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Judicial Branch

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Dennis Cabrera

on 2 April 2014

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Transcript of Judicial Branch

Making Decisions, continued
Dissenting opinions are written by justices who oppose the majority.
Concurring opinions are written in support of the majority but stress a different legal basis.
Stare decisis: to let the previous decision stand unchanged.
Precedents: How similar past cases were decided.
Original Intent: The idea that the Constitution should be viewed according to the original intent of the framers.
The Courts as Policymakers
Participants in the Judicial System
Plaintiff - the party bringing the charge
Defendant - the party being charged
Jury - the people (normally 12) who often decide the outcome of a case
Standing to sue - plaintiffs have a serious interest in the case.
Justiciable disputes – A case must be capable of being settled as a matter of law.
The Nature of the Judicial System
The Federal Courts
What Courts Should Do: The Scope of Judicial Power

Judicial restraint: judges should play a minimal policymaking role - leave the policies to the legislative branch.

Judicial activism: judges should make bold policy decisions and even charting new constitutional ground.

Political questions: means of the federal courts to avoid deciding some cases.

Statutory construction: the judicial interpretation of an act of Congress.
Understanding the Courts
The Courts and Democracy

Courts are not very democratic

Not elected
Difficult to remove

The courts do reflect popular majorities

Groups are likely to use the courts when other methods fail – promoting pluralism

There are still conflicting rulings leading to deadlock and inconsistency
Understanding the Courts
A Historical Review
John Marshall and the Growth of Judicial Review
Marbury v. Madison
Judicial review: courts determine constitutionality of acts of Congress
The “Nine Old Men”
The Warren Court
The Burger Court
The Rehnquist Court
The Courts and the Policy Agenda
The Backgrounds of Judges and Justices
The Backgrounds of Judges and Justices

Generally white males

Lawyers with judicial and often political experience

Other Factors:

Generally of the same party as the appointing president

Judges and justices may disappoint the appointing president
The Backgrounds of Judges and Justices
The Politics of Judicial Selection
The Supreme Court

President relies on attorney general and DOJ to screen candidates.

1 out of 5 nominees will not make it.

Presidents with minority party support in the Senate will have more trouble.

Chief Justice can be chosen from a sitting justice, or a new member.
The Politics of Judicial Selection
The Lower Courts

Senatorial Courtesy:
Unwritten tradition where a judge is not confirmed if a senator of the president’s party from the state where the nominee will serve opposes the nomination.

Has the effect of the president approving the Senate’s choice

President has more influence on appellate level
The Politics of Judicial Selection
The Structure of the Federal Judicial System
The Organization and Jurisdiction of the Courts
The Structure of the
Federal Judicial System
The Supreme Court
9 justices – 1 Chief Justice, 8 Associate Justices

Supreme Court decides which cases it will hear

Some original jurisdiction, but mostly appellate jurisdiction.

Most cases come from the federal courts

Most cases are civil cases
The Structure of the Federal Judicial System
Courts of Appeal

Appellate Jurisdiction: reviews the legal issues in cases brought from lower courts.

Hold no trials and hear no testimony.

12 circuit courts

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit – specialized cases

Focus on errors of procedure & law
The Structure of the Federal Judicial System
The Structure of the Federal Judicial System
Figure 16.1
Two types of cases:

Criminal Law: The government charges an individual with violating one or more specific laws.\

Civil Law: The court resolves a dispute between two parties and defines the relationship between them.\

Most cases are tried and resolved in state courts, not federal courts.
The Nature of the Judicial System
Understanding the Courts
Implementing Court Decisions
Must rely on others to carry out decisions
Interpreting population: understand the decision
Implementing population: the people who need to carry out the decision – may be disagreement
Consumer population: the people who are affected (or could be) by the decision
The Courts as Policymakers
Accepting Cases
Use the “rule of four” to choose cases.
Issues a writ of certiorari to call up the case.
Very few cases are actually accepted each year.
The Courts as Policymakers
Figure 16.4
The Federal Judicial Circuits
The Structure of the Federal Judicial System
District Courts

Original Jurisdiction: courts that hear the case first and determine the facts - the trial court.

Federal crimes

Civil suits under federal law and across state lines

Supervise bankruptcy and naturalization

Review some federal agencies

Admiralty and maritime law cases
The Structure of the Federal Judicial System
Participants in the Judicial System
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
Access to quality lawyers is not equal.
The Nature of the Judicial System
Making Decisions
Oral arguments may be made in a case.
Justices discuss the case.
One justice will write the majority opinion (statement of legal reasoning behind a judicial decision) on the case.
The Courts as Policymakers
Figure 16.5
Full transcript