Sscg: 16 Unit 7: Judicial Branch

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Federal Court System

SSCG: 16

Unit 7: Judicial Branch

  1. The Constitution allows Congress to establish what? What are the 2 types?

  2. What act created the federal judiciary? When?

  3. Which portion of the Constitution described the Judicial branch and the Supreme Court?

  4. ____________________ is the authority to hear certain cases.

  5. Where do Federal Courts have jurisdiction?

  6. Federal courts also have jurisdiction over cases involving certain persons:

  7. ______________ ________________ occurs when both state and federal court appear to have jurisdiction.

  8. Example: A case involving citizens from different states in a dispute concerning more than $75,000. A person may sue in federal or state court but if the person being sued insists, the case must be tried in ______________ ______________.

  9. The court in which a case is originally tried is known as a ____________ ____________. A trial court has original jurisdiction.

  10. If a person loses a case in trial court and wishes to appeal the decision, he or she may take the case to the court with _____________ _____________.

  11. If a person loses in the court of appeals, he or she may appeal to the Supreme Court, (which has both __________ _____ _______________ __________________.)

  12. Courts established by Congress under the provisions of Article III of the Constitution are ____________________ courts.

These courts include:

  1. Congress created district courts in 1789 to serve as __________ __________. As ________________ grew and cases _____________, Congress divided some states into more than one district.

  2. There are ______ _____________ _______________ districts, including at least one district in each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Three territories of the United States -- the Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands -- have district courts that hear federal cases, including bankruptcy cases.

  3. District Courts have what jurisdiction (what cases can they here)?

  4. What are the two types of juries: (describe)

  5. A court of appeals hears _______________from the district courts located within its _____________, as well as appeals from decisions of federal administrative agencies.

  6. How many states does the 11th US Court of Appeals deal with?

  7. Courts of appeals have only ____________________ jurisdiction.

  8. Courts of appeals may decide an appeal in one of 3 ways:

  9. Who has the power to appoint all federal judges? Who must approve?

  10. Judges in ____________________ courts are appointed to serve for _____________.

  11. What advantages/disadvantages (political) would there be for a judge to be appointed for life?

  12. Presidents favor judges who belong to their own ___________ _________.

The Supreme Court

Developing Supreme Court Power

Early in the court’s history, it was established that the Supreme Court, nor any other federal court may initiate action. (A judge/justice can not seek out an issue and request that the parties bring their case before the court)

The court must wait for litigants, those involved in a lawsuit, to come before them

John Marshall

John Marshall shaped American constitutional law and made the Supreme Court a center of power.

The longest serving Chief Justice in Supreme Court history, Marshall established that the courts are entitled to exercise judicial review, the power to strike down laws that violate the Constitution.

He repeatedly confirmed the supremacy of federal law over state law and supported an expansive reading of the enumerated powers.

The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest judicial body in the United States.

It consists of the Chief Justice of the United States and eight Associate Justices, who are nominated by the President and confirmed with the of the Senate.

Once appointed, Justices effectively have life tenure, serving "during good Behavior“, which terminates only upon death, resignation, retirement, or conviction on impeachment.

The Court meets in Washington, D.C. in the United States Supreme Court building. The Supreme Court is primarily an appellate court, but it has original jurisdiction over a small range of cases

How do they decide which cases to hear?

The Supreme Court decides to hear a case on three major factors. Whether it was an appeal by the federal court and is in conflict with the decisions of other circuits, the general importance of the case, and whether the lower court's decisions may be wrong in light of the Supreme Court's opinions.

A petition for a writ of certiorari is the documentation sent to the Supreme Court of the United States to request that they review a case.

A writ of certiorari ("to be informed") is issued from any appellate court (the Supreme Court is the highest appellate court) to a lower court requesting more information about a case - seeking judicial review.

How do they decide a case?

Once the Supreme Court accepts a case, the lawyers give the Court lengthy, detailed documents called "briefs" – arguing their points and providing legal support for them.

Next, the attorneys typically argue the merits of their cases orally before the Supreme Court (which the public is welcome to attend). The Court considers these briefs and arguments in researching and deciding the cases.

The Conference

After the lawyers complete their oral arguments, the justices debate the case.

Usually about 30 minutes per case then they vote. A majority of the justices must be in agreement.

The Opinion

The opinion states the facts of the case.

The opinions are as important as the decision itself. They set a precedent for the lower courts to follow in future cases and gives the public an explanation for their decision.

There are 4 different opinions:






Unanimous: all justices vote the same way (only about 1/3 of the decisions are unanimous)

Majority: expresses the views of a majority of the justices

Concurring: one or more of the justices agree with the majority’s conclusions on the case, but for different reasons

Dissenting: opinion of the justices on the losing side.

Judicial Activism

The philosophy of judicial activism is the charge that judges are going beyond their appropriate powers and engaging in making law and not merely interpreting it.

Judicial activism is a critical term used by some to describe judicial rulings that they feel are based more upon the judge's personal bias than by existing law.

Judicial Restraint

Judicial restraint encourages judges to limit the exercise of their own power. It asserts that judges should hesitate to strike down laws unless they are obviously unconstitutional.

Landmark Cases

Marbury v. Madison, is a landmark case in U.S. law. It formed the basis for the exercise of judicial review in the U.S. under Article III of the Constitution.

Marbury v. Madison was the first time the Supreme Court declared something "unconstitutional," and established the concept of judicial review in the U.S. (the idea that courts may oversee and nullify the actions of another branch of government).

The landmark decision helped define the "checks and balances" of the American form of government.

Landmark Cases

Fletcher v. Peck (1810), was one of the first cases in which the Supreme Court ruled a state law unconstitutional.

It is the earliest case of the Court asserting its right to invalidate state laws conflicting with the Constitution.

Landmark Cases

Dred Scott v. Sandford was a decision by the United States Supreme Court that ruled that people of African descent imported into the United States and held as slaves, or their descendants — whether or not they were slaves — were not protected by the Constitution and could never be citizens of the United States.

It also held that the United States Congress had no authority to prohibit slavery in federal territories.

The Court also ruled that because slaves were not citizens, they could not sue in court.

Lastly, the Court ruled that slaves — as private property — could not be taken away from their owners without due process.

Due Process

Following the Civil War, the Supreme Court issued several rulings on the 13th, 14th, & 15th Amendments. These amendments were intended to ensure the rights of newly freed African Americans, BUT the Court did not apply the due process clause of the 14th Amendment when individuals challenged business or state interests.

The due process clause says that no state may deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without the due process of law.

The Slaughter-House Cases, (1873) was the first United States Supreme Court interpretation of the relatively new Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

It is viewed as a pivotal case in early civil rights law, reading the Fourteenth Amendment as protecting the "privileges or immunities" conferred by virtue of the U.S. citizenship to all individuals of all states within it.

It, the 14th Amendment, partially overturned the Dred Scott decision.

Plessy v. Ferguson, (1896), upheld the constitutionality of racial segregation even in public accommodations (particularly railroads), under the doctrine of "separate but equal".

"Separate but equal" remained standard doctrine in U.S. law until it was overturned with Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in 1954.

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, (1954), overturned earlier rulings going back to Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, by declaring that state laws that established separate public schools for black and white students denied black children equal educational opportunities.

As a result, de jure racial segregation was ruled a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

This victory paved the way for integration and the civil rights movement.

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