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Federal Courts & Organization

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1 Federal Courts & Organization
The Judicial Branch

2 SSCG16 The student will demonstrate knowledge of the operation of the federal judiciary.
a. Explain the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, federal courts and the state courts. c. Describe how the Supreme Court decides cases. d. Compare the philosophies of judicial activism and judicial restraint. SSCG4 The student will demonstrate knowledge of the organization and powers of the national government. a. Describe the structure and powers of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. b. Analyze the relationship between the three branches in a system of checks and balances and separation of powers.

3 The Creation of a National Judiciary

4 The Creation of a National Judiciary
The federal court system was established by Article III of the Constitution Article III Section 1 There are two separate court systems in the United States The United States has a national system of courts Each State has its own court system that hears most of the cases brought in this country

5 Two Types of Federal Courts
Constitutional Courts Legislative Courts The three-tiered system of Federal District courts, Courts of Appeal (originally circuit courts), and the Supreme Court. Article III of the Constitution provides for the creation of these courts. Judges serve for life Various Administrative Courts and Tribunals that Congress establishes Created by Congress as need arises by power established in Article I of the Constitution. Judges serve fixed terms 14-1 Constitutional and Legislative Courts

6 Federal Court System (Article III) Three Tier Configuration
Supreme Court Courts of Appeals Appellant Jurisdiction Federal District Courts Original Jurisdiction


8 The Lower Federal Courts District Courts
Created by Congress (based on Article III) Political appointment process (strong Congressional influence) District Courts (DC): Purpose & focus: establish the facts of the case In most cases => decide fate (end of trial or appeals) Most DC cases are civil cases (80+%) vs. criminal (mostly state) Statutory actions & Petitions from prisoners Civil rights complaints & Tax suits Bankruptcies & Contract enforcement & Liability claims Main DC job: Apply the law as defined by Congress Little flexibility (w/some limited opportunities)

9 Courts of Appeal Decide cases appealed from District courts
Appellate Jurisdiction (aka: Appellate Courts) Focus: legal issues tried in district or state: Determine if trial was fair Judge applied law correctly (Do not determine facts of case => who does?) District Courts Result: Appellate Courts have more flexibility to interpret & extend law

10 Jurisdiction in the Federal Courts
Federal Courts have exclusive jurisdiction (authority to rule on cases) in all of the following cases: Cases involving United States laws, treaties with foreign nations, or interpreting the Constitution. Cases involving patent, copyright, and trademark cases Cases involving antitrust law Cases involving bankruptcy, securities and banking regulations Cases involving law at sea Cases involving disputes between states Cases involving ambassadors and other high-ranking public figure EQ 1Antitrust—The body of law designed to protect trade and commerce from restraining monopolies, price fixing, and price discrimination.

11 Jurisdiction in the Federal Courts
All cases that do not fall under the jurisdiction of the federal courts are within the jurisdiction of the State courts Some cases have exclusive (federal courts only) jurisdiction Some cases have concurrent (federal or state courts) jurisdiction EQ 2: Concurrent jurisdiction

12 Powers of the Supreme Court
Judicial Review – power to declare laws and actions of local, state, and national governments unconstitutional Rules on appeals from state supreme courts State Courts have jurisdiction in all cases involving state laws. Most cases are handled at the state level.

13 Judicial Review Judicial Activism
Judicial review is the doctrine allowing the Supreme Court to review and overturn laws made by Congress and decisions made by the president. What happens when Judicial Review is taken to extreme? Judicial Activism EQ 3 Judicial Activism is the vigorous use of judicial review to overturn laws and make public policy from the federal bench.

14 Judicial Activism v. Judicial Restraint
Judicial activists believe that the federal courts must correct injustices that are perpetuated or ignored by the other branches. Judicial restraint is the belief that judges should base their court decisions on written laws and legal precedent, without considering their personal and political opinions EQ 3

15 The End Day One end

16 The Supreme Court

17 SSCG16 The student will demonstrate knowledge of the operation of the federal judiciary.
b. Examine how John Marshall established the Supreme Court as an independent, coequal branch of government through his opinions in Marbury v. Madison. c. Describe how the Supreme Court decides cases.

18 Supreme Court of the U. S. Highest Court in the United States:
Composed of 8 Associate Justices and 1 Chief Justice Appointed for life terms by the President, with Senate confirmation Has original jurisdiction (authority of a trial court to be first to hear a case) in the following types of cases: Disputes between states Disputes involving diplomats and foreign governments Has appellate jurisdiction (authority of a trial court to hear a case on appeal from a lower court) from lower federal courts and state supreme courts

19 Establishment of Judicial Review

20 Establishment of Judicial Review
Established by Marbury v. Madison Chief Justice John Marshall ruled that the Supreme Court had the power to review acts of Congress - Judicial Review. The Supreme Court ruled that a Congressional law was unconstitutional, and thus expanded the power of the Court. EQ: 1

21 How Cases Reach the Court
Over 6,000 cases are appealed to the Supreme Court each year The Court will select only a few hundred to be heard Under the “Rule of Four,” at least four justices must agree that the Court should hear a case before the case is selected for the Court’s docket

22 How Cases Reach the Court
The Court will dispose of half of the cases with a simple, brief, written statement The Court decides, with full opinions, only about 100 cases per year Most cases reach the Court by writ of certiorari – an order to a lower court to send the record in a given case to the Supreme Court for its review

23 How Cases Reach the Court
“Cert” (writ of certiorari) is granted in only a limited number of cases Constitutional question When “Cert” is denied, the lower court ruling stands A few cases reach the Court by “certificate” Not clear about a rule of law

24 How Cases Reach the Court
Most cases reach the Supreme Court through the State Supreme Courts and the Federal Courts of Appeal

25 The Supreme Court at Work

26 The Supreme Court at Work
The court term begins at 10:00 am on the first Monday in October The term will usually end in June or July Justices hear cases in two-week cycles Usually will hear oral arguments on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and sometimes Thursday

27 The Supreme Court at Work
Written Arguments Each attorney must submit a brief. Briefs are the main way that information is provided to the Justices. Briefs, written documents supporting one side of a case, are submitted before oral arguments are heard May run into the hundreds of pages Amicus curiae (friend of the court briefs), these are written by people interested in the case but not directly involved Can only be filed with court’s permission

28 The Supreme Court at Work
Oral Arguments Each lawyer must be on the approved list to argue cases before the Supreme Court Each side receives thirty minutes to argue their case Justices can interrupt a lawyer at any time to ask questions about the case When the red light goes on, the period is over

29 The Supreme Court at Work
The Solicitor General represents the United States whenever the US is a party to a case He or she decides which cases to appeal to the Supreme Court The present Solicitor General is Donald B. Verrilli, Jr.

30 The Supreme Court at Work
The Conference: Done behind closed doors and no written records are kept of the proceedings (deliberate in secret) Chief Justice speaks first about the case and lays out his reasoning about the rule of law and how the case should be decided The Chief Justice will vote last giving him the opportunity to break a tie, if necessary Quorum for the Court is six Majority is necessary for a decision to be rendered 4 of 6; 4 of 7; 5 of 8; 5 of 9

31 The Supreme Court at Work
Opinion writing If the vote ends in a tie, the decision of the court that heard the case last, stands If the Chief Justice is in the majority, he will write the opinion of the court or will assign this to one of the majority voters If Chief Justice is in the minority, the senior Justice in the majority will serve in this role

32 The Supreme Court at Work
Majority Opinion Concurring Opinion Dissenting Opinion The document announcing and usually explaining the Supreme Court's decision in a case. A statement from one or more Supreme Court justices agreeing with a decision in a case, but giving an alternative explanation for it. A statement from one or more Supreme Court justices explaining why they disagree with a decision in a case. 14-4 Supreme Court Opinions Voting Patterns: Predictable positions of Supreme Court justices “5-4” Decisions & the role of Kennedy & Roberts

33 The Supreme Court at Work
Stare decisis – let the decision stand Creates the rule of precedent Dissenting Opinion could be used to overturn some future case

34 The Supreme Court at Work
Announcement Once the majority and dissenting opinions are completed, the Court announces its decision and publishes its opinions. These opinions are then used to guide courts across the country. These are judicial precedents.


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