2The Nature of the Judicial System Introduction:Two types of cases:Criminal Law: The government charges an individual with violating one or more specific laws.Civil Law: The court resolves a dispute between two parties and defines the relationship between them.Most cases are tried and resolved in state courts, not federal courts.
3The Nature of the Judicial System Participants in the Judicial SystemLitigantsPlaintiff- the party bringing the chargeDefendant- the party being chargedJury- the people (normally 12) who often decide the outcome of a caseStanding to sue: plaintiffs who have a serious interest in the case.
4The Nature of the Judicial System Participants in the Judicial SystemGroups.Use the courts to try to change policies.Amicus Curiae briefs to influence the Supreme CourtAttorneys.Legal Services Corporation- lawyers to assist the poorNot all lawyers are equal.
5The Structure of the Federal Court System Figure 16.1
6The Structure of the Federal Court System District CourtsOriginal Jurisdiction: courts that determine the facts about a case- the trial court.Federal crimesCivil suits under federal law / across state linesSupervising bankruptcy / naturalizationReviews some federal agenciesAdmiralty and maritime law cases
7The Structure of the Federal Court System Courts of AppealAppellate Jurisdiction: reviews the legal issues in cases brought from lower courts.Hold no trials and hear no testimony.12 circuit courtsU.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit- specialized casesFocus on errors of procedure & law
8The Structure of the Federal Court System The Supreme Court9 justices- 1 Chief Justice, 8 Associate JusticesSupreme Court decides which cases it will hearSome original jurisdiction, but mostly appellate jurisdiction.Most cases come from the federal courtsMost cases are civil cases
9The Politics of Judicial Selection The Lower CourtsSenatorial Courtesy:Unwritten tradition where a judge is not confirmed if a senator of the president’s party from the state where the nominee will serve opposes the nomination.Leads to the president approving the Senate’s choiceMore influence on appellate level
10The Politics of Judicial Selection The Supreme CourtPresident relies on attorney general and DOJ to screen candidates.1 out of 5 nominees will not make it.Presidents with minority party support in the Senate will have more trouble.Chief Justice’s position can be filled by a sitting justice, or a new member.
11The Backgrounds of Judges and Justices Characteristics:Generally white malesLawyers with judicial experienceOther Factors:Generally of the same party as the appointing presidentYet the judges and justices may disappoint the appointing president
12The Courts as Policymakers Accepting CasesUses the “rule of four” to choose cases.Issues a writ of certiorari to call up the case.Very few cases are actually accepted each year.Figure 16.4
13The Courts as Policymakers Making DecisionsOral arguments may be made in a case.Justices discuss the case.One justice will write an opinion on the case.Figure 16.5
14The Courts as Policymakers Making Decisions, continued…Opinion: Statement of legal reasoning behind a judicial decision.Stare decisis: basically to let the previous decision stand unchanged.Precedents: How similar past cases were decided.Original Intent: The idea that the Constitution should be viewed according to the original intent of the framers.
15The Courts as Policymakers Implementing Court DecisionsMust rely on others to carry out decisionsInterpreting population: understand the decisionImplementing population: the people who need to carry out the decision may be in disagreement with each otherConsumer population: the people who are affected (or could be) by the decision
16The Courts and the Policy Agenda A Historical ReviewJohn Marshall and the Growth of Judicial ReviewThe “Nine Old Men”The Warren CourtThe Burger CourtThe Rehnquist Court
17Understanding the Courts The Courts and DemocracyCourts are not very democraticNot electedDifficult to removeBut the court does reflect popular majoritiesGroups are likely to use the courts when other methods fail- promoting pluralismThere are still conflicting rulings leading to deadlock and inconsistency
18Understanding the Courts What Courts Should Do: The Scope of Judicial PowerJudicial restraint: judges should play a minimal policymaking role- leave the policies to the legislative branch.Judicial activism: judges should make bold policy decisions and even chart new constitutional ground.
19Internet Resources U.S. Supreme Court Decisions of the Supreme Court Audio files of oral argumentsDeciding casesFederal Court systemFDR’s court-packing planVacancies and appointmentsEach item is hyperlinked to the website in the book.