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The U.S. Supreme Court and the Court System

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1 The U.S. Supreme Court and the Court System

2 The Structural Context of Court Behavior
Constitutional powers Article III (the Judicial Article) provides very little detail about the organization and operations of the judicial branch. Marbury v. Madison (1803) and the development of judicial review

3 The U.S. Court System: Organization and Jurisdiction
Dual court system There is one court system for the national government and one in each of the states. Most laws, legal disputes, and court decisions are located in the states. The most important political and constitutional issues eventually reach the federal courts.

4 Constitutional Provisions: Article III
The Supreme Court is the only court specifically mentioned in Article III of the Constitution. Congress was given the task of establishing “such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.” Article III specifies the jurisdiction of the federal courts.

5 Federal District Courts — Trial Courts of Original Jurisdiction
Most cases in the federal court system are first heard in one of the 94 district courts, and most of the business of the federal courts takes place at this level. Grand juries are used to indict a defendant in criminal cases. This is the only level of federal court that uses juries and witnesses. Some cases are heard by petit (trial) juries while some are heard by a judge (bench trial).

6 U.S. Courts of Appeal — Intermediate-level Courts of Appellate Jurisdiction
Courts of appeal do not hear new cases; they hear only cases on appeal. The United States is divided into 12 geographic regions (circuits) to hear appeals from the district courts. There is also a thirteenth appeals court, called the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, located in Washington, D.C.

7 U.S. District Courts The United States district courts are the trial courts of the federal court system. Within limits set by Congress and the Constitution, the district courts have jurisdiction to hear nearly all categories of federal cases, including both civil and criminal matters. Every day hundreds of people across the nation are selected for jury duty and help decide some of these cases.

8 There are 94 federal judicial districts, including at least one district in each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Three territories of the United States -- the Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands -- have district courts that hear federal cases, including bankruptcy cases. U.S. District Court for Statesboro

9 Procedure in the Courts of Appeal
Briefs Oral arguments New factual evidence cannot be introduced. Appeals are based on legal issues rather than facts. No witnesses are called or cross-examined. The panel issues a decision, often weeks or even months after the oral arguments. In important cases, the decision may be accompanied by a written opinion that explains the reasoning of the court. Decisions establish precedents that guide other judges; significance of stare decisis

10 U.S. Supreme Court A court of both original jurisdiction and appellate jurisdiction The size of the Court is determined by Congress; the number has been set at nine since 1869. The decisions and opinions of the Supreme Court become the most important sources of precedent on federal and constitutional questions for courts at all levels of jurisdiction.

11 Congress determines the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court serves as an appellate court for the federal appeals courts and for the highest courts of the states. Appellate jurisdiction is discretionary; the Supreme Court decides for itself whether to accept the case.

12 The Constitution establishes the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.
Disputes involving ambassadors and other diplomatic personnel Cases in which two or more states are parties to the dispute Disputes between the federal government and a state Disputes between a state and a citizen from another state

13 9 Members of the U.S. Supreme Court
Chief Justice 8 Associate Judges Can you name them?

14 Appointment to the Federal Bench
The appointment process Nominated by the president Characteristics of federal judges Advice and consent — the Senate’s power to confirm or reject presidential nominations

15 Ideology Past political and ideological positions of federal court nominees are generally a good guide to their later behavior on the bench. Presidents are sometimes surprised by decisions of their nominees.

16 The Supreme Court in Action
The Supreme Court is in session from the first Monday in October until late June or early July. The Court is a tradition-bound institution defined by many rituals (such as entering the courtroom in order of seniority) and long-standing norms (which are unwritten but clearly understood ways of behaving). Secrecy Courtesy Seniority Precedent

17 The Court has a number of screening mechanisms to control its docket.
Cases must be real and adverse. Parties in a case must have standing. Cases must be ripe. Appeals must be filed within a specified time limit, paperwork must be proper and complete, and a filing fee must be paid. Requirements may be waived if a petitioner is indigent and files an affidavit in forma pauperis. The most important tool that the Court has for controlling its agenda is the power to grant or not to grant a writ of certiorari (cert).

18 Deciding Cases Cases that are granted cert will be scheduled for oral argument. After reading the briefs and hearing oral arguments, the justices meet in conference to deliberate and reach a decision. Written opinion — a statement of the legal reasoning that supports the decision of the Court

19 Key Personnel Chief Justice
Solicitor General Name this person Law clerks U.S. Department of Justice & Attorney General

20 The Supreme Court As a National Policymaker
People often say that the Court should not make policy but should only settle disputes. The Court can’t help but make public policy because the disputes it settles involve contentious public issues and fundamental questions about the meaning of our constitutional rules. There are certain restrictions on the Court’s power to make policy.

21 Structural Change and Constitutional Interpretation: Three Periods in the History of U.S. Constitutional Law Period I: National power and property rights Period II: Government and the economy Period III: Individual rights and liberties

22 The Debate Over Judicial Activism
Judicial review Reversing past Supreme Court decisions Deciding political questions Remedies Loose construction contrasted with original intention The modern Court is more activist than it was in the past.

23 The Courts and Democracy
Courts make public policy. Judges are limited by the actions and preferences of many other political and governmental actors.

24 Georgia Judicial Branch
Georgia Supreme Court Georgia State Court System Bulloch County State Court The State Court of Bulloch County has jurisdiction over misdemeanor and traffic offenses in Bulloch County, and over most types of civil law suits. Bulloch County Probate Court

25 End Should federal judges – including the Supreme Court justices – be elected in partisan and/or non-partisan elections? Should there be term-limits?

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