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Chapter 11- The Supreme Court of the United States.

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Presentation on theme: "Chapter 11- The Supreme Court of the United States."— Presentation transcript:

1 Chapter 11- The Supreme Court of the United States

2 What kinds of punishment are cruel or unusual? What activities are protected by the right of free speech? When the SC is asked to decide cases that raise constitutional questions, Americans can see the importance of the Court’s role in our federal govt.

3 Background Govt had difficulty attracting able men to sit on it. (that ended w/John Marshall as the SC justice) The first meeting of the Court was scheduled to take place in New York City on Monday, February 1, 1790, but the lack of a quorum (only three of the six Justices were present) delayed the official opening until the following day, Tuesday, February 2, 1790. As stipulated by the Judiciary Act of 1789, there was one Chief Justice, John Jay, and five Associate Justices: James Wilson, William Cushing, John Blair, John Rutledge and James Iredell. Only Jay, Wilson, Cushing, and Blair were present at the Court's first sitting.

4 Justices and their jurisdiction: The constitution did not tell us how many justices should sit on the bench. The first Judiciary Act, passed in 1789, set the number of Justices at six, one Chief Justice and five Associates. Over the years Congress has passed various acts to change this number, fluctuating from a low of five to a high of ten. The Judiciary Act of 1869 fixed the number of Justices at nine.

5 A court can interpret the law only as it relates to a specific case. The decisions of the 9 justices can affect the lives of millions of people for years or even decades after the decision is made.

6 The Court’s Calendar The SC meets about 9 months each year. Starts in Oct and runs until the court ends (usually June). The term is named by the year it starts. We are in the 2013 Term. John Marshall Statue

7 The Court’s Procedures: 1 st Two Weeks The court sits for 2 consecutive weeks each month. What do they do at these meetings?

8 1 st Two Weeks Monday- Wednesday –The justices listen to oral arguments by lawyers on each side. Thursdays or Fridays –They meet in secret conferences to decide cases


10 2 nd Two Weeks The Court recesses and the justices work privately on paperwork. –They consider arguments in cases they have heard and petitions from plaintiffs. –They write opinions- written statements on cases they have decided

11 About 10K cases are sent to the Supreme Court in a given year. They only review about 65-100 of them. They can either hear oral arguments for cases or just write opinions for them.

12 How do cases reach the Court? Very few cases start in the Supreme Court.(original jurisdiction-maybe 5 a year) Most come by cases referred by the lower courts. They come in two ways: writ of certiorari or on appeal

13 Writ of certiorari-most reach the court this way writ of certiorari-a request that the court hear the case Each writ and the case it comes from is reviewed the Supreme Court clerks and then shortened into a cert. memo. The cert. memo is what the Supreme Court justices use to actually decide the case. Upon reviewing the memo, the particular justice that the case was assigned to will either deny the appeal himself and affirm the appeals court judgment or will bring the cert. memo before the other justices and debate whether the case should be heard.

14 In order for the case to be heard, four justices must agree to hear the case-Rule of Four. If four justices vote to hear the case, then it is placed onto the court’s docket and the parties and their attorney’s are notified that the Supreme Court agrees to hear the case.

15 The court will typically grant the petitions of cases that are exceptionally unique and that present an issue of law that would be considered far-reaching throughout the United States. The Supreme Court also prefers cases that are clear examples for the lower court so that exact guidance can be given.

16 When cases are rejected: it does not mean the Court agrees with the lower court but they may think it doesn’t involve a specific public issue, it may involve a question the Court doesn’t want to address or it may not be the best case for a ruling.

17 How are cases selected? When the petitions for certiorari come to the Court: 1.The justices or clerks identify worthy cases. 2.The Chief Justice puts them on a “discuss list”. 3.At the Court’s Thursday or Friday conferences- they discuss these cases –(if 4 of the 9 justices agree a case is accepted for decision). 4.The justices decide whether or not they need more information from the lawyers or will they rule with the info they have.

18 5. If the Court rules decides they don’t need oral arguments they will issue a per curium opinion- a brief unsigned statement of the Court’s decision (this is only a few cases)

19 Case is selected – Now What? Steps in Deciding Major Cases 1.Lawyers on each side submit a brief detailing legal arguments, facts and precedents. 2.Parties not directly involved but with an interest in the case may submit amicus curiae “friend of the court” briefs. Who would want to submit amicus curiae briefs?

20 Steps in Deciding Cases 3. Lawyers for each side make oral arguments during which justices may ask questions. They have 30 minutes and the justices can interrupt to ask questions.

21 4) On Thursdays and Fridays the Chief Justice presides over a secret conference, in which each single case is summarized and recommendations for handling it are made.

22 The justices spend about 30 minutes debating each case. Justices usually ask many questions of the attorneys to challenge and clarify their arguments. Each justice has one vote. (they do this in private) A majority vote is needed to decide a case

23 Justices decision are written in opinions describing how the law must be applied or how the Constitution must be interpreted. Once opinions are written they can be circulated among each other and changes can be made.

24 The justices may issue four kinds of opinions: 1.unanimous opinion- all vote the same 2.majority opinion- the majority of justices agree 3.concurring opinion- when one or more justices agree with the majority on the conclusion but for different reasons 4.dissenting opinion- the opinion of the justices on the losing side.

25 Section 2 Shaping Public Policy

26 Shaping Public Policy The court determines public policy by all they do. However there are 3 ways that really shape it.

27 Shaping policy 1.Judicial Review: the Court has power to examine the laws and actions of local, state, and national govts and to cancel them if they violate the Constitution.

28 2.) Interpretation of Laws: the court’s interpretation of the very general language of laws allows it decide how the law applies to specific situations.

29 3).Overturning earlier decisions- The courts rulings become precedents on which to base other similar decisions, however since times change, the court may overturn or reverse its earlier decision.

30 Limits to the Court There are 3 main limits to the Court 1)Limits on the types of issues it addresses- –it deals little with foreign policy but largely with civil liberties Civil liberties cases make up the largest number of court cases

31 2)Limits on the types of cases Since the court can decide only those cases that come to it from else where, in the legal system, events beyond the courts control shape its agenda.

32 3)Limits to enforce its decisions. Noncompliance by other courts also is difficult to monitor.

33 Section 3 Influencing Court Decisions

34 forces shape the decisions the Court makes: 1.existing laws 2.The Constitution 3.Precedents 4.the personal view of the justices

35 Influencing the Court 1) Existing Laws -law is the foundation for deciding cases that come before the Court. Justices try to determine the intentions of lawmakers at the time they made the particular law.

36 2) The Constitution –Judges believe the Constitution is the will of the people –Justices may even read historical documents such as the Federalist Papers, or letters or journals to try to determine the intent of the Framers

37 3) Precedents -always a factor –They must consider all precedents that have been established by any court –A basic legal principle of the American legal system is to respect past judicial decisions.

38 Influencing the Court 4) Justices Personal Opinions- -Justices monitor impt issues, some become identified with them. Justices are only human even though they try to be impartial.

39 The President and Congress checks and balances Congress and the President –The power of presidents to fill vacancies on the court gives them influence over the court. The President is responsible for enforcing the court’s decisions –Congress has the power to limit the court’s ability to hear certain cases by: May propose a constitutional amendment to overturn a decision, may set but not reduce the justices salaries,

40 Views of other justices- –Modern justices meet for discussion but most communicate in writing. –Personal relations among justices may influence their decisions. The Chief Justice’s skillful leadership can help promote harmony.

41 Social Forces and Public Attitudes –although insulated from public opinion and political pressures the court needs public support; –its authority depends in part on public acceptance. –Justices are influenced by the values and beliefs of society; their decisions usually reflect impt societal changes.

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