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Copy of Ch 16 - A.P Gov - Mr Leonard

The Federal Court System

James Leonard

on 2 June 2016

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Transcript of Copy of Ch 16 - A.P Gov - Mr Leonard

Chapter 16 The Federal Courts The Basics 2 Types of Court Cases Criminal Most cases are tried and resolved in state and local courts, not federal. Every case = plaintiff (accuser) vs. defendant (accused) Both parties also known as “litigants” Other Participants Groups

- Use the courts to try to change policies.

- Amicus Curiae briefs are used to influence the courts.


- Legal Services Corporation - lawyers to assist the poor in civil lawsuits

- Access to quality lawyers is not equal.

- Public defenders U.S Constitution is vague on the federal court system... Only specifies Supreme Court In addition to the SCOTUS…

Let's take a closer look at this "3 tiered system" Federal District Courts District Courts have “original jurisdiction” Federal Courts of Appeal Federal Appeals Courts have “appellate jurisdiction” U.S.A divided into 12 judicial circuits Supreme Court of the U.S.A Highest court in the federal system Resolve conflicts among the states Important Functions of the SCOTUS Decisions of the court of appeals are binding on only the district courts within the geographic confines of the circuit. Example : Decision by 9th circuit court of appeals ONLY impacts geographical region of 9th circuit. Decision of SCOTUS impacts ENTIRE NATION! So how exactly are Federal Judges selected? Often a very political process All obtain their jobs via this process! Competence (Judicial experience/knowledge)
Nomination Criteria The Confirmation Process Senator Committee Hearings
- Conducts investigations into qualifications and
judicial experience/case (decisions) history of
nominees Remember...

Any federal judge (District, Appellate, SCOTUS) once confirmed serve for LIFE! So how exactly does the SCOTUS opperate?

Use the “rule of four” to choose cases.
- 4 of 9 justices must want to hear a case for it to be accepted Oral arguments may be made in a case. Making Decisions Majority opinions: are those which are agreed upon by more than half the justices.
Some SCOTUS vocab... Courts are not very democratic
- Not elected
- Difficult to remove The Courts and Democracy Judicial restraint: judges should play a minimal policymaking role - leave the policies to the legislative branch.
What Courts Should Do: The Scope of Judicial Power Understanding the Courts The Constitution insulates the Supreme Court justices from direct political pressures… The SCOTUS is still well aware of, and sensitive to public opinion… Accepting Cases (SCOTUS) President nominates
Senate Confirms

President can fill Chief Justice vacancy from within associate justices (if so, a Senate confirmation of this promotion is required)

Or...he can nominate a brand new justice to the court with the role of Chief Justice specifically in mind

Below is a list of all Chief Justices of the SCOTUS, the year appointed, as well as the appointing President. 1 John Jay 1789-1795 George Washington
2 John Rutledge 1795 George Washington
3 Oliver Ellsworth 1796-1800 George Washington
4 John Marshall 1801-1835 John Adams
5 Roger Brooke Taney 1836-1864 Andrew Jackson
6 Salmon Portland Chase 1864-1873 Abraham Lincoln
7 Morrison Remick Waite 1874-1888 Ulysses S. Grant
8 Melville Weston Fuller 1888-1910 Grover Cleveland
9 Edward Douglass White? 1910-1921 William Howard Taft
10 William Howard Taft 1921-1930 Warren G. Harding
11 Charles Evans Hughes 1930-1941 Herbert Hoover
12 Harlan Fiske Stone? 1941-1946 Franklin Delano Roosevelt
13 Frederick Moore Vinson 1946-1953 Harry S. Truman
14 Earl Warren 1953-1969 Dwight D. Eisenhower
15 Warren Earl Burger 1969-1986 Richard Nixon
16 William Hubbs Rehnquist 1986-2005 Ronald Reagan
17 John Roberts, Jr. 2005-present President George W. Bush Current Chief Justice of the SCOTUS John Roberts, Jr. Chief Justice of the SCOTUS The court resolves a dispute between two parties and defines the relationship between them. (financial restitution) Civil The government charges an individual with violating one or more specific laws. * Redressability – likelihood a court decision will
redress/settle the injury * Causation – link between injury and the defendant
* Injury – actual or imminent, economic or non-econ
Must have “standing to sue” = serious interest in a case
- Thousands of state/local courts - 12 federal courts of appeals
- 94 federal district courts
Judiciary Act of 1789
- Created 3 tiered federal court system Allows Congress discretion to establish lower federal courts - Federal Crimes
- Civil Suits Under Federal Law
- Naturalization
- Bankruptcy
- Maritime Law District Courts Jurisdiction Approx 700 district court judges presiding
Of those that do require the federal court system: only about 2%
actually go to trial (most plea bargained) Approx 98% of trials in USA are in state/local court system
- Also referred to as “trial courts”
* Only federal courts where juries may be called
- Original Jurisdiction = power to hear a case for the first time
- Handles specialized cases

* Patents, Copyrights, Trademarks, Claims
against the USA, International trade Also...1 “U.S Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia” - 11 regions
- 1 for D.C
- 3 Judge Panels (typically)
* Decisions made by majority vote - Hold no trials, hear no testimonies, no witnesses
* Only seek to determine if errors in law have occured - Appellate Jurisdiction = review the legal issues brought
before lower courts (the federal district courts)
* Altered many times from 1801-1869
* Stable at 9 since 1869 - # not set in the Constitution - 1 Chief Justice
- 8 Associate Justices
9 Justices
Only court specifically established within Article III (judicial powers) of the U.S Constitution

Posses "original" and "appellate" jurisidiction Cases appealed to SCOTUS must involve “a substantial federal question” - Most via appellate courts
- From either state or federal courts
Original and appellate jurisdiction SCOTUS decides what cases it hears
Ensure uniformity in interpretation of national laws Maintain national supremacy in the law
- Allows for continuity and predictability - Reliance on past decisions or precedents to formulate
decisions in new cases is called “stare decisis.” Decisions of the Supreme Court are binding throughout the nation and establish national precedents. *President consults the senior U.S. Senator of his political
party of a given state before nominating any person to a
federal vacancy within that Senator's state. - Unwritten political custom Senatorial Courtesy
- Republicans will often filibuster nominations of Dem. Presidents
- Democrats will do the same for GOP Presidents nominees Will reflect the ideology of the president (and his party) - District
- Appeals Court
Judges nominated by president and confirmed by Senate - Interest groups can support/oppose judicial nominee's via media campaigns.
- Produce commercials/ads to help or hurt public support for nominee
- Hope is to influence Senators in their advice/consent of a nomination Political support of outside groups - If a President nominates someone too far to the left or right...they will
likely be filibustered, blocking their nomination.
- IE...Republican President likely to nominate right-leaning judge
Democrat President likely to nominate left-leaning judge Judges of relatively moderate natures are more easily appointable - Liberal constructionist: believe the Constitution is a
living document, needs to evolve over time. - Strict constructionist: an approach to
constitutional interpretation that emphasizes
the Framer’s original intentions.
Ideology or Policy Preference
Senate Vote
- Simple majority vote to confirm
- However...60 votes needed to clear filibuster remember! Lobbying by Interest Groups (may support or oppose nominee)
- Attempt to influence Senators votes
As well as why interest groups are so concerned about those who will decide cases/set precedents in future cases This explains why nominees are so scrutinized by the Senate
No limit...appointed and serve till they retire/die/impeached. Very few cases are actually accepted each year. Issues a writ of certiorari to call up the case.
- Allows SCOTUS to demand/call up a case from anywhere in the
country (state or federal)
One justice will write the majority opinion (statement of legal reasoning behind a judicial decision) on the case. Justices discuss the case. Original Intent: The idea that the Constitution should be viewed according to the original intent of the framers. Precedents: How similar past cases were decided.
Stare decisis: to let a previous decision stand unchanged. (accept past precedents)
Concurring opinions: are written in support of the majority but stress a different legal basis. Dissenting opinions: are written by justices who oppose the majority.
- Amicus Curiea Brief (friend of the court letter)
- Can't pursuade Congress...file a lawsuit
to achieve your policy goals through the
Groups are likely to use the courts when other methods fail – promoting pluralism The courts do reflect popular majorities
- Constitutionality guides them
- Not mob rule
Judicial activism: judges should make bold policy decisions and even charting new constitutional ground. - Public has limited access to Court proceedings - "Writ of Certiorari" process lets SCOTUS pick their own
cases/set their own agenda - Salaries can not be reduced - Lifetime appointments
- Justices can be impeached - Congress can change the # of justices on the court
- Congress can change the SCOTUS appellate jurisdiction
- Congress/State legislatures can amend the Constitution
- Appointment process keeps them from straying to far left or right
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