1.) Three-tiered state court system: trial,
appellate, supreme
(differences between trial courts and
appellate courts)
 2.) Three-tiered federal court system
a.) approx. 100 Federal district courts
b.) 13 Federal Circuit Courts of Appeal
c.) US Supreme Court: exerts complete (&
strict) control over its own docket
----writ of certiorari --in forma pauperis
 Brief digression: civil v. criminal cases
1.) The District Courts: tradition of “senatorial
2.) Increasing politicization of judicial confirmations:
committee delay and grilling, holds & filibusters
3.) Failed Supreme Court nominations
---Fortas, Carswell, Haynesworth rejected for
corruption/competence reasons
---Robert Bork (Reagan appointee) the first to be
rejected for explicitly ideological reasons (1987)
---Post-Bork nominations: Clarence Thomas (1991),
Sonia Sotomayor (2009), Roberts & Alito
What factors make for a controversial nominee?
Increased coaching and evasion of tough questions
1.) Act as referee between state and
Federal governments (remember
Federalism cases)
 2.) Act as referee between Federal
executive and legislative branches
---US v. Nixon (1974); Truman & the steel
mills; line-item veto case
 3.) Act as referee between Federal and
state govts. and individual citizens
(remember all those civil lib. Cases!)
Power to strike down state laws: implied
in supremacy clause
 Power to strike down federal laws:
where does it come from?
The strange case of Marbury v. Madison
 Trends in overturning Federal laws
judicial activism v. judicial restraint
1.) The “Discuss List” and the Rule of Four
---when to grant cert?
exceptions: “defensive denials” and
“aggressive affirmations”
2.) Oral argument
3.) The vote
---What influences SC justices’ votes?
a.) precedent? (stare decisis)
b.) ideology (the attitudinal model)?
c.) the Solicitor General?
d.) amicus curiae briefs?
Assigning the writing of the opinion
 Dissenting opinions
 Concurring opinions
 Explaining the decline in consensual