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The Federal Court System

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1 The Federal Court System


3 Overriding Questions What is the process that the Supreme Court uses to add cases to its docket? How are the justices politically insulated and how are they tied to public opinion? What guides the Court when granting a writ? How does the Judicial Branch make policy? How has that role changed over time?

4 Creation of a National Judiciary
The Framers created the national judiciary in Article III of the Constitution. There are two court systems in the United States: the national judiciary that spans the country, and the courts run by each of the 50 States. The Constitution created the Supreme Court and left Congress to establish the inferior courts—the lower federal courts. There are two types of federal courts: (1) constitutional courts and (2) special courts.

5 Evolution of the Courts
Traditional: Fed 78- “Least dangerous branch to political rights.” Hamilton-decide when law is contrary to the Constitution Proactive: Judges find AND MAKE the law Increase over time

6 Nation Building 1787-1865 (1st Era)
Answer nation-state questions Chief Justice John Marshall (Nat'l law was supreme) Judicial Review Stare decisis (precedent) Dred Scott 1857-slaves did not have the same rights Tension between Federalists and Jeffersonian Republicans (state’s rights)

7 Government and the Economy 1865-1937- (2nd Era)
Question of property Court protects private property 14th Amendment-due process (narrowly construed to still allow for selective rights-segregation) Gov’t regulations on business 1st 75 years only 2 laws overturned (1200)

8 Government and Political Liberty 1938-Present (3rd Era)
Personal Liberty vs. Social Equity Switch from restricting state or federal power to restricting gov’t laws that violate liberty Still questioning federal and state power

9 Types of Federal Courts

10 Federal Court Jurisdiction
Jurisdiction is defined as the authority of a court to hear (to try and to decide) a case. Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution provides that the federal courts may hear a case because either: (1) the subject matter or (2) the parties involved in the case.

11 Two types of Federal Jurisdiction
Federal Question Cases-Constitution, US law, or treaty Diversity Cases-involving citizen of different states Dual Sovereignty Doctrine-state and federal authorities can prosecute the same person for the same conduct

12 Appointment of Judges The power to appoint judges to federal courts falls on the President. Most federal judges are drawn from the ranks of leading attorneys, legal scholars and law school professors, former members of Congress, and State courts. Supreme Court Justices are usually former federal judges.

13 Appointing Federal Justices
Senatorial Courtesy-normally senior senator will recommend someone from his/her district Litmus test-for ideological purity Trends-27 SC rejections of 140 Filibustering an appointment

14 Terms and Pay of Judges Judges appointed to the constitutional courts, including the Supreme Court, are appointed for life. Judges of constitutional courts may only be removed by their own will or through impeachment. Judges who sit in the special courts are appointed for terms varying from 4 to 15 years. Congress determines salaries for federal judges.

15 Civil vs. Criminal Cases
The district courts hear a wide range of criminal cases and civil cases. A criminal case, in the federal courts, is one in which a defendant is tried for committing some action that Congress declared by law to be a federal crime. A federal civil case is one which involves noncriminal matters.

16 How Federal Cases Are Appealed

17 How Cases Reach the Supreme Court
For a case to be heard by the Court, four of nine judges must agree that it should be placed on the Court’s docket. Cases can reach the Court by certificate when a lower court asks for the Court to certify the answer to a specific question in the matter or when two lower courts have decided the same issue in different ways. Most cases reach the Court via writ of certiorari, an order to a lower court to send a record in a given case for its review.

18 How many do they hear? 1 to 3 % of cases (90-200 a year)
Brief presented by lawyer in ½ hour Amicus briefs-allow justices to know where interest groups stand on the issue Decisions Per curiam-brief and unsigned Formal opinion (if SC chief justice in majority they write, otherwise most senior member) Class Action Suit-others benefit from the decision Standing-the right to be brought and heard

19 Appealing a Case to the Supreme Court

20 How the Supreme Court Operates
Briefs Briefs are written documents filed with the Court before oral arguments begin. The Court in Conference The Chief Justice presides over a closed-door conference in which justices present their views on the case at hand.

21 Opinions of the Court Once the Court finishes its conference, it reaches a decision and its opinion is written.

22 Checks on Judicial Power
No police or army Senate confirmation of judicial appointments by 51 percent vote Impeachment of judges Congress can increase judges Congress can Amend or create new legislation Congress determines jurisdiction for all courts Public Opinion

23 The Members of the Court

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