Presentation on theme: "American Government and Politics Today"— Presentation transcript:
1 American Government and Politics Today Chapter 13The Courts
2 The Common Law Tradition American law stems from English legal traditionUnlike the law in many other countries, English law is based on common lawJudge-made law is based on custom and then on precedentStare decisis: to stand on decided casesA decision in an initial case is binding on ensuing cases of that typeMajor advantages of this system are efficiency and stability
3 Sources of American Law ConstitutionsStatutes and administrative regulationsCase law
4 The Federal Court System Basic judicial requirementsJurisdiction: the authority to hear and decide casesThe Constitution says that federal courts have jurisdiction in cases that:Involve a federal questionInvolve diversity of citizenshipStanding to sue
8 Parties and Procedures Plaintiff: the person or organization that initiates a lawsuitDefendant: the person or organization against whom the lawsuit is broughtLitigate: to engage in a legal proceeding or seek relief in a court of law; to carry on a lawsuitClass-action suit: a lawsuit that is filed to seek damages for a large group of persons in the same situation
9 Parties and Procedures (continued) An amicus curiae brief: filed by a third party (“friend of the court”) who is not directly involved in the litigation but who has an interest in the outcome of the caseProcedural rulesCivil contempt: failing to comply with a court’s order for the benefit of another partyCriminal contempt: obstructing administration of justice or bringing the court into disrespect
10 Which Cases Reach the Supreme Court? When two lower courts are in disagreementWhen a lower court’s ruling conflicts with an existing Supreme Court rulingWhen a case has broad significance (as in desegregation or abortion decisions)When a state court has decided a substantial federal question
11 Which Cases Reach the Supreme Court? (continued) When the highest state court holds a federal law invalidWhen the highest state court upholds a state law that has been challenged as violating a federal lawWhen a federal court holds an act of Congress unconstitutionalWhen the Solicitor General pressures the Court to hear a case
12 The Supreme Court at Work Granting petitions for review - review is granted by a writ of certiorari, issued when a minimum of four justices agree that the case should be heard by the Supreme Court (the “rule of four”)Deciding cases - both parties in the case submit legal briefs and (usually) make oral argumentsDecisions and opinionsAffirmed, reversed, or remandedUnanimous opinionMajority opinionConcurring opinionDissenting opinion
13 The Selection of Federal Judges Judicial appointmentsFederal District Court judgeship nominationsFederal Courts of Appeals appointmentsSupreme Court appointmentsThe special role of the Chief JusticePartisanship and judicial appointmentsThe Senate’s role
14 Policy Making and the Courts Judicial reviewJudicial activism and judicial restraintStrict versus broad constructionIdeology and the Rehnquist CourtThe Court shifted to the right, on the wholeFederalism - the Rehnquist Court emphasized states’ rightsCivil rights - mixed results under the Rehnquist CourtThe Roberts Court - too early to generalize
15 What Checks Our Courts? Executive checks Legislative checks The courts have no enforcement power; the president doesIn rare cases a president refuses to implement a decisionMore frequently, presidents use their power of appointment to check the judiciaryLegislative checksConstitutional amendmentsRewriting laws
16 What Checks Our Courts? (continued) Public opinionJudicial traditions and doctrines - to a certain extent, the courts check themselvesHypothetical and political questions refusing to adjudicate on eitherThe impact of the lower courts they cannot overturn a Supreme Court ruling, but can choose to apply it in as limited a fashion as possible
17 Questions for Critical Thinking Why do laws exist? Who makes the law? What happens if someone violates the law? What if the law is not fair or just?Since they are not elected, should Supreme Court judges be making policy? Is it dangerous for those who do not face the public scrutiny in any meaningful way to directly craft policy?
18 Questions for Critical Thinking What checks do the executive and the legislature have on the judiciary? Does the bureaucracy have any checks? Does the public?