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Chapter 3 - The U.S. Supreme Court: The Final Word

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The U.S. Supreme Court: The Final Word

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Chapter 3 - The U.S. Supreme Court: The Final Word

  1. 1.   © 2015 Cengage Learning Prepared by Tony Wolusky, J.D. , Metropolitan State University of Denver Chapter 3 The U.S. Supreme Court: The Final Word
  2. 2. © 2015 Cengage Learning  The law that is set forth from the Supreme Court is the law of the land, and no other judicial or political body can overrule its decisions.  However, the Supreme Court can overrule itself. o When it reverses old case decisions • The death penalty
  3. 3. © 2015 Cengage Learning  Article III of the Constitution established the Federal judiciary.  1789-the Federal Judiciary Act established the Supreme Court. o The number of justices have varied. o Since 1869 the number of justices has been set at 9.
  4. 4. © 2015 Cengage Learning  Has jurisdiction over 2 general types of cases: o Cases that reach it on appeal. • Whether the case begins in the state or federal system, the path to appeal a case is the same. o Cases over which the Court has original jurisdiction (meaning that it can start at the Supreme Court). • State v. State • A state court could not remain unbiased if its state was a party to the suit. • Cases dealing with foreign dignitaries
  5. 5. © 2015 Cengage Learning  Can hear appeals from lower state and federal courts on issues involving interpretation of the law or the applicability of the Constitution.  Can also hear appeals on cases dealing with treaties the U.S. has entered into, admiralty and maritime cases or those involving public officials and political entities.
  6. 6. © 2015 Cengage Learning  Facts: Teague (defendant) was convicted of attempted murder, armed robbery and aggravated battery. Teague, an African American, was convicted by an all-white jury. The prosecution used all of its peremptory challenges to exclude African Americans from sitting on the jury. A later case, Batson, supported Teague’s view.  Issues: Could Teague enforce a rule announced after his conviction from the later case?  Holding: No.  Rationale: Teague is procedurally barred.
  7. 7. © 2015 Cengage Learning  Federal Courts do not have carte blanche.  Congress can limit the jurisdiction of the federal courts.  Congress can affect the jurisdictional authority of the federal courts by determining the types of cases they can hear.
  8. 8. © 2015 Cengage Learning  “The power of a court to analyze decisions of other government entities and lower courts.”  The Supreme Court can decide which laws and lower court decisions are constitutional.  The Supreme Court has effectively created most of its own power and authority through the process of judicial review.
  9. 9. © 2015 Cengage Learning  Marbury v. Madison (1803) o First time the Supreme Court nullified a provision of federal law or an act of Congress, and can do so to any law that in their view (judge’s) violated the Constitution.  Fletcher v. Peck (1810) o The Supreme Court extended its review authority beyond federal law to state laws.  Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee (1816) o The Supreme Court determined that it can review and reverse state court decisions that involved federal law and constitutional issues and can review pending state cases.
  10. 10. © 2015 Cengage Learning  Facts: In 1795, every legislator in Georgia was bribed to permit the sale of 30 million acres of land at less than two cents per acre. The outraged public voted them out of office and a new legislature passed a law in 1796 nullifying the transaction.  Issues: Is a law that negates all property rights established under an earlier law unconstitutional?  Holding: Yes.  Rationale: Violates the Contract Clause (Article I, Section 10) of the United States Constitution. The court held that the 1796 law was an unconstitutional ex post facto law that sought to penalize bona fide purchasers for wrongs committed by those from whom they were purchasing.
  11. 11. © 2015 Cengage Learning  Facts: The state of Virginia enacted legislation during the Revolutionary War that gave the State the power to confiscate the property of British Loyalists. Hunter was given a grant of land by the State. Denny Martin held the land under devise from Lord Thomas Fairfax.  Issues: Does the U.S. Supreme Court have appellate jurisdiction over state court decisions involving federal law?  Holding: Yes.  Rationale: The federal power was given directly by the people and not by the States. Article III, Section 2, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution states that “in all other cases before mentioned the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction”.
  12. 12. © 2015 Cengage Learning  Some say that judges have too much power.  They propose alternatives to judicial review.  Proponents of judicial review argue that there needs to be a watchdog to maintain the constitutionality of law.  Debate is ongoing as to who should have the final say as to what law is constitutional.
  13. 13. © 2015 Cengage Learning  Facts: The petitioner was the subject of an anonymous phone tip to the police about a man in a “striped shirt” and a certain type of car with a certain partial plate driving down a certain street and that he was intoxicated. He asserts his Fourth Amendment rights were violated.  Issues: The question is whether police can make traffic stops on the basis of anonymous tips, even when they themselves have not observed any offending behavior.  Holding: Yes.  Rationale: Chief Justice Roberts said that “this court has in fact recognized that the dangers posed by drunk drivers are unique, frequently upholding anti-drunk-driving policies that might be constitutionally problematic in other, less exigent circumstances.”
  14. 14. © 2015 Cengage Learning  The Supreme Court’s decision to review a case is almost entirely discretionary.  May review a case if federal appeals court request the Courts to “certify” or clarify a legal point.  Obligated to hear certain cases meeting the requirements for an “appeal of right. o They occur infrequently.  Cases heard occur through the writ of certiorari- “to be informed” which cases are worthy of review on the basis of their national importance
  15. 15. © 2015 Cengage Learning  Any case that doesn't have at least one justice expressing interest in it is summarily denied.  This accounts for 70% of cases submitted. o Current dockets show 10,000 petitions filed every year. o Formal written opinions are delivered by the Supreme Court in approximately 80-90 cases each year.  4 out of the 9 justices must vote in favor of granting certiorari for a case to be accepted for review. o When denied, the Court holds that the previous decision will stand.
  16. 16. © 2015 Cengage Learning  1 chief justice and 8 associate justices  Nominated by the President (big responsibility) and confirmed by the Senate  Lifetime appointment o Their jobs can never be held over their head.  Can be removed from office on impeachment for and conviction of treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors. o Complex process and has only happened once in history (Samuel Chase).
  17. 17. © 2015 Cengage Learning  Can be either Liberal or Conservative o Liberal- decision are pro-person accused or convicted of a crime, pro-civil liberties or civil rights, pro-Native American and antigovernment. o Conservative- favor government’s interest in prosecuting and punishing offenders over recognition or expansion of rights for individuals.
  18. 18. © 2015 Cengage Learning  The Warren Court o 1953-1969, Liberal by majority  The Burger Court o 1969-1986, also considered liberal  The Rehnquist Court o 1986-2005, more conservative stance  The Roberts’ Court o 2005-present, conservative in makeup but will see how the justices rule on important issues • Affordable Health Care Act • Affirmative Action programs
  19. 19. © 2015 Cengage Learning  The Supreme Court is a political body.  This is why the Constitution gives the power of appointing justices to the President.  But once appointed, the justices are not accountable to anyone.  Politics may have helped them get their job but this is where it ends.
  20. 20. © 2015 Cengage Learning  Facts: The Florida Supreme Court ordered hand counting of contested ballots in Miami-Dade County during the 2000 Presidential Election. Then-Governor Bush requested a stay of the Florida Supreme Court’s decision.  Issues: Did the Florida Supreme Court violate Article II Section 1 Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution by making new election law?  Holding: Yes in a 5-4 decision.  Rationale: Different standards were applied from ballot to ballot, precinct to precinct, and county to county so the recount was arbitrary and disparate. Dissent argued the Constitution requires that every vote counted and the Court should defer to the Florida’s fundamentally right decision.
  21. 21. © 2015 Cengage Learning  Court conduct business on a traditional manner.  Begins on the 1st Monday of October, continuing until June or July.  Terms are made up of sittings, when cases are heard, and recesses, considers administrative matters at hand and justices write their opinions.  Opinions are: o “A written statement by a judge providing a description of the facts; a statement of the legal issues presented for decision, the relevant rules of law, the holding and the policies and reasons that support the holding.” .
  22. 22. © 2015 Cengage Learning  Chief justice assigns the writing of an opinion if voting with the majority. o Otherwise it is the most senior member of the majority vote who assigns this.  This opinion can be either: o Concurring opinion- agreeing with the majority. o Dissenting opinion- disagreeing with the majority and the reasons underlying the disagreement. o Any justice is free to write an opinion even if not assigned.

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