Judicial Power in the United States


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Part of a series of lectures given to students in the University of Osnabrück's foreign law program.

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Judicial Power in the United States

  1. 1. Common Law Legal System Judicial PowerAmerican Constitutional Law Slide 1Judicial Power
  2. 2. Article IIIThe judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested inone Supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as theCongress may from time to time ordain and establish. American Constitutional Law Slide 2 Judicial Power
  3. 3. Judges (Justices)Art. II says President Art. III says judges areappoints judges with appointed for life“advice and consent of Art. III says salary ofSenate.” federal judges cannot be reduced. Although funding for the court system can. Can only be impeached Members of the U.S. Supreme Court American Constitutional Law Slide 3 Judicial Power
  4. 4. Qualifications and SizeThe Constitution sets forthno specific requirements.Supreme Court Size – noset number of members inConstitution. Current law says nine.Federal Courts – set byCongress American Constitutional Law Slide 4 Judicial Power
  5. 5. What can Federal Courts Hear?“The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law andEquity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of theUnited States . . . (and) to Controversies . . . .” Article III, Section 2Constitutional Limitations on What the Court Can Hear nature of the dispute – subject matter jurisdiction standing – real controversies no advisory opinion Mootness and Ripeness American Constitutional Law Slide 5 Judicial Power
  6. 6. Subject Matter JurisdictionGenerally, cases in which federal government has aninterest (federal question jurisdiction). Constitution, laws, treaties Ambassadors, public Ministers and Counsels Supreme Court has original jurisdiction admiralty and maritime where U.S. is party between 2 or more states Supreme Court has original jurisdiction American Constitutional Law Slide 6 Judicial Power
  7. 7. Subject Matter JurisdictionFederal Court also has “diversity jurisdiction” where amountat issue is over $75,000. between citizens of different States between citizen and foreign states.NOTE – when subject matter jurisdiction is lacking, therestill could be a state claim. American Constitutional Law Slide 7 Judicial Power
  8. 8. Original Jurisdiction Explained“In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministersand consuls, and those in which a state shall be party, theSupreme Court shall have original jurisdiction. In all theother cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shallhave appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, withsuch exceptions, and under such regulations as theCongress shall make.” Article III, Section 2When the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction, a casebegins and ends in the Court! Is this an exclusive list? American Constitutional Law Slide 8 Judicial Power
  9. 9. Cases & ControversiesMust be a real and substantial controversySeveral theories, we will only discuss: Advisory Opinions Ripeness Mootness Standing American Constitutional Law Slide 9 Judicial Power
  10. 10. From the Beginning: No Advisory Opinions “The lines of Separation drawn by the Constitution between the three Departments of Government, their being in certain Respects checks on each other, and our being judges of a court in the last Resort, are Considerations which afford strong arguments against the Propriety of our extrajudicially deciding the questions alluded to; especially as the Power given by the Constitution to the President of calling on the Heads of Departments for opinions, seems to have been purposely as well as expressly limited to executive Departments.” Chief Justice John Jay (1793) in a letter to President Washington rejecting his request for the Court to advise him on the proper interpretation of the Neutrality Treaty which prohibited the U.S. from siding with either France or England. American Constitutional Law Slide 10 Judicial Power
  11. 11. Advisory Opinions“real and substantial” controversy = no advisory opinionsregarding: statutory interpretation constitutionality of proposed legislation any other matterWhat this basically means is, if you want the Court toanswer a question, you must have STANDING! see next slides American Constitutional Law Slide 11 Judicial Power
  12. 12. StandingThe Standing Question: “Whether the litigant is entitled to have the court decide the merits of the dispute.” This is always the first question the court will address whether parties raise the issue or not.Requirements: Injury Injury is traceable to Ds conduct Favorable Court decision will remedy the injury. American Constitutional Law Slide 12 Judicial Power
  13. 13. RipenessMatters that are premature Threatened harm must befor litigation cannot be real and immediateheard. In Epperson v. ArkansasIn Poe v. Ulman, a 5-4 (1968) the Court created aCourt decided that “a “double contingency” test:sense of immediacy” was Court must be unsurenecessary to avoid a whether state willripeness claim. prosecute AND the plaintiff is someone see background reading for who would likely be more info on Poe v. Ulman. prosectued. American Constitutional Law Slide 13 Judicial Power
  14. 14. Mootness: Roe v. WadeMootness defined: Roe was pregnant and An actual controversy must denied an abortion exist at all stages of the because Texas law federal court proceedings. prohibited the procedure. If events subsequent to She challenged the law in filing resolve dispute, then court. case is moot. At the time of the both theAre there exceptions? first hearing and the appeal she was no longer pregnant. Moot case? American Constitutional Law Slide 14 Judicial Power
  15. 15. Mootness: The Case of Jose PadillaPadilla was arrested inChicagos OHear Airporton suspicion of being aterrorist.We was labeled an “enemycombatant.”Before his case was heardbefore Supreme Court,government removedcombatant label. Mootcase? American Constitutional Law Slide 15 Judicial Power
  16. 16. Judicial ReviewArt. III does NOT expressly provide for judicial review ofconstitutional questions.Federal Courts are courts of limited jurisdiction: Constitution lists subject areas – subject matter jurisdiction. Federal Courts may hear matters only when there is BOTH constitutional and statutory authorizationThe scope of the Courts power to review constitutionalquestion remains contentious even today. American Constitutional Law Slide 16 Judicial Power
  17. 17. Marbury v. MadisonIs Marbury entitled to hiscommission?Does Sec 13 of the Judiciary Actauthorize the Court to issue a writof mandamus?Is Section 13 constitutional?If Section 13 is unconstitutional,does the Supreme Court have the Chief Justice John Marshallpower to declare it void? American Constitutional Law Slide 17 Judicial Power
  18. 18. Impact of MarburyHolding – section of Judiciary Act giving court originaljurisdiction to hear mandamus suits violated Constitutionwhich specifically set forth issues on which Court hasoriginal jurisdiction.Impact – Court answered the question “who has the powerto determine constitutionality of federal laws and Executiveactions”. Court said that it (the Court) did! This case is arguably the most important case in U.S. history. American Constitutional Law Slide 18 Judicial Power
  19. 19. Questions to ConsiderMarbury makes clear that the Court has jurisdiction toconsider whether acts by the other FEDERAL branchesviolate the Constitution. But what about state actions? Can the Supreme Court review an interpretation of the U.S. Constitution made by a state court? Can the Supreme Court review a state criminal case if it also implicates rights found in the U.S. Constitution? Can the Supreme Court review actions by state officers to see if it conflicts with the U.S. Constitution?Does the Constitution expressly address these questions? American Constitutional Law Slide 19 Judicial Power
  20. 20. Martin v. Hunters LesseeDeceased English Loyalist left land in Virginia to hisnephew, a British subject. Under Va. law British subjectwere prohibited from owning land. Virginia gave land tosomeone else. Under Federal treaty British subjects wereallowed to own land in the U.S.. The Supreme Courtdeclared that Fairfax was so entitled, but the Virginiacourts, refused to follow the Supreme Courts decision.Question - Does the appellate power of the Supreme Courtextend to the Virginia courts?Conclusion – YES pursuant to Supremacy Clause. American Constitutional Law Slide 20 Judicial Power
  21. 21. Supremacy Clause“This Constitution, and the laws of the United States whichshall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made,or which shall be made, under the authority of the UnitedStates, shall be the supreme law of the land; and thejudges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything inthe Constitution or laws of any State to the contrarynotwithstanding.” Article VI American Constitutional Law Slide 21 Judicial Power
  22. 22. Cohens v. VirginiaFACTS - D.C. law (act of Congress) provided right to sell lotterytickets. Cohen brothers sold D.C. tickets in Virginia, where it wasillegal to do so. They were tried and convicted under Virginia law.ARGUMENTS: Cohens claimed that an act of Congress was supreme and gave them right to act. Virginia claimed U.S. Supreme Court had no right to review this case.HELD – U.S. Supreme Court has right to review whether federallycreated rights are violated in state criminal proceedings. American Constitutional Law Slide 22 Judicial Power
  23. 23. Cooper v. AaronUnder Brown v. Board of Education, Court ordered statesto desegregate their schools. Arkansas officials refused tofollow the Courts order claiming that federal courts couldnot order state officials to act.HELD - Arkansas officials were bound by federal courtorders that rested on the Supreme Courts decisions, whichare the supreme law of the land and binding on the states. American Constitutional Law Slide 23 Judicial Power
  24. 24. To SummarizeCan U.S. Supreme Court review and set aside state courtdecisions? YES, Martin v. Hunters Lessee (1816)Can U.S. Supreme Court review whether U.S.Constitutional rights of Defendant convicted in state wereviolated? YES, Cohens v. Virginia (1821)Can the U.S. Supreme review constitutionality of state lawsand actions of state officials? YES, Cooper v. Aaron (1958) American Constitutional Law Slide 24 Judicial Power
  25. 25. Interpreting the ConstitutionWhich of the following statements best describes the approach toconstitutional interpretation that you believe judges should follow? Judges should try apply the intentions of the framers, as best as they can determine it. Judges should look at the words of the provision in question and base their decisions as best they can on the plain meaning of the language. Judges should generally follow precedent as much as possible, looking to the text and intentions of the framers only when the caselaw is unclear. Judges should interpret the Constitution in such a way as to produce the decisions that provide the greatest benefits to the nation as a whole. Judges should interpret the Constitution in a way consistent with the approach favored by whatever president appointed them. American Constitutional Law Slide 25 Judicial Power
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