Chapter 14
THE COURTS
Learning Outcomes
14.1 Define judicial review, explain the
circumstances under which it was established, and
assess the significance of the authority it gave the
courts.
14.2 Outline the organization of the U.S. court
system and identify the principal functions of
courts at each tier of the system.
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Learning Outcomes
14.3 Describe the process by which cases are
both accepted for review and decided by the U.S.
Supreme Court and analyze the role played by
judicial restraint and judicial activism in judicial
decisions.
14.4 Explain how judges at different levels of the
federal court system are nominated and confirmed
to the federal bench.
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Learning Outcomes
14.5 Examine the impact, influence and
acceptance of decisions on issues of national
importance by an institution unaccountable to the
electorate.
14.6 Evaluate the decision-making authority of the
federal judiciary within the context of both
majoritarian and pluralist democracy.
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National Judicial Supremacy

“One Supreme Court”
 Defined by Section 1, Article III, of Constitution
 Founders deferred to Congress the decision to create
national court system

Judiciary Act of 1789
 Federal courts coexist with state courts but are
independent from them
 Federal judges: lifetime appointment
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National Judicial Supremacy

Judicial Review of the Other Branches
 Marbury v. Madison (1803)
 Established Supreme Court’s power of judicial review
 Power to declare congressional acts invalid if they violate
the Constitution
 Subsequent cases extended power
to cover presidential acts as well
Chief Justice John Marshall
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National Judicial Supremacy

The Exercise of Judicial Review
 Components of judicial review:
 Power of the courts to declare national, state, & local
laws invalid
 Supremacy of national laws/treaties when in conflict with
state/local laws
 Supreme Court is final authority on meaning of
Constitution
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The Organization of Courts

Some Court Fundamentals
 Criminal and Civil Cases
 Government prosecutes criminal cases because crimes
are a violation of public order
 National penal code limited by the principle of federalism
 Government can be party to civil disputes
 Courts decide both criminal and Civil cases
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The Organization of Courts

Some Court Fundamentals (cont.)
 Procedures and Policymaking
 Most cases never go to trial
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Plea bargain
Threat of lawsuit to exact concession
Settle – Though rare, even at Supreme Court level
Abandon – leave disputes unresolved
Adjudication
 Opinions published in novel cases
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The Organization of Courts

Some Court Fundamentals (cont.)
 Procedures and Policymaking
 Judges make policy two ways
 Common, or judgment law
 Statutory construction
 Three tiers of federal courts organized as pyramid
 Bottom: U.S. district courts – where litigation begins
 Middle: U.S. court of appeals
 Top: U.S. Supreme Court
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The Organization of Courts

The U.S. District Courts
 Sources of litigation – U.S. district courts extend to the
following:
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Federal criminal cases, defined by national law
Civil cases alleging a violation of national law
Civil cases brought against U.S. government
Civil cases between citizens of different states when
amount in controversy exceeds $75,000
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The Organization of Courts

The U.S. Courts of Appeals
 Appellate Court Proceedings
 Public
 Regional courts
 Panel of three judges
 Precedents and Making Decisions
 Written judgment of appellate courts serve as precedent
for subsequent cases
 Judges make public policy to the extent that they can
influence decisions in other courts
 Stare decisis
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The Supreme Court

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Supreme Court strives to achieve just
balance among values of freedom, order, and
equality
Values came into conflict in two controversial
issues
 Desecration of the flag
 School desegregation - Brown v. Board of Education
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The Supreme Court, 2011 Term: The Lineup
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The Supreme Court

Access to the Court
 Court’s cases come from two sources:
 Original jurisdiction
 Appellate jurisdiction
 Litigants in state cases must satisfy two conditions
 Must have exhausted appeals in state system
 Case must raise a federal question
 Rule of four
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The Supreme Court

The Solicitor General
 Represents national government before Court
 Appointed by president – 3rd-ranking position in
Department of Justice
 Duties:
 Determining whether to appeal a lower court’s decision
 Reviewing and modifying briefs for appeals
 Deciding whether or not to file amicus curiae briefs in any
appellate court
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The Supreme Court

Decision Making
 Courts grant review
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Attorneys submit written briefs
Oral arguments, limited to 30 minutes per side
Oral arguments released on website
Justices meet in conference
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The Supreme Court

Decision Making
 Judicial Restraint and Judicial Activism
 Judicial restraint
 Defer to decisions of elected branches of government
 Elected representatives should make the laws
 Judicial activism
 Judges should not defer to the elected branches but should
use their judicial power to promote the judges’ preferred
social and political goals
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Welcome to the Club!
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The Supreme Court

Decision Making
 Judgment and Argument
 Judgment – Votes remain tentative until Court issues an
opinion announcing its judgment
 Argument
 Concurrence
 Dissent
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The Supreme Court

Decision Making
 The Opinion
 Chief justice or most senior justice in majority decides
which justice writes majority opinion
 Draft opinion circulated among justices for criticisms and
suggestions
 Public respect of court tested when court ventures into
controversial areas
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The Supreme Court

The Chief Justice
 Important functions
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Forms docket
Directs Court’s conferences
Social, intellectual and policy leadership
Control discussion of issues
Communicate
 By memoranda, not e-mail
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Judicial Recruitment

The Appointment of Federal Judges
 No formal requirements for appointment
 President nominates, Senate must confirm
 Appointments likely to serve president’s administration,
provide political legacy
 Congress sets compensation
 Appointments for life
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Judicial Recruitment

The Appointment of Federal Judges
 The “Advice and Consent” of the Senate
 District and Appeals Court vacancies
 Judicial Selection Committee consults with home state
senators from which appointment will be made
 Senatorial courtesy
 Senate Judiciary Committee reviews each judicial nominee
and conducts a hearing
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Judicial Recruitment

The Appointment of Federal Judges
 The American Bar Association
 Screens candidates for the federal bench
 Well qualified
 Qualified
 Not qualified
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Judicial Recruitment

Recent Presidents and the Federal Judiciary
 Since President Carter, more diverse appointments
 Under Clinton, women or minorities more than half
appointments
 Political Ideology at heart of judicial appointments
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Judicial Recruitment

Appointment to the Supreme Court
 Vacancy announced
 President makes nomination
 Senate confirms
 Since 1900, six appointments failed to be confirmed by
Senate
 Most nominees have prior judicial experience
 Tendency for promotion from within judiciary
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The Consequences of
Judicial Decisions

Supreme Court Rulings: Implementation and
Impact
 Decisions are implemented by others
 Decisions have far-reaching implications beyond the
case itself
 Roe v. Wade
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The Consequences of Judicial
Decisions

Public Opinion and the Supreme Court
 Policies coming from Supreme Court are generally in
line with public ideology
 In 2009, 6 in 10 Americans were likely to approve of
Supreme Court’s job
 By 2012, public approval rating had fallen to 44
percent
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The Courts and
Models of Democracy

Majoritarian model
 Courts adhere to letter of law and defer changes to
elected representatives

Pluralist model
 Courts are policymaking branch of government
 Class action suits
 Rulings have broader impact than other types
 State court rulings can be based on either federal law,
state law, or both
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The Courts and
Models of Democracy

Supreme Court moving in conservative
direction
 Some states have become havens for liberal values

Judges pay attention to views of other courts
and not just those above them
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