FEDERALIST PAPERS (# 78) “Judges…(are) the best expedient which can be devised in any government, to secure a steady, upright, and impartial administration of the laws.” -Alexander Hamilton, 1788
AMERICAN LAW HAS ENGLISH TRADITIONS English Common Law William Blackstone, “Commentaries on the Laws of England, 1765-1769”
AMERICA’S DUAL COURT SYSTEM State Courts Each of the 50 states has its own system of courts. Most cases are heard in these courts. Federal Courts The national judiciary spans the country with more than 100 courts. Article III of the Constitution established a Supreme Court and allowed Congress to create the lower courts.
2014 U.S. SUPREME COURT Chief Justice, John G. Roberts, Jr. (Bush/2005) Antonin Scalia (Reagan/ 1986) Anthony Kennedy (Reagan/ 1988) Clarence Thomas ( GHW Bush/ 1991) Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Clinton/ 1993) Stephen Breyer (Clinton/ 1994) Samuel Alito, Jr. (Bush/ 2006) Sonia Sotomayer (Obama/ 2009) Elena Kagen (Obama/ 2010)
THE LOWER/INFERIOR COURTS The Constitutional Courts Federal Courts formed under Article III to exercise the “judicial power of the United States.” District Courts (trials) Courts of Appeals Court of International Trade The Special Courts Special courts created by Congress to hear cases arising out of some of the expressed powers of Congress. Tax court; Appeals Ct (Vets) Court of Fed. Claims Territorial Courts Court of Appeals (Mil) Courts of Dist. Of Columbia
FEDERAL JURISDICTION Is there a “federal question?” (case is based on either the U.S. Constitution, a treaty, or federal law) Is there diversity of citizenship? Is there “standing to sue? Is there justiciable controversy? (not hypothetical or academic)
WHICH CASES REACH THE SUPREME COURT? There is no absolute right of appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court carefully decides which cases to hear. If a legal question had been decided differently in a lower court, it might need resolution by the highest court. If a lower court’s ruling conflicts with a previous SC decision. Can the issue have significance beyond the parties of the dispute?
SOURCES OF AMERICAN LAW The U.S. Constitution State Constitutions Statutes Administrative regulations
HOW DOES A JUDGE DECIDE? Facts of the case Relevant precedent The text of the Constitution Judicial Philosophy