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Copy of Chapter 15: Courts, Judges, and the Law

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Alana Park

on 4 March 2015

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Transcript of Copy of Chapter 15: Courts, Judges, and the Law

U.S District Courts: Where Federal Cases Begin
Ninety-four district courts occupy the lowest level in the federal judiciary.
Civil cases dominate district court caseloads, however criminal cases are crowding the dockets of these courts with drug violations leading the way. District court cases are tried before a jury unless a defendant waives that right.

Bench Trial
- The judge decides the outcome of the case.
The Constitutional Powers of the Judicial Branch.
The federal judiciary has grown in both size and power in ways the framers could not have predicted.
The Article III gives federal courts jurisdiction in two types of cases.
The first type involves the Constitution, federal laws, or disputes with foreign governments.
The second are civil cases.
Overtime the judicial review has become the judicial branch’s most important check on the other two branches.

15.4 The Federal Judiciary
15.2 The Main Role of the Judicial Branch: Resolving Society’s Conflicts
Two Kinds of Legal Conflicts: Criminal and Civil:
The process usually begins in trial courts, where the cases are categorized as criminal or civil.
In criminal cases, the government always prosecutes. People found guilty of criminal law are usually punished by fines, prison sentences, or probation
Beyond a reasonable doubt; the evidence in a trial must allow for no other reasonable explanation than the one given.
Disputes over ownership of property, injuries from an accident, or terms of a contract are examples of civil law. These usually happen with private parties, or private parties and the government. In most instances, one party sues the other for damages or compensation.
The party who brings the lawsuit must prove that there is a preponderance of evidence; the party must prove that it’s more likely than not that the other party is a fault and should be held liable for the burden of proof in a civil trial.
15.1 Introduction
The U.S. Supreme Court met for the first time on February 2, 1790.
At that time, the Supreme Court’s
docket
; list of cases, was empty. This would continue for the next 3 years.
In Article III, Section I of the Constitution states, “The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme court,” though some argued that the state courts could handle the nation’s legal business and believed a new set of courts would be too expensive.
The Judiciary Act of 1789
, this law established a federal judicial system made up of district and circuit courts and specified the kinds of cases the courts could try. It laid out the qualifications and responsibility of federal judges, district attorneys, and other judicial officials.
15.3 America’s Dual Court System
Jurisdiction Determines What Gets Tried Where
They want people to enforce the laws and make some laws legal in the states.
Jurisdiction can limited by three factors:
Level in the court hierarchy-
Original Jurisdiction
: A court authority to hear a case for the first time, before it appears in any other court.
Appellate Jurisdiction
: A court’s authority to review decisions made in lower courts.
Appeal courts do not second-guess jury by reviewing the facts in a case. Their focus is on whether the trial in the lower court was carried out in a fair manner, with no errors of law.
Errors of Law
: A mistake made by a judge in applying the law to a specific case.
Geographic Reach
: These are courts usually limited to city or country in which that court operates.
The federal system has 13 appellate courts. The U.S. Supreme Court accepts cases from anywhere in the United States and its territories.

By: Alex W., Edgar D., Jessica S., and Morgan L.
Chapter 15: Courts, Judges, and the Law
The Many Players in a Court of Law:
In the courtroom, the judge controls the legal proceedings. The judge decides whether evidence is admissible. The judge also informs the jury on how the law can affect them in decision making.
The defendant and the the prosecution sit near the judge and are directly involved in the case, mostly in criminal cases.
The person bringing the lawsuit to court, or the plaintiff, is brought against the defendant, in most civil cases. Both plaintiffs and defendants are mostly accompanied by attorneys.
There are also officers of the court, such as the court clerk, the bailiff, and the court reporter. They are not directly involved with the case.

The Key Role of Citizens: Witnesses and Jurors:
Citizens are useful in the courtroom as jurors and witnesses. During cross-examination; when the opposing attorney begins questioning the witness, a witness's memory and truthfulness might be questioned.
Typically, juries consist of 12 people. To be a juror, you must be a U.S citizen, 18 years old, able to understand English, a resident within the court’s jurisdiction, and not a convicted felon.
Approximately 4 out of 5 prospective jurors are dismissed from jury duty. Some might be prejudice or bias and are excused.
More than 60% of jurors report that they would be on jury duty again.

CURRENT EVENT: Family of man who died in Baltimore police custody files lawsuit. http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2014-06-23/news/bs-md-ci-tyrone-west-lawsuit-20140623_1_tyrone-west-jorge-bernardez-ruiz-nicholas-chapman
Types of Cases:
General Jurisdiction:
The authority of a court to hear cases on a variety of subjects.
Limited Jurisdiction
: The right of certain courts to hear only specialized kinds of cases, such as traffic violations or bankruptcy issues.
Most Cases are Heard in State Courts:
In 2005, the combined caseload of the 50 states and Puerto Rico totaled around 100 million cases.
State court cases vary in their structures.
Trial Courts of Limited Jurisdiction
They are known as justice-of-the-peace courts, magistrate courts, municipal courts, city courts, county courts, traffic courts, or small-claims courts, depending on the state the types of cases they hear.
Trial courts of General Jurisdiction
They are often called superior, district, or circuit courts.
Intermediate appellate Courts
Intermediate courts of appeals hear appeals from general trial court.
Courts of Last Resort
When a state decides a case, they only avenue of appeal left is the U.S. Supreme Court.

Choosing State Judges: Election, Appointment, and Merit Selection
Each state has its own method of choosing the judges who preside over state courts.
Judicial Election
Its the oldest way of choosing state judges is through the election process
Method of choosing judges is not without its pitfalls, however.
Judicial Appointment
In a handful of states, judges are appointed by the governor or state legislature.
Merit Selection and Retention Elections
Finally, many judges are selected through process that combines appointments and elections.

Current Event
: Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman said on Wednesday he would appeal a state court ruling that invalidated his decision to allow the Keystone XL pipeline to pass through the state.
http://sputniknews.com/voiceofrussia/news/2014_02_20/Nebraska-governor-to-appeal-ruling-on-Keystone-pipeline-0234/
U.S Appeals Courts: Where Most Appeals End
The thirteenth appellate courts occupy the second level of the federal judiciary. These mid level courts are known as U.S. courts of appeals. Only a fraction of the cases decided in district courts are reviewed by appeals courts.
Out of the 13 appeals courts one deals with cases arising in Washington, D.C. Eleven review cases circuits made up several states. These 13 appeals court reviews cases nationwide that involve special subjects such as veterans benefits and trade issues.
The judges who staff appeals courts sit in panels of three to hear cases. Their primary job is to review district court cases to determine whether the district judge made an error in applying the law in that one trial.

Affirmative Action
-Practice of making special efforts to admit, recruit, or hire members of disadvantaged groups.
Earlier legal challenge to affirmative action policies had reached the Supreme Court in 1978. However schools could not set up separate admission systems for minorities. Nor could schools reserve a quota, or fixed number, of admission slots for minority applications.
The appeals court reversed the lower court’s decision. The judges found that the law school had created a separate admissions policy for minorities.

Special Courts Have Specialized Jurisdiction

Congress has established special federal courts to deal with specific categories.
Military Tribunals
- A court in which offices from armed force serve as both judge and jury.
In 2006, Congress authorized the creation of military tribunals to try non citizens accused of committing acts of terrorism against the United States.

Federal Judges: Nomination, Terms, and Salaries
All federal courts have one thing in common and its the judges.
The constitution gives the president the power to appoint federal judges with the “Advice and Consent of the Senate.
Senatorial Courtesy
- Allows a senator to block a nomination to a federal court in his or her home state.
Blue-Slip Policy
-Nominations are blocked through a process.
The process of becoming a judge in the federal court system is first they decide how many judges there should be and where they will work. Second through the confirmation process and lastly the Congress approves.

CURRENT EVENT-
http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/24/justice/tobacco-warning-label-law/ This is about a governement mandate requiring tobacco compaines to a place graphic images on their products warning of the dangers of smoking.
Section 5: The Supreme Court
The Supreme Court is the last resort in the federal judicial system.
The Selection for Supreme Court Justices
The Supreme Court justices are selected through the same process used for all federal judges.
When a vacancy occurs on the court, the president pulls together a list of possible candidates to consider. The Department of Justice conducts background checks on the candidates to verify that their character, experience, and judicial philosophy meet the general criteria set by the President.
The ABA’s Standing Committee on the federal judiciary assesses a candidate’s experience, professional competence, integrity, and judicial temperament. Judicial temperament is the personal qualities considered important in a judge.
The ABA’s role in the selection process has been long controversial. Some critics argue that a nongovernmental organization should not have too much power in judicial appointment.
Once a candidate is selected, the nomination goes to the Senate Judiciary Committee for review. The judiciary Committee then recommends, by majority vote, whether the full Senate should confirm or reject the nomination.
The Full Senate votes in the nomination. When the nomination is for a Supreme Court Justice, the stakes are higher and conformation is less sure.

The Supreme Court Chooses Its Cases
The Supreme Court is asked to review several thousand cases each year but will only hear between 100 and 150. The case reaching the Supreme Court are the appeals from cases that began in lower courts.
The most common way that a case comes to the Supreme Court is through a petition for a
writ of certiorari
which is a writ of a legal document. This is issued by the Supreme Court ordering that a case from a lower court be brought before it. For a writ of certiorari to be granted, four of the nine Supreme Court justices must agree to hear the case.
Written Briefs and Oral Arguments
Once the Court decides to hear a case, the attorneys for both sides prepare legal briefs. These are written documents, sometimes 100 pages long, that present the legal arguments for each side in the case.
Sympathetic interest groups may also choose to file an
amicus curiae brief
. This is a legal document submitted to a court by a group not party to a particular case but wishing to influence court’s decision in the case. Interest Groups use it to let the Court know that the issue at hand is important to far more people than just the plaintiffs and defendants in the case.
Eventually, Attorneys from both sides appear before the court to present their case. This is known as
oral argument
. The Court encourages attorneys to use this time to discuss the case, not deliver a formal lecture.
As interesting as oral arguments are to the public, the real work of the Court is done in conferences. No one other than the nine justices may attend.

Decision Options: To Uphold or Overrule
The Supreme Court decisions either uphold or overturn a decision made by a lower court.
If the Supreme Court overturns a lower court’s decision, it may send that case back to the lower for further action.
Every decision serves as a precedent for future cases with similar circumstances, Under the doctrine known as
stare decisis
lower courts must honor decisions made by higher courts.
Occasionally, the Court reserves a previous decision, thereby setting a new precedent.

Majority, Dissenting, and Concurring Opinions
Once the Court as a whole decides a case, one justice will be assigned to write the
majority opinion
. An opinion is a legal document stating the reasons for judicial decision.
Often begins by laying out the facts of the case. Then explain the legal issues involved, including past precedents, and the reasoning behind the Court’s decision.
Justices who disagree with the majority opinion may choose to write a
dissenting opinion
. It’s a document issued by Supreme Court justices who disagree with a Court decision.
Some justices who sided with the majority opinion, may write a
concurring opinion
. It’s a document issued by Supreme Court justices who agree with a Court decision.
Judicial Activism Versus Judicial Restraint
The most controversial cases decided by the Supreme Court are often those that involve judicial review.
Judicial activism
is based on the belief that the Court has both the right and the obligation to use its power of judicial review to overturn bad precedents and promote socially desirable goals.
Judicial restraint
is the principle that judicial review should be used sparingly, especially in dealing with controversial issues.
Current Event-
http://www.supremecourt.gov/
Full transcript