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Govt 2305-Ch_13

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  1. The CourtsChapter 13
  2. The Constitutional Judiciary Tenure is necessary for independence  Hamilton, Federalist #78 – “That inflexible and uniform adherence to the rights of the Constitution, and of individuals, which we perceive to be indispensable in the courts of justice, can certainly not be expected from judges who hold their offices by a temporary commission.” Irreducible salaries strengthen independence  Hamilton, Federalist #79 – “In the general course of human nature, a power of a man’s subsistence amounts to a power over his will.” Overall – Judicial independence is necessary for the supremacy of the Constitution
  3. Common Law Tradition Common Law  Judge-made law that originated in 11th century England from decisions shaped according to prevailing custom  New laws were created as unique situations and cases were presented  Decisions were applied to similar situations and gradually became common to the English nation Precedent  The practice of deciding new cases with reference to former decisions  A cornerstone of the English and American judicial systems  This is embodied in the doctrine of stare decisis  “to stand on decided cases”  Judges are obligated to follow the precedents set previously by their own courts or by courts of higher authority
  4. Sources of American Law The body of American law includes:  The Constitution  State Constitutions  Statutes passed by legislative bodies  Administrative law  Case law
  5. Sources of American Law Statutes  Laws enacted by federal or state legislatures  Increasingly important in defining the rights and obligations of individuals  Federal examples: federal taxation, hazardous waste, environmental protection  State examples: criminal codes, commercial laws, state taxation  Cities and counties also pass statutes called ordinances  May deal with issues such as zoning proposals and general public safety  Much of the work of the courts today deals with interpreting statutes and applying them to specific cases
  6. Sources of American Law Case Law  Judicial interpretations of common law principles and doctrines  Includes interpretations of constitutional law, statutory law, and administrative law  In the United States, case law is ultimately decided by the Supreme Court, if necessary  They decide what a constitutional provision or a statuary phrase means  In doing so, they establish case law
  7. The Federal Court System The United States has a dual court system  State Courts  Federal Courts Each of the 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, has its own independent system of courts Overall, there are 52 court systems in the country
  8. The Federal Court System Basic Judicial Requirements  Certain requirements must be met before a case can be brought before any court  Jurisdiction  The authority of a court to decide certain cases  Not all courts have the authority to decide all cases  Where a case originates and what its subject matter is are two key issues  Geographic areas dictate jurisdiction in state courts  However, a state’s highest court has jurisdictional authority over all residents in the state
  9. The Federal Court System Basic Judicial Requirements  Jurisdiction  The limiting power of the Constitution limits the jurisdiction of the federal courts  Cases must involve either a federal question or diversity of citizenship  Federal Question  A question that has to do with the U.S. Constitution, acts of Congress, or treaties  Diversity of Citizenship  The condition that exists when the parties to a lawsuit are citizens of different states  Ex. Resident of Texas v. Resident of Arkansas  Could also be when the parties are citizens of a state and citizens or the government of a foreign country  Ex. Resident of Texas v. Resident of the United Kingdom  Additionally, $75,000 or more must be in controversy to meet this requirement for jurisdiction
  10. The Federal Court System Basic Judicial Requirements  Standing to Sue  Another basic judicial requirement that requires a party to have a sufficient “stake” in a matter to justify bringing suit  Party must have suffered or threatened by a harm, as a result of the action that led to the dispute in question  This includes both criminal and civil matters  A justiciable controversy is also required for standing to sue  A controversy that is real and substantial  As opposed to hypothetical or academic  Basically, you cannot use the court system to “test the legal waters” or give advisory opinions on hypothetical questions
  11. The Federal Court System Supreme Court of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Court of Appeals Circuit Court of Court of Court ofDistrict Territorial Tax International Federal VeteransCourts Courts Courts Trade Claims Appeals Bankruptcy Courts
  12. The Federal Court System Types of Federal Courts  U.S. District Courts  Trial Courts – courts in which most cases begin  District Courts are courts of general jurisdiction  When a court can hear cases involving a broad array of issues  Federal cases involving most matters are typically heard in district courts  Other District Courts are courts of limited jurisdiction  Courts that can try cases involving certain types of claims  Tax claims or bankruptcy claims  There is at least one federal district court in every state  The number of judicial districts change over time due to population changes and case loads
  13. The Federal Court System Types of Federal Courts  U.S. District Courts  Appellate Courts  A party who is dissatisfied with the decision of a district court can appeal the case to the appropriate U.S. Court of Appeals  Many federal administrative agencies and most executive departments employ administrative law judges (ALJs) who resolve disputes arising under the rules governing their agencies  Examples: EPA, Social Security Administration, FBI, etc.  However, if a party is dissatisfied with the outcome of an administrative hearing and all internal agency appeals have been exhausted, a party may have a right to file an appeal in a federal district court
  14. The Federal Court System Types of Federal Courts  U.S. Court of Appeals  There are 13 (circuit) courts of appeals  12 hear cases from their respective geographic districts  The Thirteenth Circuit (Federal Circuit) has national appellate jurisdiction over certain types of cases such as patent law and cases where the U.S. government is a defendant  How the courts of appeals operate  They do not conduct another trial  A panel of 3 or more judges review the record of the case on appeal and determine whether the trial court committed an error  They usually do not look at questions of fact (whether a party actually did not something or not)  They are concerned with questions of law  Whether something a party did can be protected under the Constitution, previous case law, etc.  A party can petition the U.S. Supreme Court to review an appellate court’s decision  The likelihood of the Supreme Court hearing a case on appeal is slim  Usually means that an appellate court’s decision is final
  15. The Federal Court System Types of Federal Courts  The U.S. Supreme Court  The major function of the court is as a last chance appellate court  It can exercise original jurisdiction (act as a trial court) in certain cases such as:  Cases affecting foreign diplomats  Cases in which a state is a party  The Supreme Court can review a state supreme court decision only if a federal question is involved
  16. Terminology to Know Plaintiff – the person or organization that initiates the lawsuit Defendant – the person or organization against whom the lawsuit is filed Interest groups play an important role in our judicial system because of litigation  Engaging in a legal proceeding or seeking relief in a court of law  They assist in litigating cases involving race/gender based discrimination, business matters, civil liberties, etc. Interest groups also frequently file amicus curiae briefs  A legal argument support a desired outcome in a particular case although they are not directly involved in the litigation  Also known as “friend of the court” briefs Class-action lawsuits  A lawsuit filed by an individual seeking damages for “all persons similarly situated…”  Ex. Product manufacturing defects
  17. The Supreme Court at Work Of the total number of cases that are heard each year in U.S. Courts, the Supreme Court hears less than 1 in 4,000 Types of cases:  Freedom of speech  Right to bear arms  Finance  Capital punishment  Rights of criminal suspects  Affirmative action  Abortion  Property rights  Sexual harassment  States’ rights  Pornography  Religious freedom
  18. The Supreme Court at Work How the Court Decides to Hear Cases  There is no absolute right of appeal to the Supreme Court – it is entirely discretionary  The Court ultimately makes the decision Factors that Bear on their Decision  If a legal question has been decided differently by lower courts, it may need resolution by the highest court  A ruling may be necessary if a lower court’s decision conflicts with an existing Supreme Court ruling  Could the issue have significance beyond the immediate case  National government cases  The solicitor general typically asks to the Court to take cases involving the government  He/she decides which cases the government should ask the Court to review and what position the government should take on the cases
  19. The Supreme Court at Work Granting Petition for Review  If the Supreme Court decides to hear a case, it will issue a writ of certiorari  An order issued by a higher court to a lower court to send up the record of a case for review  Rule of Four – the Supreme Court will not issue a writ unless at least four justices approve of it
  20. The Supreme Court at Work Court Procedures  The Court does not typically hear evidence (similar to all appellate courts)  Attorneys for the parties are permitted to present oral arguments  Arguments presented in person by attorneys to an appellate court  Each attorney presents reasons to the court why the court should rule in his/her client’s favor
  21. The Supreme Court at Work Decisions and Opinions  When the Court reaches a decision on a case, its opinion is written  The statement by a judge or court reached in a case  The opinion sets forth the applicable law and details the reasoning on which the ruling was based  If a decision of a lower court is affirmed, the Supreme Court declares the lower court’s ruling is valid and must be enforced  If a decision of a lower court is reversed, the Supreme Court annuls, or voids, a lower court’s ruling based on some error or irregularity
  22. The Supreme Court at Work Decisions and Opinions  Sometimes, the Supreme Court will remand a case  Send the case back to the lower court for a new trial or other proceeding  The Court’s written opinion sometimes is unsigned  This is called an opinion per curiam (“by the court”)  Typically, the Court’s opinion is signed by all the justices who agree with it  When in the majority, the chief justice decides who writes the opinion  When the chief justice is in the minority, the senior justice on the majority side assigns the opinion
  23. The Supreme Court at Work Types of Opinions  Unanimous opinion – a court opinion on which all judges agree  Majority opinion – a court opinion reflecting the views of the majority of the judges  Concurring opinion – a separate opinion prepared by a judge who supports the decision of the majority of the court but who wants to make or clarify a particular point  Or to voice disapproval of the grounds on which the decision was made  Dissenting opinion – a separate opinion in which a judge dissents from (disagrees with) the conclusion reached by the majority of the court and expounds his or her own views about the case
  24. The Supreme Court at Work Dwindling Caseload  Some complain that the Supreme Court reviews too few cases each term, thus giving the lower courts less guidance on important issues  Examples: 1982-83 term – 151 cases  Early 2000s – 70 and 80 per term  2010 – 92 per term  Reasoning  Some scholars indicate that the growing conservatism of the judges sitting on the lower courts is responsible  Many Republican presidents appointing federal judges from 1980 – 2008  As a result, the government loses fewer cases in the lower courts, which lessens the need for the government to appeal the rulings through the solicitor general’s office
  25. Selection of Federal Judges All federal judges are appointed pursuant to Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution  The president appoints the justices of the Supreme Court with the advice and consent of the Senate  2 step process  1. president nominates a potential justice  2. Senate Judiciary Committee investigates and either approves/disapproves the potential justice There are more than 850 federal judgeships in the United States  Once appointed, a person holds the job for life  They can either resign, retire voluntarily, or die  In rare cases, a judge may be removed by impeachment for illegal conduct
  26. Background of U.S. SupremeCourt Justices (to 2011) Occupational Total Number of Religious Number of Political Party Total Number of Position before Justices = 112 Background Justices Affiliation Justices Appointment Protestant 83 Democrat 46 Federal Judgeship 31 Roman Catholic 14 Republican 44 Private Legal 25 Practice Unitarian 7 Federalist (to 13 1835) State Judgeship 21 Jewish 7 Jeffersonian 7 Federal Executive 9 Republican (to Post No religious 1 1828) U.S. Attorney 7 affiliation Whig (to 1861) 1 General U.S. Senator 6 Age on Total Number of Independent 1 State Governor 3 Appointment Justices Deputy/Assistant 2 Under 40 5 Educational Total Number of U.S. Attorney 41 – 50 33 Background Justices General College Graduate 96 51 – 60 60 U.S. Solicitor 3 General 61 – 70 14 Not a College 16 Graduate U.S. 2 Representative Gender Total Number of Race Total Number of Other 3 Justices Justices Male 108 White 109 Female 4 African American 2 Hispanic 1
  27. Judicial Activism and Restraint Judicial Activism  A doctrine holding that the federal judiciary should take an active role by using its powers to check the activities of governmental bodies when those bodies exceed their authority  Discovering the “original intent” of the Founders not possible  Must read the Constitution in light of contemporary meaning Judicial Restraint  A doctrine holding that the courts should defer to the decisions made by the elected representatives of the people in the legislative and executive branches  Jurisprudence of Original Intention – we should judge policies in light of principles, rather than remold principles in light of policies  This was touted as a “fix-all,” so the S.C. could avoid charges of incoherence and partisan politics
  28. Judicial Activism, Coffins, andYogurt Judicial Activism “Yogurt Argument”  If the Founders had been eating yogurt for over 200 years, they might approve of a “different flavor” of interpretation Judicial Restraint “Coffin Argument”  If the Founders were pried out of their coffins after 200 years of sleep, they would frown upon new interpretations and constructions of the Constitution  “George Washington is probably rolling in his grave right now…”
  29. Strict vs. Broad Construction Strict Construction  A judicial philosophy that looks to the “letter of the law” when interpreting the Constitution or a particular law  Often associated with conservative political views  Those that adhere to this liken the Constitution to a plain text document only  Justice Scalia, “the Constitution is not a living organism, it is a legal document. It says something and does not say other things.” Broad Construction  A judicial philosophy that looks to the context and purpose of a law when making an interpretation  Often associated with liberal political views  Those that adhere to this liken the Constitution to a “living document”
  30. Judicial Review The power of judicial review is not mentioned in the Constitution  It was established in Marbury v. Madison  The Court declared that a law passed by Congress violated the Constitution  At the same time, the Court declared that judicial review was a power that was claimed by the judiciary  “It is empathetically the province and duty of the Judicial Department to say what the law is. Those who apply the rule to a particular case must of necessity expound and interpret that rule. If two laws conflict with each other, the courts must decide on the operation of each.”
  31. Judicial Review Logic of Judicial Review  Why have judges take an oath to protect the Constitution if they cannot invalidate laws in contradiction of that document?  If two laws conflict, it’s the Supreme Court’s job to mediate

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