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Presentation on theme: "CHAPTER SEVEN, SECTION TWO THE JUDICIAL BRANCH: THE FEDERAL COURT SYSTEM."— Presentation transcript:


2 FEDERAL COURTS There are three levels of federal courts: U.S. District Courts The lowest level. U.S. Courts of Appeals The second level. U.S. Supreme Court The highest level.

3 JURISDICTION Jurisdiction of a court is the extent or scope of authority that court has to hear and decide a case that has been brought before it. Two types of Jurisdiction: Original Jurisdiction: the authority to be the first courts in which cases are heard. Appellate Jurisdiction: the power to review decisions made by lower courts.

4 FEDERAL DISTRICT COURTS District courts Are the trial courts. They are courts of original jurisdiction. They cannot hear appeals from other courts. Are the only federal courts in which jury trials are held. There are 94 federal district courts in the U.S. At least one in each of the 50 states and in the District of Columbia. Some states are divided into as many as 4 districts.

5 U.S. DISTRICT JUDGES To help ensure that judges are not punished for their decisions: They are appointed for life by the president and must be approved by the Senate. They can only be removed from office by Congress through the impeachment process. During their time in office, a judges pay cannot be lowered by Congress or the President.

6 U.S. DISTRICT JUDGES They conduct both civil and criminal trials, with and without juries. In trials without juries the judge decides which side wins. In civil cases the judge also sets the remedy for the winner. In criminal cases the judge also decides the punishment. In a federal district court there may be one or there may be as many as 28 judges depending on the caseload of that court.

7 U.S. COURTS OF APPEALS These courts have appellate jurisdiction. Therefore, after a trial in a district court, the losing party may make an appeal in the Court of Appeals. The 94 district courts are divided into 12 judicial circuits, each circuit has its own court of appeals. Each court of appeals has between 6-28 judges, all of which are appointed for life.

8 U.S. COURTS OF APPEALS Courts of appeal do not hold trials. Instead, a panel of at least three judges make a decision on the case based on majority vote. The judges do not determine whether the accused person is guilty or innocent of the crime, their job is to determine only whether the original trial was fair and if the law was interpreted correctly. They can either uphold the decision made in the district court or send it back for a new trial.

9 THE SUPREME COURT The size of the Supreme Court is determined by Congress and has been the same since 1869. This court consists of nine justices or judges, that are appointed for life, and meet in Washington D.C. There is a chief justice, who is the principal judge and eight associate justices. This court is predominantly an appeals court, reviewing cases that have been tried in lower federal courts or state courts.

10 THE SUPREME COURT However, the Supreme Court possesses original jurisdiction in three types of cases: 1.) In cases involving diplomatic representatives of other countries. 2.) In cases between states. 3.) In cases involving a state and the federal government.


12 THE POWER OF JUDICIAL REVIEW Judicial review: is the courts’ power to decide whether a law or presidential action is in agreement with the Constitution. The Supreme Court holds the ultimate authority to make this decision. The Constitution does not explicitly give the judicial branch the power of judicial review. Justice John Marshall established the power in 1803 when he claimed that the Judiciary Act of 1798 was unconstitutional.

13 CHOOSING CASES More than 7,000 cases are filed with the Supreme Court each year. Merely, 130-150 are heard by the Supreme Court. If they refuse to review a case then the decision of the lower court remains in effect. They may also remand, or return a case to a lower court for a new trial. At least 4/9 of the justices must vote to hear a case, and they generally only choose cases that deal with important constitutional or national questions.

14 HEARING AND DECIDING CASES The Supreme Court hears cases by oral argument. Lawyers for the parties in a case each have 30 minutes to present their arguments. Then the justices read over written argument. Finally, they hold a private meeting in which they vote. Each justice possesses one vote, and decisions are made by majority rule.

15 HEARING AND DECIDING CASES After they vote, the Court delivers its opinion. An opinion explains the reasoning that led to the decision. Concurring opinion: is an explanation of a justice who agrees with the decision of the majority; but for different reason. Dissenting opinion: is an explanation of the reasoning of justices who disagree with a majority Supreme Court decision.

16 CHECKING THE COURT’S POWER The Executive Branch has the power to appoint all federal judges The Legislative Branch must confirm all nominees by a majority vote. The Legislative Branch must attempt to write a better law or amend the already exiting one when the courts deem it unconstitutional. Another way for Congress to check the Court’s power is to amend the Constitution. For example in 1895, the Court’s declared that an income tax Congress passed was unconstitutional, in response in 1913 the 16 th Amendment was ratified to allow this power.

17 STRENGTHENING RIGHTS Supreme Court decisions have allowed the Constitution to meet the demands of changing times. Ex. Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. The Board of Education.


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