briefs – sent in by parties not involved in the specific case, but interested in the outcome.amicus briefs
Oral argumentsOral arguments are held after the briefs are read. Generally each side generally has 30 minutes to make their case. The proceedings can be open-ended and even entertaining. Click here for recordings and transcripts. Click here for recordings and transcripts
After oral arguments are held, conferences are held internally which result in votes where the justices line up for and against the petitioner.
The Chief Justice assigns the responsibility to write the majority decision – the one that carries weight – to whoever he chooses, unless he wants to do it himself.majority decision
Those in the minority can write dissenting opinions. dissenting opinions
Any justice can write a concurring opinion.concurring opinion