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CH 10: The American Legal System and the Courts

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1 CH 10: The American Legal System and the Courts
SWBAT: -Identify the organization of the American Legal System -Examine the function and organization of the American Legal System.

2 Sources of law Constitutional laws – come from both state constitutions and the U.S. Constitution Common law – from cases (stare decisis) Statutory laws – from legislatures, both the U.S. Congress and state legislatures Administrative laws – from bureaucracies and agencies Executive orders – from presidents and governors

3 The development of judicial review
Hamilton and Federalist No. 78 Judicial branch is the least dangerous branch of government Court has power of neither the purse nor the sword Approved of judicial review because it would “check” the momentary passions of the people Article written before constitution even ratified

4 The development of judicial review, cont’d.
Marbury v. Madison – judicial review never mentioned specifically in Constitution; many argue the Court simply gave itself this power in Marbury John Marshall and the expansion of the power of the Supreme Court This power is used sparingly to strike down federal law; used more frequently to strike down state law

5 Understanding jurisdiction
Courts with original jurisdiction U.S. district courts State trial courts Courts with appellate jurisdiction U.S. courts of appeals State intermediate appellate courts State supreme courts Court with both original and appellate jurisdiction U.S. Supreme Court

6 Structure of U.S. Court system
The federal court system has three levels: federal district courts, circuit courts of appeal, and the U.S. Supreme Court The state court structure is the same: trial courts (all courts where trials happen), appellate level courts, and state supreme courts A few states have no mid-level appeals courts, like New Hampshire

7 U.S. district courts Lowest level of federal court system
94 district courts (each state has at least one) Hear both criminal and civil cases Juries responsible for verdict

8 U.S. courts of appeals Arranged into 12 circuits
Solely appellate jurisdiction No new evidence or witnesses Panel of three judges makes ruling, not a jury

9 The U.S. Supreme Court Nine justices, but has not always been nine
Appointed by the president, confirmed by the Senate Serve during good behavior for “life” Can be impeached

10 Selection of judges States Federal Method varies by state -Appointment
-Nonpartisan election -Partisan election Federal All federal judges are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate Senatorial courtesy is often invoked for lower-level federal courts

11 Four criteria considered for Supreme Court appointments
Merit Political ideology Strict constructionism vs. judicial interpretivism Reward Representation

12 Choosing which cases to hear
Petitioning the Supreme Court Writ of certiorari The role of law clerks The Rule of Four – only approximately 2% of all litigants filing a writ of cert will have their cases heard Other influences, including whether U.S. government is a party in the case

13 Deciding cases Judicial activism vs. judicial restraint
Judicial activism vs. judicial constructionism External factors Public opinion Executive branch Amicus briefs

14 Writing opinions Opinion Concurring opinion Dissenting opinion
Chief justice, if in the majority, will assign this opinion to someone in the majority If chief justice is in the minority, senior-most justice in the majority assigns the opinion Concurring opinion Dissenting opinion

15 The citizens and the courts
Equal treatment by the criminal justice system Equal access to the civil justice system Controversy over low long it takes cases to move up to an appellate court Controversy of appointment of judges instead of elections


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