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Supreme Court Decision Making

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Heather MacDonald

on 24 October 2013

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Transcript of Supreme Court Decision Making

Supreme Court Decision Making

The Courts Procedures
During any term the court sits for two consecutive weeks each month. Monday-Wednesday the court hears oral arguments. Wednesday-Friday the justices meet in secret conferences to decide cases.
Limits on the Supreme Court
* This is just saying that the court does not have unlimited powers. They have restrictions on certain issues and cases, limited control over the agenada, and lack of enforcement power.
Steps in Deciding Major Cases
They follow a set of procedures when hearing important cases.
Tools for Shaping Policy
*Congress makes policy by making laws
*President shapes policy by carrying out laws and by drawing up the national budget
*Supreme court decides policy in 3 ways:
1) Judicial Review
2) interrpreting the meaning of laws
3) overruling or revising previous decisons
Influencing Court Decisions
* The five forces that shape the decisions the court makes includes: 1) existing laws 2) personal views of the justices 3) justices interatctions with one another 4) social forces and public attitudes 5) Congress and the President.
How cases Reach the Court
Cases reach the court by either:
Going straight to the Supreme Court because it falls under the jurisdiction.
The others go to the Supreme Court only as appeals from the lower courts.
Cases might also reach the court house on appeal which states that the lower federal or state court has been requested to be reviewed.
Sometimes the court will reject the cases that go to them on appeal either because it has procedural defects or doesn't involve the federal law.
The solicitor general is very key because it serves as a link between the executive and judicial branch.
Writ of Certiorari is the main route to the Supreme Court. It is an order from the higher court to the lower court saying they need to send up the records from a previous case.
The Supreme Court chooses which cases it will consider, but they reject 90% of the cases that are requests for certiorari.
When selecting cases the petitions or certiorari go to the court and then either the justices or the clerks identify the cases that should be under serious conciderationa and then puts them in a "discuss list" pile. Which 2/3 never make it to the pile.
When the court accepts a case they submit a brief which is a written statment setting forth legal arguments, important facts, and informationn supporting one side of a case.
Amicus Curiae- is a "friend" of the court that are not directly involved in the case but have an interest in its out-come may send in written briefs.
After everything has been turned in, the lawyers for each side will have to present an oral argument infront of the court. They each get 30 minutes to present all of the key points.
After that the 9 justices come to a conference room and then the secret meeting begins.
The chief would give a summary about the case and woud give some recommendations for handling it.
With the major cases that the Court issues, one at the most has to have a written opinion. Which includes: facts of the case, announces the courts ruling and reasoning in reaching the decision.
The Court offers 4 kinds of opinions.
Unanimous Opinion
-justices vote the same way.
Majority Opinion
-expresses the view of the majority of the justices.
Concurring Opinion
- one or more justices agree with the majority opinion, but for different way.
Dissenting Opinion
- the opinion of justices on the losing side of the case.
Overturning Earlier Decisions
*Stare decis: "let the decision stand".
Types of Limits
Limits of types of issues:

The court does not give equal attention to all areas of national policy. Over the years the courts decisions have dealt with 1) civil liberties 2) Economic issues 3)Federal Legislation and Regulations.
Limits on types of cases: The court will hear only cases that meet a certain criteria. Second, the person or group bringing the case must have suffered real harm. Third the court accepts cases that involve a substantial federal question. Finally the court refuses to deal with political questions.
Limit Control over Agenda: Events beyond the Courts control shapes it's agenda. In mid-1970's Congress abolished the draft, it ended the court's ability to decide religous freedom cases.
Lack of Enforcement Power and Checks and Balances.
The court has limited ability to enfore it's rulings. President Andrew Jackson recognized the limitation when he refused to carry out a court ruling that he didn't like. "[ Chief of Justice] John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enfore it."
Checks and balances: Constitution provides away to check the Supreme court's power. The checks include: President's power to appoint justices, Senate's power to approve appointments, & Congresses power to impeach and remove justices.
Based on Jim Harvey's speech structures
Judicial Review
-The Supreme Court's power to examine the laws and actions of local, state, and national governments and to cancel them if they violate the Constitution.
ex: Marbury v. Madison

*when the court declares a law unconsitutional, it often discourages the passage of similar legislation for years!
-they may also review presidential policies
-excersice JR at state and local levels
-also have influence at the federal level
ex: Brown c. Board of Edu of Topeka
Interpretation of Laws
*Congress often uses very general language in framing laws, leaving it to the executive or judicial branch to apply the law to a specific situation

*The Supreme court, in the end, decides what Congress means, and the impact of its rulings is felt across the nation!
under this principle, once the court rules on a case, its decisions serves as a precedent, or model, on which to base other decisions in similar cases
-law needs to be:
adaptable to changing times, social values, & attitudes
By: Topanga Kemerling
Candy Garcia
Elizabeth Quina
Heather MacDonald

Relations Among Justices
Despite the lack of frequent interaction, the personal relations among justices influences the Court's decision making.
The chief has several powers in presiding over the court during oral arguments and in conference. They can direct discuss and frame alternatives.
The Court and Society
Harold Burton was appointed to the Supreme Court after serving the Congress and said that that court is fairly well insulated from public opinion and daily political pressures.
The court relies on the cooperation and goodwill of others to enfore it's decisions.
The values and beliefs of society influence the Supreme court.
Two cases that provide an example of how the court changes with time are: Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.
Full transcript