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The Judiciary  Article III  Courts decide arguments about the meaning of laws, how they are applied, and whether they break the rules of the Constitution.

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Presentation on theme: "The Judiciary  Article III  Courts decide arguments about the meaning of laws, how they are applied, and whether they break the rules of the Constitution."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Judiciary  Article III  Courts decide arguments about the meaning of laws, how they are applied, and whether they break the rules of the Constitution

2 The Judicial Branch The Constitution created the Supreme Court.  It gives power of establishing other courts to Congress.  In 1789, the first Congress used this power to establish the district and appeals courts – called the lower courts. Three separate court levels  District Courts  Court of Appeals  The Supreme Court

3 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.


5 Con’t. Jurisdiction  The power given to courts to interpret the law is called jurisdiction Original jurisdiction: where the case is heard first, usually in a trial. Appellate jurisdiction: cases brought on appeal from a lower court.  Limited to federal and constitutional laws.

6 Con’t The federal courts hear cases where a person or group  disobeyed the constitution,  violated a treaty,  committed a crime on federal property, or  broke a federal law.

7 Levels of the Federal System  U.S. District Courts  Original jurisdiction  Lowest level  Judges  Juries  U.S. Courts of Appeal  Appellate jurisdiction  Judges  Points of law  Court of last resort  U.S. Supreme Court  Highest level  Original and appellate jurisdiction  Nine Justices  Chief justice  Associate justices

8 Federal Cases Federal question cases: involving the  U.S. Constitution  federal law  or treaties. Diversity cases: involving  different states  or citizens of different states. Controversies between two state governments can only be heard by the Supreme Court.

9 Levels of the Federal System U.S. District Courts U.S. Courts of Appeal U.S. Supreme Court

10 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;

11 Writs of Certiorari Requires agreement of four justices to hear the case Involving significant federal or constitutional question Involving conflicting decisions by circuit courts Involving Constitutional interpretation by one of the highest state courts

12 State Court System FEDERAL Original Appellate Both STATE District Courts Court of Appeals Supreme Court

13 Judicial Review Definition: 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. Controversy  Federalist Paper #78 The least feared branch = the least dangerous It cannot enforce its decisions Only the courts can ensure the limits of the constitution

14 Marbury v. Madison Marbury v. Madison (1803): The Supreme Court could declare a congressional act unconstitutional

15 Supreme Court Decision in Marbury V. Madison Marbury is entitled to the commission, but:  The Court cannot issue the writ because the Judiciary Act of 1789, is unconstitutional.  The Supreme Court of the United States has the power to review acts of other branches and determine their constitutionality. This power is called judicial review. Article III, Section 2 lays out the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court  "In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be a Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction."


17 The Congress passes a law that says all citizens who were not born in this country must return to their country of birth within one month. The president signs the law and says he will have the armed forces help to enforce compliance. 1.Do the people have any recourse? 2.In other words, can anything be done about this? 3.If so, what?

18 Understanding the Judiciary

19 Kinds of Court Opinions Per curiam: brief and unsigned Opinion of the court: majority opinion Concurring opinion: agrees with the ruling of the majority opinion, but modifies the supportive reasoning Dissenting opinion: minority opinion

20 Constitutional Interpretation Strict construction/restraint: judges are bound by the wording of the Constitution; judges are interpreters, not policy-makers. Judicial activism: judges should look to the underlying principles of the Constitution, and this can result in new policy. Today: most activists tend to be liberal, most strict constructionists tend to be conservative.

21 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.

22 Arguments Against Judicial Activism Judges lack expertise in designing and managing complex institutions. Initiatives require balancing policy priorities and allocating public revenues. Courts are not accountable because judges are not elected.

23 Checks on Judicial Power Judges have no enforcement mechanisms Confirmation and impeachment proceedings Changing the number of judges Revising legislation Amending the Constitution Altering jurisdiction

24 Public Opinion and the Courts Defying public opinion frontally may be dangerous to the legitimacy of the Supreme Court. Appointment process and life terms insulate justices from public opinion. Impeachment and lack of enforcement powers mean justices are not completely isolated from public opinion.

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