2 Essential Questions What are the procedures of the Supreme Court? Why a national judiciary?What purpose does the judicial branch serve?What are the procedures of the Supreme Court?How do cases reach the Supreme Court?How does the Supreme Court operate?
3 Important TermsJurisdiction—the authority of a court to hear and decide a caseExclusive jurisdiction—may only be heard in federal courtConcurrent jurisdiction—may be tried in either federal or state courtOriginal jurisdiction—the court in which a case is heard firstAppellate jurisdiction—hears a case on appeal
4 A Flaw in the Articles of Confederation Laws were interpreted and applied by the states.Disputes often ignored—Founders decided to write Article III in a single sentence: “The judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.”Since 1789, the U.S. exists under a dual court system.Over 100 federal courts and thousands of state courts exist today.
5 The Purpose Provide Justice—What is justice? Fairness, impartiality, reward, or penalty as deservedThe use of authority to uphold what is right, just, or lawfulNever perfect, but that is the goal
6 The Supreme CourtTerm begins 1st Monday of October, generally lasts all year with periodic recessesMeets for two consecutive weeks each monthMon. – Wed.: hears oral argumentsThurs. & Fri.: meets in conference to decide cases
7 The Supreme CourtAfter two-week “sitting,” Court recesses and justices work privately on paperworkConsider arguments in cases they have heardStudy petitions for reviewWork on “opinions” – written explanations on decisionsCourt grants review to 1% or less of all cases appealed- 2006: 8000 cases appealed, 67 heard by Court
8 How Cases Reach the Supreme Court 1 or 2 cases a year start w/ SCt under original jurisdictionFor a case to be heard by the Court on appeal, four of nine judges must agree that it should be placed on the Court’s docket.
9 How Cases Reach the Supreme Court Writ of CertiorariMost 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.Certificate (appeal)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.
11 Supreme Court at Work Briefs Oral Arguments Written documents filed with the Court before oral arguments begin; set forth legal arguments.Amicus Curiae – “friend of the court”Oral ArgumentsOnce SCt accepts a case, it sets a date on which lawyers on both sides will present oral arguments.30 minutes each side – strictly time limited (colored lights), justices often interrupt with questions
12 Supreme Court at Work The Court in Conference Chief Justice presides over a closed-door conference in which justices present their views on the case at hand.CJ gives summary of facts and offers recommendationsEach associate justice free to give their views in order of seniority6 justices must be present for a decisionSimple majority needed to decide a case
13 Opinions of the CourtFor major cases, SCt usually issues at least one written opinion.“Opinion” states facts of the case, announces Ct’s ruling, and explains its legal reasoning.
15 Influencing Court Decisions Five forces shape the decisions the Court makes:existing lawsthe personal views of the justicesthe justices’ interactions with one anothersocial forces and public attitudesCongress and the president
16 Basing Decisions on the Law Law is the foundation for deciding cases that come before the Supreme CourtWhen the meaning of a statute or a provision of the Constitution is not clear, the justices must interpret the language, determine what it means, and apply it to the circumstances of the case
17 Views of the JusticesSupreme Court justices, like other political figures, are people with active interests in important issuesVoting blocs, or justices who vote similarly on issues due to philosophy or ideology, exist in the Court on certain kinds of issuesWhen Courts are split on issues, a justice whose views are not consistent with either the majority or minority bloc might represent a swing vote, or deciding vote (often Justice Kennedy on current court)
18 Relations Among the Justices Despite the lack of frequent interaction, the quality of personal relations among the justices influences the Court’s decision makingA socially harmonious court is more likely to agree on decisions than one marked by personal antagonismThe Chief Justice has several powers that can be used to influence the Court’s decisions:During oral arguments and in conference, the chief justice can direct discussion and frame alternativesthe chief justice makes up the first version of the discussion list and assigns the writing of opinions to the justices
19 The Courts and SocietyUnlike Congress, the Supreme Court is well insulated from public opinion and daily political pressuresThe Court’s authority relies on public acceptance of and support for its decisionsThe values and beliefs of society influence Supreme Court justicesEx. Changing attitudes towards race and civil rights: Plessy to Brown
20 Balancing the Court’s Power The president can have an effect on the Court in several wayspower to appoint justices with Senate consentas chief executive plays role in enforcing Court decisions (ex. Eisenhower and the federalization of the Arkansas National Guard)
21 Balancing the Court’s Power Congress can also affect the Court in several wayscan reenact, in a different form, a law the Court rejects as unconstitutionalcan propose Constitutional amendment to overturn a Court rulingcan exercise power over the Court through its right to set justices’ salariesCongress sets the number of justices on the CourtSenate can use its power to confirm nominees to shape the Court’s outlook