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Unit 4 Judicial Branch. Discuss this quote: “…a free court is a court where a judge is at liberty to express his views and exercise his own discretion…without.

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Presentation on theme: "Unit 4 Judicial Branch. Discuss this quote: “…a free court is a court where a judge is at liberty to express his views and exercise his own discretion…without."— Presentation transcript:

1 Unit 4 Judicial Branch

2 Discuss this quote: “…a free court is a court where a judge is at liberty to express his views and exercise his own discretion…without any coercion or pressure from anyone. That is liberty, and that is what America stands for.” Federal Judge Waties Waring,

3 Federal Court System I.Characteristics A.Adversarial 1.Plaintiff brings a charge 2.Defendant is the one being charges B. Passive 1. Federal judges are restrained by the Constitution to deciding ACTUAL disputes or cases 2. depends on others to take the initiative. C. Jurisdiction 1. court’s authority to hear a case 2. types of jurisdiction

4 a. Original jurisdiction – courts in which a case is 1 st heard b. Appellate jurisdiction – courts that hear cases brought to them on appeal from lower courts c. exclusive jurisdiction – cases that can be heard only in certain courts d. concurrent jurisdiction – cases that can be heard in either federal or state court

5 D. A complex dual court system 1. 2 separate court systems 2. Each state has its own system of courts.state over 97% of all criminal cases are heard in state and local courts 3. Federal judiciary system spans the entire country.

6 Two Levels of Law (Dual Court System) State CourtsFederal Courts Deal with state laws Three levels Trial courts Appellate courts (aka courts of appeal) State supreme court (aka court of final appeal) Cases may be appealed to the USSC if a federal or constitutional issue is involved Original jurisdiction over federal issues – Federal laws – Constitutional issues – Resident of one state v resident of another state – Treaties – Maritime issues – Foreign govt is involved – US govt is involved Three levels a. Trial court (aka District Court) b. Appellate court (aka Court of Appeals) c. Supreme Court (aka Court of Final Appeal)

7 The Federal Court System A. The Constitution – 1. Supreme Court is the only court mentioned in the constitution. – 2. Congress has the power to create all other courts B. The Judiciary Act of 1789 – 1. established 3 tiered structure of federal courts – Set the size of the Supreme Court at 6 justices; it was later expanded to 9 in 1869

8 C. District Courts 1. Currently 94 district courts staffed by about 700 judges. – Each state has at least 1 2. District courts handle 300,000+ cases a year or about 80% of the federal caseload 3. Most cases end in a plea bargain – Only about 2% go to trial

9 D. Courts of Appeals 1. appellate courts authorized to review district court decisions – Empowered to rule on decisions of federal regulatory agencies such as the FCC Do not hold trials or hear testimony


11 The Supreme Court America’s “court of last resort.” Reviews cases from the US courts of appeals and state supreme courts Final arbiter of the Constitution – Decisions establish precedents that are binding on the entire nation Marbury vs. Madison – Established judicial review – Judicial review: the power of the Supreme Court to declare federal legislation invalid if it violates the Constitution

12 Structure of the Courts



15 III. The Selection of Judges A.The Lower Courts 1.Appointed by the president and confirmed by a majority vote of the Senate 2.Senatorial courtesy: unwritten tradition – the Senate will not confirm nominations for lower court positions that are opposed by a senator of the president’s own party from the state in which the nominee is to serve

16 Robert Bork and Anita Hill Nominated to the Supreme Court in 1987 Views of Constitution seemed Controversial Rejected by Senate Clarence Thomas nominate to SC in 1991 Hill was an associate of Thomas; accused him of sexual harassment in confirmation hearings

17 B. The Supreme Court 1.Nomination criteria a.Competence – credentials including prior judicial or governmental experience b.Ideology & policy preference – expected to share the president’s policy preferences i.Example: FDR appointed justices who supported New Deal programs ii.Reagan appointed justices sympathetic to conservative goals

18 B. The Supreme Court (cont’d) c.Race, ethnicity and gender 2. confirmation process a.names of possible nominees sent to FBI for background check & to ABA for professional rating b.Interest groups increasingly important i.Public protest ii.Appearances on TV & radio talk shows iii.Emails to senators c.Senate Judiciary committee hold public hearing on each nominee i.Recommendation to the full Senate

19 Activism vs. Restraint Judicial restraint: judges' own philosophies or policy preferences should not be injected into the law – whenever reasonably possible construe the law so as to avoid second guessing the policy decisions made by other governmental institutions – based on the concept that judges have no popular mandate to act as policy makers and should defer to the decisions of the elected "political" branches – so long as these policymakers stay within the limits of their powers as defined by the US Constitution and the constitutions of the several states. Judicial activism: seeks to determine what is "just," not necessarily what is intended by law – the U.S. Constitution is a living, dynamic document which must necessarily be interpreted to meet the needs of modern times.

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