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The Judicial Branch Chapter 13. Founding of Judicial Branch Judicial Act of 1789 basically established the current Federal set-up of the Judicial Branch.

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Presentation on theme: "The Judicial Branch Chapter 13. Founding of Judicial Branch Judicial Act of 1789 basically established the current Federal set-up of the Judicial Branch."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Judicial Branch Chapter 13

2 Founding of Judicial Branch Judicial Act of 1789 basically established the current Federal set-up of the Judicial Branch Dual Court system: two separate but related court systems at the state and federal level; each maintain exclusive jurisdiction in some areas but may overlap when cases involve both state and federal laws State Judicial Systems: Each state has its own hierachy of courts, with limited and and general jurisdiction, with intermediate appeals courts and state courts of last resort

3 Main role: Resolving Society’s conflicts Courts are to keep order and resolve conflicts – 2 types of conflicts: Criminal Law: Government always prosecutes criminal cases; person must be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and punishments range from fines, prison sentences, probation, etc. Civil Law: conflicts between private parties and government; proof only has to be preponderance of evidence, which is just proving that more than likely the other party is at fault and should be held accountable; usually involved compensation of some sort

4 Types of courts Court of origination: Where the original case is heard, witnesses presented, and jury decision; examples include U.S. district courts, trial courts of general jurisdiction, trial courts of limited jurisdiction Appellate courts: review decisions made in lower courts to make sure the court proceedings were fair, with no errors in law; examples include U.S. court of appeals, intermediate courts of appeals, Supreme Court Special Courts: deal with specific categories of cases; can be courts of origination or appellate

5 Standing to Sue There must be a real controversy between adversaries. Personal harm must be demonstrated. Being a taxpayer does not ordinarily constitute entitlement to challenge federal government action; this requirement is relaxed when the First Amendment is involved.

6 Federal Cases Federal question cases: involving the U.S. Constitution, federal law, or treaties. Diversity cases: involving different states, or citizens of different states.

7 Federal Cases Some cases that begin in state courts can be appealed to the Supreme Court. Controversies between two state governments can only be heard by the Supreme Court.

8 Levels of Federal Courts

9 Structure of the Federal Courts District Courts: the entry point for most litigation in federal courts, trial courts. Courts of Appeal: review all final decisions of district courts, with the authority to review and enforce orders of regulatory agencies. Supreme Court: sets its own agenda.


11 Judicial Review Judicial review: the right of the federal courts to rule on the constitutionality of laws and executive actions. It is the chief judicial weapon in the checks and balances system.

12 National Supremacy Marbury v. Madison (1803): The Supreme Court could declare a congressional act unconstitutional. McCulloch v. Maryland (1819): The power granted to federal government should be construed broadly and federal law is supreme over state law.

13 Selecting Justices Party background has a strong effect on judicial behavior. Senatorial courtesy: Appointees for federal courts are reviewed by senators from that state, if the senators are of the president’s party (particularly for U.S. district courts).

14 Selecting Justices Presidents seek judicial appointees who share their political ideologies. Senate filibusters have delayed judicial nominations, causing several potential judges to remove their names from consideration.

15 Constitutional Interpretation Strict construction: justices are bound by the wording of the Constitution Original intent: deciding based on the intent of the founding fathers Judicial restraint: justices are interpreters, not policy-makers. Loose construction: considering the underlying principles of the Constitution Judicial activism: using underlying concepts in the constitution to make bold new policy.

16 Arguments Against Judicial Activism Judges lack expertise in designing and managing policies. The court makes decisions that require funding state governments don’t have or would prefer to spend elsewhere. Courts are not accountable because judges are not elected and serve life terms.

17 Arguments for Judicial Activism Courts should correct injustices when other branches or state governments refuse to do so. Courts are the last resort for those without the power or influence to gain new laws.

18 8 Steps to Judgment 1) Reviewing Appeals: Petition for a writ of certiorari (formal petition asking the court to review the case) 2) Briefing the case: Case is put on the docket (list of potential cases that reach the Supreme Court) – The Rule of 4 requires agreement of four justices to hear the case – Cases typically involve significant federal or constitutional question, conflicting decisions by circuit courts, and/or involving constitutional interpretation by one of the highest state courts

19 8 Steps to Judgment 3) Briefing the case: preparing the written arguments of the case; amicus curiae briefs can be filed 4) Holding oral argument; usually have 30 minutes per side 5) Meeting in Conference: Discussions take place on the facts, evidence, questions, etc.

20 8 Steps to Judgment 6) Explaining the decision: Types of decisions issued: Per curiam: brief and unsigned Opinion of the court: majority opinion, sets precedent Concurring opinion: agrees with the ruling of the majority opinion, but for a different or additional reason Dissenting opinion: minority opinion; does not serve as precedent Stare Decisis: A decision without an opinion, showing respect for precedent

21 8 Steps to Judgment 7) Writing the opinion 8) Releasing the opinion

22 Influences on Supreme Court Decisions Precedence Amicus curiae briefs (interest groups outside of the parties involved expressing their opinions) Chief Justice – how frames questions, which justice he assigns the case to… Law clerks – advice given to justices Solicitor General


24 Checks on Judicial Power Judges have no enforcement mechanisms Confirmation by Senate Impeachment for bad behavior Changing the number of judges Revising legislation Amending the Constitution Altering jurisdiction

25 Public Opinion and the Courts Defying public opinion may harm the legitimacy and reputation of the Supreme Court. Appointment process and life terms insulate justices from public opinion. Justices deliberate in secret. Impeachment and lack of enforcement power mean justices are not completely isolated from public opinion. The Court counts on others to respect its decisions.

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