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The Federal Court System. Background Information Article III, Section 1 : “The Judicial Power of the U.S. shall be vested in one Supreme Court and in.

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Presentation on theme: "The Federal Court System. Background Information Article III, Section 1 : “The Judicial Power of the U.S. shall be vested in one Supreme Court and in."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Federal Court System

2 Background Information Article III, Section 1 : “The Judicial Power of the U.S. shall be vested in one Supreme Court and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.” This is the only mention in the Constitution of a federal judiciary.

3 Background Information The Judiciary Act of 1789 –Established a Supreme Court –Chief Justice and five Associate Justices. –Created a structure of lower courts.

4 Background Information Alexander Hamilton Federalist No. 78 –Least dangerous branch –“… could exercise neither force nor will, but merely judgment.”

5 Background Information John Marshall –a Federalist –Third Chief Justice –Elevated Court to powerful branch –Marbury v. Madison – Judicial Review –McCulloch v. Maryland – Necessary and Proper Clause

6 Precedent & Stare Decisis Precedent –The practice of deciding cases with reference to former decisions. –This is a cornerstone of our Judicial system. Stare Decisis –Latin for “let the decision stand.” It obligates judges to follow the precedents set previously be their own courts or by higher courts. However, it does not apply across states.

7 Types of Federal Courts U.S. District Courts U.S. Courts of Appeals U.S. Supreme Court

8 U.S. District Courts Trial Courts –Criminal and Civil At least one in every state Hear more than 275,000 cases annually

9 U.S. Courts of Appeal 13 U.S. Courts of Appeal –156 Judges –Three-judge panel/Majority vote. Hear appeals from District Courts under their jurisdiction Another trial is not conducted Reviews the proceedings/whether the lower court committed an error. Does not look at questions of fact but at questions of law Decisions are usually final

10 U.S. Supreme Court Highest court in the land Nine justices –Chief Justice presides –Each Justice has one vote Congress can change Court’s size. Supreme Court nominations have to be approved by the Senate. Most of its work is from appeals –Lower Federal Courts –State Supreme Courts

11 The Current Supreme Court Conservative Members: –John Roberts/Chief Justice –7 appointed by Republican Presidents –2 appointed by Democratic Presidents –4 liberal/moderates (Stevens, Souter, Ginsberg, Breyer) –4 conservatives (Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Alito) –Kennedy swing vote –One woman –One African American –5 Catholics, 2 Protestants, 2 Jews

12 Basic Judicial Requirements Before a case can be brought before either a state or federal court 2 important criteria must be met: –Jurisdiction –Standing to Sue

13 Jurisdiction Jurisdiction is the authority of the court to hear and decide a case Federal courts’ jurisdiction are limited to cases involving: –Federal question – pertains to the U.S. Constitution, acts of Congress, or treaties –Diversity of citizenship Lawsuits between citizens of different states Lawsuits between U.S. citizens and citizens of a foreign country.

14 Standing to Sue Sufficient stake in the outcome of the case. The party bringing a lawsuit must have suffered or been threatened by some harm Must be a justiciable controversy. Must be a real and substantial issue – no hypothetical questions. Court does not give advisory opinions.

15 Which Cases Reach the Supreme Court No absolute right of appeal Justices never explain reasons for hearing cases Factors that bear on the decision to hear a case: –A legal question has been decided differently by various lower courts –Lower court’s decision conflicts with existing Supreme Court ruling –Issue has significance beyond the parties –Solicitor General is pressuring the Court to hear case

16 The role of the Solicitor General High-ranking member of Justice Department. Represents national government in the Supreme Court Promotes presidential policies in the federal courts. Decides which cases government will ask Supreme Court to review Decides the positions the government will take. (The Court will hear 75% of those cases) Power so great referred to as “Tenth Justice” Solicitor General is Paul Clement

17 Role of Interest Groups Bring to trial cases involving: –Racial/gender discrimination –Civil liberties –Business File class-action suits File amicus curiae briefs

18 The Supreme Court Process 1. Court grants petition for review and issues a writ of certiorari ordering lower court to send up the record of the case for review. - Court denies 90 percent of petitions -Court only hears case if four justices agrees. Called the Rule of Four 2. Deciding Cases: - Extensive research on legal issues and facts involved in case. -Do not hear evidence. -Attorneys present oral arguments -Justices ask questions. These are tape recorded. - Justices then meet to discuss and vote on cases. Strictly private sessions. No records of it.

19 The Supreme Court Process 3. Decisions and Opinions - Court writes an opinion explaining the legal reasoning on which ruling is based. - In many cases decision of the lower court is affirmed. - If a reversible error was committed the decision of the lower court will be reversed. - Some cases remanded back to lower court for new trial - Opinions are signed by all justices who agree with it.

20 The Supreme Court Process 3. Decisions and Opinions - Unanimous opinion - all justices agree on the opinion -When opinion is not unanimous a majority opinion is written, outlining the view of the majority -Concurring Opinion - a separate opinion written by a justice who supports the decision but wants to clarify a point or to voice disapproval of the grounds on which the decision was made -Dissenting Opinion - one or more written opinions written by justices who do not agree with the majority. Important because it forms the basis in later years to establish a new precedent 4. After opinion is written Court announces it from the bench

21 Judicial Activism and Judicial Restraint

22 Liberal Constitution living document –Meaning not fixed –Many times intention of framers cannot be determined –Language must be adapted to new times and conditions Activist judiciary has an essential role in adapting Constitution to new political problems. Federal judiciary should take active role in checking activities of President, Congress, state legislatures, and administrative agencies when they exceed their authority.

23 Judicial Restraint Conservative Judges should apply the Constitution not rewrite it –Judges must adhere strictly to the intent of the framers –To do otherwise is to substitute personal views for those specified in Constitution Courts should defer to the decisions made of legislative and executives branches because they were elected by the people. Judiciary should only be involved if a law clearly violates specific language in the Constitution.

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