Facts to know about the Supreme Court There are currently 9 justices on the Supreme Court. Associate Justices and the Chief Justice are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Justices are appointed for life and can only be removed by impeachment and conviction of “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” Article II, section 4
Justices to know Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall: 1967-91 Associate Sandra Day O'Connor: 1981-2006
Jurisdiction of the 94 District Courts District Courts have original jurisdiction, which means they here cases 1 st District Courts are trial courts, where there is generally a petit jury of 12 citizens deciding if a defendant is guilty or innocent. Before a district court holds a trial, its grand jury must issue an indictment against a person or entity to determine if the case should go to trial. The order in which cases will be heard in court is called the docket.
U.S. Courts of Appeals’ jurisdiction 12 regional courts of appeal and 1 with national jurisdiction in D.C. These courts only have appellate jurisdiction, meaning they listen to appeals of decisions of the district courts. Usually a panel of 3 judges decides to uphold a decision, reverse a decision, or send a case back to district court to be retried.
Supreme Court Jurisdiction is both original and appellate The vast majority of cases heard by the Supreme Court are brought through writ of certiorari from lower courts. Supreme Court has original jurisdiction over cases involving foreign governments and some cases where states are involved, set forth by Article III of the Constitution. Marbury v. Madison- established Supreme Court’s power of Judicial Review
Other important Cases Dred Scott v. Sanford- (1857) concluded that non- whites were not citizens Plessy v. Ferguson- (1896) upheld Louisiana law that required separate train cars for black and white. Established “separate but equal” doctrine. Brown v. Board of Ed.- (1954) overturned “separate but equal” doctrine and began integration. Thurgood Marshall argued for the plaintiff. He became 1 st black S.C. Justice.
How the Supreme Court decides to hear cases Judicial Restraint- The court should avoid hearing cases centered around social and political issues, leaving policy writing to the other branches. Judicial Activism- the court should seek out cases centered on social and political issues, like civil rights. Stare decisis- “let the decision stand” the principal of applying a case ruling to future cases with similar circumstances.
How the Supreme Court decides cases 4 of the 9 justices must agree that a case should be heard. Per curiam opinion- the S.C. may decide a case without hearing arguments, based on information that is available. If the S.C. hears oral arguments, litigants present briefs to the court, which states their legal arguments, presents relevant facts, and cites precedents. People, interest groups, and gov’t agencies may also submit briefs called amicus curiae briefs if they believe they have info relevant to the case.
How the Supreme Court decides cases, continued Oral Arguments- lawyers from each side have 30 minutes to present arguments. Justices often interrupt to challenge statements or for clarification. Closed Conference- Justices meet to discuss and debate the case in secret. Majority Opinion- at least 5 of 9 justices agree to an outcome of the case and present this unified opinion. Concurring Opinion- A justice agrees with the outcome, but for different reasons. Dissenting Opinion- Justices who disagree with a ruling express their reasons in dissenting opinions.
A.Most crimes committed in the United States break state laws; each state has its own penal code, or written laws that spell out crimes and punishments. B.Crimes may be –petty offenses, minor, like illegal parking (ticket or citation) –misdemeanors, more serious crimes like vandalism (fine or jail sentence less than 1 yr.) –Felonies, serious criminal acts like murder, robbery, or kidnapping. (jail for a year or more, death penalty, loss of civil rights, loss of employment opportunities) Types of Crime
Steps in Criminal Cases A.The prosecutor, or government lawyer responsible for bringing a criminal charge, must prove beyond a reasonable doubt to a judge or jury that the defendant violated the law. B.Criminal cases begin when police gather enough evidence to convince a judge to issue an arrest warrant. C.The arrested person is taken to a police station, the charges are recorded, and the suspect may be fingerprinted and photographed.
Steps in Criminal Cases D.The arrested person is brought before a judge as quickly as possible to be formally charged with a crime; if the case is a misdemeanor, the person may plead guilty or not guilty. E.Cases may then go to a grand jury, which determines whether there is enough evidence to put the accused person on trial, or to a preliminary hearing before a judge for the same purpose.
Steps in Criminal Cases F.At this point, about 90 percent of criminal cases end in a guilty plea in which the accused pleads guilty to a lesser crime in return for the government’s not prosecuting the more serious original crime (plea bargaining). G.After a grand jury indictment or a preliminary hearing, a judge reads the formal charge at an arraignment held in an open courtroom; the defendant may plead not guilty, not guilty by reason of insanity, guilty, or no contest.
Steps in Criminal Cases H.In felony cases, the defendant may choose between a jury trial and a bench trial heard by a judge. I.Jurors listen as witnesses are called and the evidence is presented. J.In jury trials, the presiding judge instructs the jury on proper legal procedures and explains the law. The jury goes to a jury room to review the evidence and reach a decision. To reach a guilty verdict, the jury must find the evidence convincing beyond a reasonable doubt.
Steps in Criminal Cases K.If the jury’s verdict is “not guilty,” the defendant is released immediately. If the jury’s verdict is “guilty,” the judge usually determines the sentence.
Checking for Understanding 3.Identify Sixth Amendment, Fifth Amendment. The Sixth Amendment guarantees that defendants should not have to wait a long time before their trial starts. The Fifth Amendment guarantees that defendants do not have to testify, and refusal to testify cannot be taken as an admission of guilt.
Different types of defenses used by defendents Self-defense: Includes the Castle Defense- If you are in your home and threatened, you do not have a duty to retreat. Insanity defense: Most controversial defense because insanity is so hard to define. Used in less than 1% of felony cases and is usually unsuccessful. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/crime/trial/faqs.html http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/crime/trial/faqs.html Statute of limitations defense: one must be accused within a period of time. Entrapment defense: One is compelled to commit a crime that they would otherwise not likely commit.