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The Federal Court System

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1 The Federal Court System
Ch. 8.1 The Federal Court System

2 Equal Justice for All Courts are meant to settle civil disputes between private parties, a private party v. the government, or the U.S. v. a state or local government. Court applies the law properly and rules in favor of one party or the other

3 Equal Justice for All Courts also hold criminal trials for people accused of crimes. Witnesses present evidence; jury or judge deliver the verdict of guilt or innocence

4 Equal Justice for All Everyone accused of a crime has the right to a public trial and a lawyer (6th) If a person cannot afford representation, court must appoint and pay for one. Everyone must be presumed “innocent until proven guilty” Can ask for a review of the case if court made a mistake

5 Equal Justice for All The main goal of the legal system is equal justice under the law. Can be difficult to achieve. Why? Judges and juries are not free from personal prejudices Discrepancy between the rich/poor when it comes to getting the best legal help

6 The Federal Court System
Article III establishes a national Supreme Court and gives Congress the power to establish lower federal courts Over the years, Congress set up three levels in the federal court system: District courts, the Appellate courts, and the Supreme Court Each state has its own set of laws and court system as well.

7 The Federal Court System

8 The Federal Court System
Jurisdiction—a court’s authority to hear and decide cases. The U.S. Constitution gives federal courts jurisdiction over 8 types of cases.

9 Federal Court Jurisdiction
Any case that applies to the U.S. Constitution. Any violation of federal laws. Any disagreements between state governments (civil cases). Civil lawsuits between citizens of different states Any case in which the U.S. government sues or gets sued

10 Federal Court Jurisdiction
Any disputes between a foreign government and either the U.S. government or American private party Admiralty and Maritime laws (accidents or crimes on the high seas) Any case involving a U.S. Diplomat

11 Federal Court Jurisdiction
The federal courts in these 8 areas have exclusive jurisdiction – only courts who can hear and decide such cases. 90% of all cases involve state law and are tried in state courts In a few circumstances, state and federal courts have concurrent jurisdiction – courts share jurisdiction and either may hear the case

12 Ch. 8.2: How Federal Courts are Organized
District Courts are the federal courts where: - lawsuits are begun - trials are held There are 94 total U.S. District Courts nationwide

13 U.S. District Courts For all federal cases, district courts have original jurisdiction – the authority to hear the case for the first time. Hear both civil and criminal cases Only federal courts that involve witnesses and juries

14 U.S. Court of Appeals People who lose in a District Court often appeal to the next highest level – A U.S. court of appeals Appeals courts review decisions made in lower district courts This is appellate jurisdiction – the authority to hear a case appealed from a lower court

15 U.S. Court of Appeals Lawyers usually appeal their clients case when they feel the district court judge did not follow proper procedures or did not apply the law correctly. Appeals may be based on new evidence that could impact the verdict.

16 U.S. Court of Appeals Organization
The U.S. Court of Appeals have 12 circuits, or particular geographic areas of jurisdiction around the U.S. There is a 13th appeals court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Has nationwide jurisdiction in special cases—international trade or patent law Based in Washington, D.C. but can hear cases from other parts of the country

17 U.S. Court of Appeals Appeals courts do not hold trials; do not determine guilt or innocence Decide an appeal in three ways: Uphold the original decision Reverse the decision Remand the case: send it back to a lower court to be tried again.

18 U.S. Court of Appeals A panel of three or more judges review the record of the case and listen to arguments from both sides lawyers. Meet and make a decision by a majority vote Judges do not decide guilt/innocence in a criminal case or who wins in a civil case. Just rule on whether defendants rights were protected and if he received a fair trial; decisions are usually final.

19 U.S. Court of Appeals When the appeals courts make a decision, one judge has to write the opinion for the court. The opinion offers a detailed explanation of the legal thinking behind the court’s decision. Opinion will set the precedent for all courts within the district.

20 U.S. Court of Appeals The precedent gives guidance to other and future judges by offering a model upon which they can base their own decisions on similar cases. Precedent is a very powerful argument to use in court; judges and courts follow precedents in nearly all cases.

21 Federal Judges Federal judges are the chief decision makers in the judicial branch. Over 650 judges who preside over all the district courts; each district has at least 2 judges District courts in high populated states have more judges because there are more cases to hear; Appeals court can range from 6-28 judges; Supreme Court has 9 justices

22 Selection Process Article II states that the President, with advise and consent of the Senate, will appoint federal judges. Constitution, however, does not set any particular qualifications for federal judges. President appoints judges who share same ideas on politics and law; usually from same political party

23 Selection Process Presidents usually follow a practice called senatorial courtesy. President submits the name of a candidate to the senators from the candidates home state before submitting it to the entire senate for approval. If either or both senators object to the candidate, president will remove candidate’s name and select a new one. Usually only applies to the district courts; not court of appeals or Supreme Court

24 Selection Process Once appointed, judges have tenure, or their jobs for life. Can only be removed through the process of impeachment. Framers wanted federal judges to have this sort of job security for the ability to decide cases free from public or political pressure.

25 Court Officials Judges do not do all the work themselves.
Each district court has magistrate judges, who take care of the routine work Issue court orders (summons, subpoenas, search and arrest warrants); hear preliminary evidence to determine if case should go to trial; determine bail for accused individuals

26 Court Officials Each judicial district has a U.S. Attorney
Government lawyers who prosecute those accused of breaking federal laws Look into complaints of a crime; prepare formal charges; present evidence in court Job is to represent the nation in civil cases in which the government is involved; appointed to 4 year terms by the president and confirmed by the Senate

27 Court Officials Each district has a U.S. Marshal
Marshals and staff make arrests; collect fines; transport convicted people to prison; Also protect jurors; keep order in the court; and serve legal papers (subpoenas)

28 Ch. 8.3: The Supreme Court The Supreme Courts main job is to decide whether laws are allowable under the U.S. Constitution Article III of the Constitution established the boundaries of federal judicial power For the most part, the Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction, but does have original jurisdiction in 2 types of cases: cases involving diplomats from foreign countries; disputes between the states

29 Jurisdiction The Supreme Court does not hear all the cases it receives, it chooses the cases it hears. Supreme Court has final authority in any case involving: the Constitution, acts of Congress, and treaties with other nations. Decisions made are binding on all lower courts. If case is rejected, decision of the lower case must stand.

30 Organization The Supreme Court consists of 9 justices: 8 associate justices and 1 chief justice One main duty to perform is after reviewing a case, the justices have to write the court’s opinion Remember the opinion of the court establishes precedent for the rest of the country

31 Selection of Justices The president appoints Supreme Court justice, with Senate approval The President’s decision to appoint can be influenced by different groups: Justice Dept. (Attorney General) American Bar Association Interest groups Other Supreme Court justices

32 Background Supreme Court justices are always lawyers; practiced or taught law; served on lower court Individuals get appointed to the bench because of a few factors: Successful law career Political support Same political and legal philosophy as President

33 Powers of the Court The legislative and executive branches must follow Supreme Court rulings. Since the Court is removed from politics and the influence of politicians and interest groups, parties involved with a case are likely to get a fair hearing.

34 Judicial Review The Court’s main job is to decide whether laws and government actions are constitutional, or allowed by the Constitution. Court does this through judicial review—the power to say whether any law or government action goes against the Constitution.

35 Judicial Review The Constitution does not give the Supreme Court the power of judicial review Court claimed that power when it decided the case Marbury v. Madison

36 Marbury v. Madison As John Adams was leaving the presidency, he signed an order making many individuals federal judges including William Marbury (Justice of the Peace) Incoming President Thomas Jefferson refused to carry out the order; without the confirmation papers, Marbury does not become a judge. Takes case to the Supreme Court

37 Marbury v. Madison Marbury’s main argument came through the Judiciary Act of 1789, in which he asked for an issuing of Writ of Mandamus Congress can grant the Supreme Court original jurisdiction in which they can order a government officer to perform mandatory duties (such as confirm judges)

38 Marbury v. Madison Remember, under Article III of the Constitution, the Supreme Court only has original jurisdiction in two types of cases: anything involving foreign diplomats and disputes between the states; anything else has to work its way through the appellate process. Question: can Congress expand the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court?

39 Marbury v. Madison Chief Justice John Marshall decided that Congress does not have the power to modify the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction Constitution and Judiciary Act of 1789 conflict

40 Principles Established
In court’s opinion three principles are established: Constitution is the supreme law of the land If a law conflicts with the Constitution, Constitution rules The judicial branch has a duty to uphold the Constitution; ability to determine when a law conflicts with the Constitution and void that law (judicial review)

41 Judicial Review This is a major check against the other two branches
It can declare if acts or executive orders are unconstitutional

42 Limits to the Court’s Power
The Court depends on the executive branch and state and local officials to enforce its decisions; usually they do Exception: Worchester v. Georgia

43 Limits to the Court’s Power
Congress can get around a Court ruling by passing a new law, changing a law ruled unconstitutional, or amending the Constitution The President has the power to appoint justices; Congress has the power to approve appointments Congress can remove judges/justices through the impeachment process

44 Limits to the Court’s Power
The Court cannot rule in a case or decide if a law is unconstitutional unless the law has been challenged in a lower court and the case comes to it on appeal The Court will accept only cases that involve a federal question.

45 Ch. 8.4: Deciding Cases at the Supreme Court
The Supreme Court conducts business each year during the October Term: October-June. Each month the justices spend two weeks listening to oral arguments on cases and two weeks writing opinions and studying new cases.

46 How Cases Reach the Court
The Court receives most of its cases on appeal from a lower court Sometimes a lower court asks for a ruling because it is not sure how to apply the law in a case. (writ of certiorari) which means to make more certain.

47 How Cases Reach the Court
Of the more than 7000 applications each year, the Court agrees to hear around 150. For a case to be accepted, 4 of 9 justices have to agree to review it. Selected cases usually involve important constitutional issues and affect the entire nation. Once accepted, the case goes on the Court docket, or calendar

48 Steps in Decision Making
Each accepted case goes through 5 steps: Written Argument—lawyers for each side prepare a brief, written document that one side’s position on the case. Justices take time to study the briefs

49 Steps in Decision Making
Oral Arguments—lawyers for each side have 30 minutes each to summarize its case During this time the justices have the opportunity to ask the lawyers very tough questions that the lawyers have to be prepared to answer about the case.

50 Steps in Decision Making
Conference—On Fridays, the justices get together to make their decisions on the case; always held in secret; no audience; no meeting minutes are kept. The Chief Justice presides over the discussion A majority, 5 of 9 decides the outcome of a case (at least 6 must be present for a decision)

51 Steps in Decision Making
Opinion Writing—once a decision has been reached, one justice gets the job of writing the majority opinion. Majority opinion represents the views of the majority of the justices on a case Opinion states the facts of the case, announces the ruling, and explains the Court’s reasoning in reaching the decision.

52 Steps in Decision Making
Opinions are important because they establish the precedent for the lower courts to follow. Justices who oppose the majority opinion may write a dissenting opinion. A justice who agrees with the majority decision, but for different reasons can write a concurring decision.

53 Steps in Decision Making
Announcement—Court announces its decision, written copies reach the news wire and the decision can be read on the Supreme Courts’ website.

54 Reasons for Court Decisions
The Law Written law is the foundation for deciding cases that come before the Supreme Court The guiding principle is “stare decisis” which means let the decision Following precedent makes the law predictable; at the same time law must be somewhat flexible to adapt to the changing times times

55 Reasons for Court Decisions
Changing Social Conditions—when social conditions change in this country, the Court may make new interpretations of the law Ex. Plessy v. Ferguson >>>>Brown v. Board of Ed.

56 Reasons for Court Decisions
Differing Legal Views—some believe that that the court should be active in the types of cases they hear. Other justices believe that the Court should be conservative in its use of judicial review. Personal Beliefs—people see the world based on their own experiences, decisions on cases sometimes reflect that

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