Explain the structure of the federal court system.
Evaluate factors important in appointing judicial nominees.
Compare and contrast arguments in favor and against judicial
Describe the process of reaching a decision in the U.S. Supreme
Assess the influences on U.S. Supreme Court decision making.
Compare and contrast the limits on judicial action.
Assess the role of the judiciary in a constitutional democracy.
Federal Court Structure
Set up by the Constitution
All Federal Judges serve for life & are nominated by the
President & confirmed by the Senate (they can be impeached)
Each of these courts have jurisdiction (the right to hear a case)
State courts also have jurisdiction, but state cases can enter the
Federal system through state supreme courts
The case HAS to include a federal law or a US Constitutional
issue (these are justiciable disputes)
Can hear civil or criminal cases
Criminal (punishment can be prison; attorney appointed; right to jury)
Civil (lawsuit; punishment is usually $$$; no attorney or jury rights)
District Courts & Appeals Courts
94 total; 678 judges
hear trials and decide
12 (one in DC)
Three judge panels
Can only review cases
decided by District
Jurisdiction (a court’s right or authority
to hear a case)
Original (trial court): Federal—US laws, the Constitution, 2
or more state governments, US government, citizens of
different states or citizen and a different
state, ambassadors or foreign officials
Concurrent (choice of courts): both Federal & state
governments have jurisdiction
Appellate (hears an appeal): includes Supreme Court
The Supreme Court
Original jurisdiction: certain cases
in which a state is a party; cases
involving reps. of foreign
Appellate jurisdiction: almost all
They set precedents that lower
courts must follow
1. Grant certiorari/case on docket
2. Briefs accepted from both sides
3. Oral arguments (Solicitor General
represents the USA—Donald
4. Judges conference
5. Decision issued/opinion read
Who Are The Judges
President, approved by
First, what factors are considered when
nominating someone to a judgeship?
No qualifications are required by the Constitution
Presidents almost always appoint ideological allies.
Lower Court judges—Senators from those states
recommend names to the President
The President submits names back to the Senators
Like everything in DC, this has become VERY
politicized (Presidents are relying on recess
Senate hearing usually held (Judiciary
Committee)—sometimes use a litmus test
Recent failure: Robert Bork (1987)
Race and Gender are factors too
Ideology is key: judicial activism v. judicial restraint
Antonin Scalia (C) Anthony Kennedy (M)
H.W. Bush Appointee
Clarence Thomas (C)
Ruth Bader Ginsburg (L) Stephen Breyer (L)
W. Bush Appointees
Chief Justice John Roberts
Samuel Alito (C)
Justice Sonya Sotomayer
Justice Elena Kagan (L)
Planned Parenthood v. Ayotte
Most important ever: Marbury v. Madison
Or, who do these judges think they are interpreting the constitution?
Marbury vs. Madison
Judicial Review is established.
After the 1800 election, Adams
appoints new judges…
John Adams (Federalist) signs
appointments on his last night in
Thomas Jefferson (Democratic
Republican) is to take over as
What political party do you think the
judges Adams appointed belonged
to? Why did he did this?
“midnight judges”- what these
new judges were referred to.
William Marbury was one of
these “midnight judges.”
Why is Madison involved?
James Madison, TJs new Secretary of State,
was supposed to officially present Marbury
with his new position…But he didn’t!
So… Marbury sued and appealed to the
Supreme Court to get Madison to award
him the position…
Supreme Court refuses to grant Marbury
A section of the Judiciary Act of 1789
(which set up the federal court system in
the first place) was unconstitutional and
This is the first time the Supreme Court
overturns an act of Congress.
Checks & balances in action!
Judicial Review- Supreme Court’s
ability to declare a law or act
McCulloch v. Maryland
A Federalism case.
Federalism and the Issue
Federalism: Coexistence of Federal, state, and local POWERS
Second Bank of the United States created
Maryland tried to impede operation of the BUS
imposed a tax on all notes of banks not chartered in Maryland
BUS was the only out-of-state bank in Maryland
Does the Constitution grants Congress implied powers for
implementing the Constitution's express powers?
Can a state’s action impede valid constitutional exercises of power
by the Federal government?
On the first question, Marshall argued that the necessary and proper
clause of the Constitution implied that Congress could charter a
Congress was exercising of its explicit power to regulate interstate
commerce and coin and regulate money.
On the second question, Marshall wrote that "the power to tax is the
power to destroy”
Allowing the state to tax the national bank violated the supremacy
clause (Article VI) of the Constitution.
The Bank therefore is legal
U. S. Constitution
Article I: “The Congress shall have power . . . to regulate commerce with
foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes.”
Article VI: “This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall
be made in pursuance thereof . . . shall be the supreme law of the land.”
Gibbons v. Ogden
Steamboat ferries impacted the constitution? Really?
The commerce clause…
Ogden’s Steamboat Monopoly
Under a New York law adopted in 1798,
Robert Livingston obtained a monopoly, or
exclusive right, for steamboat navigation
within the state of New York.
Any boats that competed with this
monopoly would be forfeited by the owner.
In 1815, after the deaths of Livingston and
Fulton, Aaron Ogden obtained a right under
the monopoly and began to run a
steamboat between New Jersey and New
In 1818 Thomas Gibbons, one of Ogden’s
former partners, began a competing
operation between Elizabethtown, New
Jersey, and New York City.
Ogden sued Gibbons for violation of his
monopoly and in 1820 New York's highest
court found in Ogden’s favor.
In the US Supreme Court
The Supreme Court unanimously concluded that the New York law
granting the monopoly was invalid. Chief Justice John Marshall
wrote the Court’s opinion.
Marshall: “Commerce, undoubtedly, is traffic, but it is something
more…” Marshall concluded that commerce included all
navigation that is “in any manner connected with commerce.”
Intra- versus Inter-State Commerce
Marshall stated that the power of Congress to regulate
commerce did not include commerce that was
“completely internal” and that did not “extend to or
affect other States.” The states had the power to
regulate such completely internal commerce.
However, the issue before the Court concerned
commerce between two states and therefore involved
federal authority over commerce.
Plessy v. Ferguson & Brown v.
Board of Education
Quick review—I know that you know these cases
Miranda v. Arizona
How much power can the police exercise on a suspect?
English may not
have been his
questioned for 2 to
Miranda was not told
that he had a right to
He was not told that he
had a right to an
After about 3
hours, police obtained a
6th: Right to an
protection of the
Miranda should have been told of these rights
Therefore, police must explain these to anyone who is a
suspect or arrested (once a suspect is in custody)
Police must ask “Do you understand these rights?”
A suspect can decide at any time to exercise these
Or, they can voluntarily waive them
Illegally obtained evidence cannot be used to convict a person of a crime.
Statements made by any suspects was not informed of his/her Miranda
rights may be excluded from trial.
Statements made by any suspects who did not understand his/her Miranda
Warning may be excluded from trial.
US v. Nixon
First…Nixon and Watergate
He was a bad, bad boy.
Origins: Pentagon Papers
Daniel Ellsberg, an employee of the
Defense Department , leaked a
classified assessment (negative) of the
Vietnam War in 1971 (Pentagon Papers)
Senior government officials had serious
misgivings about the war.
New York Times and Washington Post
began to publish the Pentagon
Papers, the Nixon Administration sued
Supreme Court ruled the papers could
continue to publish the documents
White House Plumbers
After the release of the Pentagon
Papers, the White House created
a unit to ensure internal security
1971: burglarized the office of
psychiatrist, seeking material to
Nixon’s domestic advisor John
Ehrlichman knew of and
approved the plan
Howard Hunt G. Gordon Liddy
James McCord Chuck
The Watergate Break-in
1972: Plumbers turned their activities
to political espionage (re-elect
June 17, 1972, 5 men were arrested
while attempting to bug the
headquarters of the Democratic
Party inside the Watergate building
in Washington D.C.
One of the men arrested, James
McCord, was the head of security
for the Republican Party.
The Election of 1972
Original investigation: White
House. Guess what they
Watergate came to be
investigated by a Special
Prosecutor, a Senate
committee, and by the judge in
the original break-in case
John Dean: testified about a
Alexander Butterfield: taping
system in the Oval Office
Saturday Night Massacre
The Tapes Sirica: tapes are
US v. Nixon: Supreme
Court ruled tapes
must ne turned over
powers, nor the
generalized need for
n sustain an
The Tapes Tapes showed the cover-up:
authorizing the payment of
attempting to use the CIA to
interfere with the FBI
18 ½ minute gap
Nixon’s secretary Rosemary
Woods “accidently” stepped
on the mute button
Audio experts: it was erased
at least 5 times
After “The smoking gun
tapes,” were released in
August 1974, the House
approved Articles of
Impeachment against Nixon
Nixon resigns later that month