United States Supreme Court


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Resource for unit of the Judicial Branch of the United States Federal Government

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United States Supreme Court

  1. 1. • During the Articles of Confederation years, there were no national courts and no national judiciary.
  2. 2. • The States applied and interpreted the laws.• What was the problem here? – Decisions by one court might be ignored by court from another state.
  3. 3. • Keep in mind this important point: there are (2) separate court systems.• National system and state system.
  4. 4. • The Constitution creates the Supreme Court and leaves to Congress the creation of the inferior courts: – the lower federal courts.• Over the years Congress has created (2) distinct types of federal courts:
  5. 5. Constitutional Courts• Enforce judicial powers of United States.Special Courts• Created by Congress to hear cases arising out of some expressed power given to Congress.
  6. 6. • DEFINE jurisdiction – Authority to hear (try and decide) a case• What kinds of cases does the Constitution give to the Federal Courts: – They deal with (1) the subject matter or (2) the parties involved
  7. 7. Exclusive: case heard only in Federal CourtConcurrent: Fed + state share power to tryOriginal: court in which a case is first heardAppellate: hears an appeal from a lower court
  8. 8. • We have seen early that the President nominates all Federal judges and the Senate confirms the appointment.
  9. 9. • President nominates someone recommended by the Senator of the state where the Federal Judge is to serve.• Where do most Federal Judges come from? – Legal scholars, law professors, state courts, leading attorneys.
  10. 10. • The concepts of judicial activism and judicial restraint often play a part in the judicial selection process.
  11. 11. • Belief that a judge should use his/her position to promote desirable social ends.
  12. 12. • Belief that a judge should defer to the actions of the executive and legislative branch.
  13. 13. • Judges are appointed for life - until they resign, retire, or die in office.• They may also be removed through the impeachment process: – 13 have been impeached and 7 have been removed throughout US History
  14. 14. • Judges who sit in the special courts are not appointed for life.• Congress sets the terms for the various courts.
  15. 15. • Salaries: – Set by Congress• Retirement: – Full salary if serve 10 years (age 70) or 15 years (age 65)
  16. 16. • Today, Federal judges have little involvement in the day-to-day administrative operations of the courts over which they preside.• What is their primary mission? – Hear and decide cases.
  17. 17. • Judges have support from: – a clerk – several deputy clerks – Bailiffs – court reporters – stenographers
  18. 18. • What do they do for the judges? 1. Make arrests in federal cases 2. Hold persons in custody 3. Keep order in courtrooms
  19. 19. • Congress in the Judiciary Act of 1789 created the District Courts and today there are 94 of them.
  20. 20. • The 50 states are divided into 89 federal districts and 5 other districts for other territories and districts - eg. Washington DC.
  21. 21. Middle EasternWestern
  22. 22. • A single judge in each district often hears cases – but certain cases may be a heard by a 3-judge panel.• What is the FISA court? – Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court
  23. 23. • District Courts have original jurisdiction over most cases heard in federal courts.• Most of the decisions made in federal court are final, some cases may be appealed the court of appeals; few go directly to the Supreme Court.
  24. 24. Criminal Cases• Defendant committed action that Congress declared a federal crime.Civil Cases• A dispute over terms of a contract or a claim of patent infringement.
  25. 25. • Established in 1891 to act as “gatekeepers” to relieve the Supreme Court of the burden of hearing appeals from the district courts.• The Supreme Court then was 3 years behind its docket = list of cases to be heard.
  26. 26. • Today there are 12 courts of appeals in the judicial system.• 12 judicial circuits.• Today there are 179 circuit judges that sit on these appellate courts and a Supreme Court justice is also assigned to each circuit.
  27. 27. • They hear cases on appeal from the lower federal courts.• They hear about 55,000 cases a year and their decisions are final unless what happens? – Unless the Supreme Court chooses to hear appeals taken from them.
  28. 28. • Created in 1890 with 9 judges.• Holds trials in major port cities such as New Orleans, New York and San Francisco.• What kinds of cases does it hear? Civil cases arising out of tariff or trade related laws.
  29. 29. • Created in 1982 and has national jurisdiction.• Why was it created? – To centralize and speed up appeals in certain kinds of civil cases.
  30. 30. • Judicial review: extraordinary power to decide the constitutionality of an act of government, whether executive, legislative, or judicial.
  31. 31. • Who does the ultimate exercise of this power rest with? – The United States Supreme Court
  32. 32. • This case (1803) first asserted the Court’s power of judicial review.• Chief Justice John Marshall’s powerful opinion was based 3 propositions:
  33. 33. 1. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land.2. Legislative acts and other actions of government are subordinate to supreme law.3. Judges are sworn to enforce the provisions of the Constitution.
  34. 34. • Supreme Court has the right to declare act of Congress unconstitutional.• Laid the foundation for the judicial branch’s key role in development of the American system of government.
  35. 35. • The Supreme Court has both original and appellate jurisdiction• Where do most of the cases come from? APPELLATE
  36. 36. • The Constitution spells out two classes of cases that may be heard by the High Court in its original jurisdiction: 1. Those in which a state is a party 2. Those affecting ambassadors, other public ministers or consuls
  37. 37. • Some 8,000 cases are now appealed to the Supreme Court each year.• Of these the Court accepts only a few 100 for decision.
  38. 38. • What is the rule of four? – At least 4 of the 9 justices agree that a case should be put on the Court’s docket.
  39. 39. • More than half the cases decided by the court are disposed of in brief orders.• This means the case is returned to the lower court for reconsideration in light of a recent or related case by the High Court.
  40. 40. • Most cases reach court this way.• Order by the Court directing a lower court to send up a record in a given case for review.• When a certiorari is denied – the lower court decision stands.
  41. 41. • A few cases reach the Court by certificate.• This means a lower court asks the Supreme Court to certify the answer to a specific question in a complex matter.
  42. 42. • The Court sits from the first Monday in October to sometime the following June or July.• How is each term identified? By the year in which it began.
  43. 43. • Once the Supreme Court accepts a case, its sets a date on which that case will be heard.• This is done in 2- week cycles.
  44. 44. • They hear oral arguments in several cases for two weeks.• Then they recess for two weeks to do what? – The Court considers those cases and handle other court business.
  45. 45. • Lawyers arguing before the High Court may only speak for 30 minutes.
  46. 46. • Briefs are written documents filed with the Court before oral arguments begin.• What is the purpose of a brief? – To provide relevant facts that support one side of case; attempt to influence.
  47. 47. • The Court may also receive amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs .• These are filed by persons or groups who are not actual parties in a case but have a substantial interest in its outcome.
  48. 48. • Principal officer in the Department of Justice, has two important responsibilities: 1. Represents the United States in all cases in which the US is a party. 2. Decides which cases the government should ask the Court to review and what position the US should take.
  49. 49. • The justices meet in conference, in closest secrecy, to consider the cases in which they have heard oral arguments.
  50. 50. • What role does the Chief Justice play in the conference? – He presides over the conference and speaks first.
  51. 51. • Each justice summarizes or “presents” their views in order of seniority.• The last justice appointed goes last.• About 1/3 of all the Court’s decisions are unanimous, but most find the court divided.
  52. 52. • Why are the Court’s cases usually controversial ones? – The easier cases rarely get that far.
  53. 53. • If the Chief Justice is in the majority on a case, he assigns the writing of the opinion.• If he is in the minority; he will assign the senior associate justice.
  54. 54. • Define: written explanation by a judge or group of judges that accompanies a ruling in a case, laying out the rationale and legal principles for the ruling.• There are (3) types of opinions:
  55. 55. Majority - Announces the Court’s decision andreasoning on which it is based.Concurring – to add or emphasize a point thatwas not made in the majority opinion.Dissenting – written by justices who do not agreewith the Court’s majority decision.
  56. 56. • Examples to be followed in similar cases as they arise in the lower courts or reach the Supreme Court.
  57. 57. • Chief Justice – Born 1955 – Harvard, Harvard Law• On court since September 29, 2005.• Appointed by George W. Bush
  58. 58. • Associate Justice – Born 1936 – Georgetown, Harvard Law• On court since September 26, 1986.• Appointed by Ronald Reagan
  59. 59. • Associate Justice – Born 1936 – Stanford, Harvard Law• On court since February 18, 1988.• Appointed by Ronald Reagan
  60. 60. • Associate Justice – Born 1948 – Holy Cross, Yale Law• On court since October 23, 1991.• Appointed by George HW Bush
  61. 61. • Associate Justice – Born 1933 – Cornell, Columbia Law• On court since August 10, 1993.• Appointed by Bill Clinton
  62. 62. • Associate Justice – Born 1938 – Stanford, Harvard Law• On court since August 3, 1994.• Appointed by Bill Clinton
  63. 63. • Associate Justice – Born 1950 – Princeton, Yale Law• On court since January 31, 2006.• Appointed by George W. Bush
  64. 64. • Associate Justice – Born 1954 – Princeton, Yale Law• On court since August 8, 2009.• Appointed by Barack Obama
  65. 65. • Associate Justice – Born 1960 – Princeton, Harvard Law• On court since August 7, 2010.• Appointed by Barack Obama
  66. 66. The following slides take a look at important decisions made by the US Supreme Court
  67. 67. Issue Key Aspect Decided• 6th Amendment • Established that when a suspect asks to speak – Right to counsel with an attorney, the• Defendant was not police must comply given a lawyer when with the request he asked for one… • Even before formal charges have been filed against the suspect.
  68. 68. Issue Key Aspect Decided• 6th Amendment • The court stated that the right to an attorney – Right to counsel was a fundamental• Defendant was not right for a fair trial. given a lawyer during • All states would be a trial due to state required to provide policy in Florida. counsel in criminal cases.
  69. 69. Issue Key Aspect Decided• 8th Amendment • Forced states and – capital punishment national legislatures to rethink their laws to• Death sentence was assure that the death being issued penalty would not be arbitrarily with administered in a regards to race … discriminatory manner.
  70. 70. Issue Key Aspect Decided• 8th Amendment • Supreme Court – cruel and unusual punishment ruled that the death• Defendant argued that penalty was the death penalty was constitutional and unconstitutional because it was “cruel states could use it. and unusual punishment”.
  71. 71. Issue Key Aspect Decided• 4th and 14th • Evidence obtained in Amendments violation of the Fourth Amendment, which – illegal evidence protects against and due process "unreasonable• Defendant claimed searches and seizures", illegal search and may not be used in seizure criminal prosecutions.
  72. 72. Issue Key Aspect Decided• 5th, 6th, 14th • Established the Amendments importance of informing defendants – Rights of of their legal rights criminally accused before they are• Not aware of rights arrested in order to ensure due process.
  73. 73. Issue Key Aspect Decided• 1st Amendment • Court ruled the PA law unconstitutional• A Pennsylvania State because it violated the law required reading “establishment clause” from a Bible each of the 1st Amendment. day at school… • Schools should not have prayer in school.
  74. 74. Issue Key Aspect Decided• 1st Amendment • Established the “Lemon – Establishment Test”. clause • Public money can be used for non-secular• Aid to church purposes in religious supported schools schools.
  75. 75. Issue Key Aspect Decided• 1st Amendment • Court ruled in favor of – Freedom of student expression. expression. • Expression allowed as• Students wearing of long as it does black armbands in interfere with protest of the operation of school. Vietnam war.
  76. 76. Issue Key Aspect Decided• 4th Amendment • Court said public school officials can search• Vice-principal students private belongings. searched a student’s • To conduct a search, purse and found public schools need only a reasonable suspicion contraband. that a student has• Illegal search… violated the law or a school rule.
  77. 77. Issue Key Aspect Decided• 1st Amendment • Court ruled that – Freedom of speech student newspapers• Principal removed could be censored articles from school by school newspaper. administration.
  78. 78. Issue Key Aspect Decided• Right to privacy • The Court held that a• A Texas woman womans right to an claimed right to abortion fell within the privacy when she right to privacy wanted to artificially protected by the terminate her Fourteenth pregnancy… Amendment.
  79. 79. Issue Key Aspect Decided• 1st Amendment • Supreme Court held• Right to burn US that flag burning was Flag in protest of a form of expression government. protected under the First Amendment.• State law made it illegal.
  80. 80. Issue Key Aspect Decided• 14th Amendment • The court held that a• University of race-conscious Michigan using admissions process points to help may favor members of racial "underrepresented groups gain minority groups“. entrance to school... • Affirmative Action legal
  81. 81. Issue Key Aspect Decided• 1st Amendment • Congress has the authority to require• Federal Government public schools and said all libraries that libraries receiving federal receive federal $$$ $$$ to install web must install filters filtering software as a condition of receiving on computers….. federal funding.