6 white guys (5)2 women (3)2 Hispanics (2)1 African-American (1)6 Roman Catholics (6)
Chapter 15 The Federal Court System
Clicker Question Do you believe federal judges should be appointed for life or for a limited tenure with the option of reappointment? Federal judges should be appointed for life. Federal judges should be appointed for a limited tenure with the option of reappointment.
Clicker Question SHOULD Supreme Court justices use public opinion to form their decisions? Yes No
Clicker Question Would you support a change to the judicial process that would require majority decisions to be 6-3 or higher in order to be final? YES NO
The “Least” Dangerous Branch? Article III: Only 370 Words - Few specific enumerated powers (Could NOT appropriate money or enforce decisions) Justices appointed for life, “during good Behavior” Decision-Making in Private Rarely in the Media WHY SO INSULATED? (Remember Electoral Connection) The idea is that judges, free from popular pressure, could adhere to the Constitution rather than listening to a reactionary and intemperate public.
Keepers of the Constitution… John Roberts (2005) - Chief Justice –Conservative – BUSH II (55) Elena Kagan (2010) – ? – OBAMA (50) Antonin Scalia (1986) – Conservative – REAGAN (74) Anthony Kennedy (1988) – Conservative – REAGAN (74) Clarence Thomas (1991) – Conservative – BUSH I (62) Ruth Ginsburg (1993) – Liberal – CLINTON (77) Stephen Breyer (1994) – Moderate/Liberal – CLINTON (72) Samuel Alito (2006) – Conservative – BUSH II (60) Sonia Sotomayor (2009) - ? – OBAMA (56) (Average Age = 64.4)
Clicker Question The authority and the obligation to review any law or lower-court decision where a substantial issue of public law is involved is the definition of a)writ of review. b)judicial review. c)standing. d)due process.
The Power of the Supreme Court Judicial Review - The power of the Court to examine and invalidate actions undertaken by the legislative and executive branches. Review the actions of Congress Review the actions of the states Review of presidential actions Review of the actions of federal agencies
Marbury v. Madison (1803) The court ruled that the Judiciary Act of 1789 was unconstitutional because it expanded their original jurisdiction as defined in Article III, which could not be done except by constitutional amendment. So, in declaring this law UN-constitutional, they exerted (created) a power that was EXTRA-constitutional (It wasn’t in there either). This power was not exercised again for 54 years(Dred Scott) although its use has become more frequent.
The Power of Judicial Review Laws declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court : 1789-1998 Federal – 150+ State – 1,237 1960-1998 Federal – 75+ State – 553 Unconstitutional Examples: Brown v. Board of Ed – Segregation in schools Texas v. Johnson – Laws prohibiting flag burning Griswold v. Connecticut – Birth control laws Lawrence v. Texas – Anti-sodomy laws in consensual situations Gonzales v. Oregon – DEA prosecuting dctor-assisted suicide
Jurisdiction Article III of the constitution gives the Supreme Court two jurisdictions: Original: Hear a case first, usually in trial Hear the facts of the case For example: federal district courts have original jurisdiction over cases where the U.S. is a party Appellate: Cases brought to them on appeal from other courts Do not hear facts of the case, only legal issues
U.S. Federal Court System (1-12) 3 (13th Circuit) 2 1 1. U.S. District Courts: 94 2. U.S. Courts of Appeals: 13 3. Supreme Court The federal court system has three court levels including:
1. Federal District Courts (Original Jurisdiction) Most cases in the federal court system are first heard in one of the 94 district courts, and most of the business of the federal courts takes place at this level. This is the only level of federal court that uses juries and witnesses. Can be jury or bench trial ~300K cases filed each year: 80% civil; 20% criminal Each state has at least 1, large states like California can have 4 – Georgia has 3 districts: North, Middle, South *Cases include everything from criminal prosecutions brought by the United States to anti-trust cases, to commercial and contract disputes between citizens (businesses) of 2 or more states.
2. U.S. Courts of Appeal (Appellate Jurisdiction) The United States is divided into 12 geographic regions (circuits) to hear appeals from the district courts. There is also a 13th appeals court, called the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, located in Washington, D.C. Federal Circuit – Has national appellate jurisdiction over cases dealing with patent law, cases appealed from the “special” district courts, and those in which the U.S. government is a defendant.
Appellate Courts Empowered to review all final decisions of the 94 district courts - No factual evidence can be introduced, no witnesses are called or cross-examined-instead lawyers submit briefs The ruling is usually accompanied by an opinion Once appellate decisions are published they become precedents These precedents are followed as the basis for legal reasoning in other cases – stare decisis (“stand by what is decided”) Stare Decisis- There are two components…The first is the rule that a decision made by a higher court is binding precedent which a lower court cannot overturn. The second is the principle that a court should not overturn its own precedents unless there is a strong reason to do so and should be guided by principles from lateral and lower courts.
3. The Supreme Court A court of both original jurisdiction and appellate jurisdiction The size of the Court is determined by Congress; the number has been set at nine since 1869. The decisions and opinions of the Supreme Court become the most important sources of precedent on federal and constitutional questions for courts at all levels of jurisdiction. Supreme Court Original Jurisdiction – Cases involving ambassadors and diplomats; cases in which a state is a party (5% of all cases)
3 Routes to the Supreme Court 30% of cases come from State Supreme Court Decisions if they raise a “Constitutional Question.”
The Supreme Court in Action Most cases do not make it to the Supreme Court… The Court has Control over access. HOW? Actual Number of Cases Heard
Clicker Question Parties in a case must show ____________; that is, they must show that they have a substantial stake in the outcome of a case. a)mootness b)standing c)cases and controversies d)All of the above
Rules of Access The Supreme Court has rules over which cases it will or will not hear. Cases must meet criteria in three major categories: 1. Case or controversy: Courts may only review cases that are an actual controversy, not a hypothetical one. 2. Standing: Parties to a case must have standing (the right of an individual or organization to initiate a court case, on the basis of their having a substantial stake in the outcome of the case). 3. Mootness: This is a court criterion to screen cases that no longer require resolution.
Granting “Cert” Writ of Certiorari – (sir-she-o-rare-e) A decision by the Supreme Court to hear an appeal from a lower court. Decided using the “rule of four” - Done specifically to prevent a majority of the court from controlling all the cases it agrees to hear The court grants “cert” less than 100 times/year from the more than 8,000 that are filed Why wouldn’t the Court grant cert? Issue may be too controversial May wish to avoid split decision If cert is denied, decision of the lower court stands
Clicker Question Justices who disagree with the majority decision of the Court may choose to publicize the character of their disagreement in the form of a a)concurring opinion. b)dissenting opinion. c)nonconsensus opinion. d)disagreeing opinion.
Deciding Cases Cases granted “cert” are scheduled for oral argument One Hour (30 minutes per side) Briefs are submitted by lawyers on each side in addition to interest groups, and other concerned parties (amicus curiae) After oral arguments, justices meet in conference to reach a decision Votes in conference are not final; judges can change their votes in response to the majority opinion Variety of opinions: Opinion of the Court, Concurring Opinion, Dissenting Opinion, Concurring Dissenting Opinion Once an opinion is completed a final vote is taken