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Terms in this set (88)
Opinion of the Court
The majority opinion handed down by the Court
If not unanimous, the judges who disagree with the majority get to voice their opinion. This DOES NOT carry any legal weight, but does offer the public (and future justices) their own view on the case.
When the majority of the Supreme Court has two very distinct reasons for their majority opinion, the concurring opinion is the provided reasoning for those in the majority who had a different reason for their support.
Amicus curiae briefs
People write letters explaining their support for one side of the case or the other. These groups (or people) want their voice to be heard by the Court before the Court considers a decision.
In forma pauperis
to avoid the complicated (and expensive) legal process for the normal request for 'cert', in forma pauperis allows a person to simply write a letter (as Gideon did) to the Court.
"let the decision stand". Main reason why the Supreme Court does not take a case. They agree with the precedent-setting cases. One of the best arguments for a plaintiff or defendant is to find earlier (precedent-setting) cases that seem to favor your point of view. This is what Case /Common law is based on.
The power of the federal courts to declare actions of government or people (federal, state, local, citizens) constitutional or unconstitutional.
Congress may use this process (impeachment in the House, trial in the Senate) to remove a judge who is not showing "good behavior".
Rule of Four
When discussing which cases to be considered, the judges have this rule. If atleast four of the justices believe a case is worthy, they will grant 'cert' and hear the case.
Writ of certiorari (granting cert)
a written request from the Court for all of the files on a case to be sent up for consideration. It means that your case has been accepted by the Court. This is the letter you were hoping for (unless you're the defendant).
Judicial restraint (strict contructionist
the conservative approach to judging. The philosophy that the court should not 'legislate' from the bench. They should settle disputes and interpret the constitution with the idea of 'original intent' (what were the Founders thinking with regards to the court and government in general.)
the opposite of judicial restraint / constructionist , the Constitution is flexible and alive. The courts are called to settle disputes and use judicial review and should do so actively and without restraint.
to have 'standing' suggests that there exists solid argument for your request to have your case heard (for trial OR on appeal).
a criminal defendant with an approaching trial can be released from jail while awaiting trial, but usually not without a $$$ 'guarantee' that they will appear for their trial date. You run, you lose your money.
Unhappy with your trial for some reason as related to fairness, you can appeal.
the one bringing a case to court
the one on trial
lawyer. The Constitution uses this term in the sixth amendment : 'the right to counsel"
public defender's offices (federal and states both have public defenders) provide lawyers to defendants that are unable to afford their own counsel.
Scientific term for poison-dart-frog....silent jungle killer and the only living frog physically able to throw darts. Modern dart frogs have been known to also use bows and, in rare cases, small caliber handguns.
the trial court in the federal judicial system. 94 of these.
no original jurisdiction. The country has 12 federal Circuit Courts of Appeals and 1 Special Appeals court. This is a panel of 3-5 justices. Ours is in Cincinnati, OH.
see notes.9 justices. Life appointments. The final say on any legal matter that reaches their home in Washington, DC. Case load is small because of the amount of time the writing of opinions takes. They can also grant 'quick' decisions on things like a stay of execution or requests for a lower court to retry a case.
federal court that travels around the country hearing citizen complaints regarding their taxes.
where citizens can go to make claims against the US government.
territories of the US that do not have statehood need federal courts
when the government is the plaintiff bringing charges against citizens for violation of law.
'dispute' law. This is law revolving around disputes between two parties over disagreements or 'injury'. (tort law, family law, business law, patents and copyright, etc.)
Law involving the interpretation of the United States Constitution, often involving rights of citizens and/or powers of government.
law involving "wrongful acts" leading to "injury".
legal right that a court has to receive a case first. For example, the Constitution makes it clear that the Supreme court has 'original jurisdiction' when states sue states and in cases involving high-level diplomats.
Solicitor General (the 'tenth justice')
the attorney for the US Department of Justice who determines which cases the US government will bring forward to the Big Dogs. The task of the Office of the Solicitor General is to supervise and conduct government litigation in the United States Supreme Court. Virtually all such litigation is channeled through the Office of the Solicitor General and is actively conducted by the Office. The United States is involved in approximately two-thirds of all the cases the U.S. Supreme Court decides on the merits each year.
which cases go where? Every court has a specific jurisdiction spelled out by law.
unwritten political custom whereby the president consults the senior US Senator of his political party before nominating a person to a federal vacancy within that Senator's state. It is strictly observed in connection with the appointments of US district court judges, U.S. attorneys, and US marshals. Except in rare cases, the courtesy is typically not extended when the president and senators of said state are of different parties.
when the Senate (and Pres for that matter) attempt to figure out a judicial nominee's political ideology.
Doctrine of original intent
Related to the US Constitution, what was the 'intent' of the Founders. What did they mean? Obviously, 'original intent' can be interpreted differently depending on who's talking.
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka
monster case that forced all schools desegregate. Made it clear that the concept of 'separate but equal' simply did not work equally in real life. This case over-rode Plessy v. Ferguson, a Supreme Court decision that reinforced the concept of 'separate but equal.
Bush v. Gore
decided the election of 2000 by refusing another recount in Florida. Illustrate clearly that the Supreme Court will hear cases that are very 'political' in nature. Also illustrates that conservative justices CAN indeed interpret cases as judicial activists.
Marbury v. Madison
a bland case involving political appointments that ended without even ironing out the original problem (Marshall suggested they did not have jurisdiction) BUT did take the time to make clear that the concept of 'Judicial Review' was real and a power of the courts.
US v. Lopez
Case over a federal gun law as related to possessing a gun in a school Zone. The US argued that it was an extension of their interstate commerce power. Court disagreed....too much of a stretch. Illustrates that the federal government doesn't always win, and that the Court will limit federal power.
McCulloch v. Maryland
the banking case. Made it clear that banking is a federal power (an extension of expressed powers to coin money, borrow money, etc.) Was the first time the elastic clause was used to extend federal authority. Also clarified that the states can NOT tax federal property.
US v. Nixon
llustrates that even Presidents are limited in their power (Rule of Law). Put a limit on the 'unwritten' rule of executive privilege. Forced Nixon to hand over the Oval Office Recordings because the evidence was needed in a criminal investigation.
Gideon v. Wainwright: What happened?
Gideon was accused of breaking into a pool room and stealing change from vending machines plus some beer and wine. He went into court for trial without a lawyer, requested one, and was denied on the grounds that he could adequately defend himself (Betts v. Brady....no special circumstances). He was convicted and sentenced to five years. While in prison, he took advantage of the law library to challenge what he perceived as an unfair trial.
What is the significance of the Supreme Court ruling in Gideon v. Wainwright?
Using the 14th Amendment due process clause, the 6th Amendment's 'right to counsel' was incorporated upon the states. No more special circumstances. ALL defendants had the right to counsel guaranteed.
What did Gideon have to do (steps) before his case could be brought before the Supreme court?
Request (petition) of the state of Florida for a writ (court order) of habeas corpus. Once this has been denied by the Florida courts, Gideon must seek in forma pauperis designation. Petition the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari ("Cert petition"), asking the Court to review the lower court's decision.
Wait for response.
What is the major difference between the selection of federal judges and most state judges?
Nominated/ appointed vs. elected.
What is one other difference between federal judges and state judges?
Feds don't have term limits.
Does the legislative branch have 'veto' power?
The suggestion that the Congress can say NO to executive actions has been deemed unconstitutional, for good reason: The Constitution suggests nothing remotely close to general veto power for Congress. It is, however, a presidential control over legislative action.
What is the biggest factor in how a federal court (actually most state courts, too) decides a case?
Prior cases / Precedence / Common law concept (Stare decisis)
Are there Constitutional qualifications required to be a US Supreme Court justice?
Nope. No age. No experience necessary.
When a lower court decision is appealed to the Supreme Court (petition to the Court), what is the most likely outcome?
They will not hear the case. Most are rejected.
The Supreme Court is not just an appeals court. Two examples of original jurisdiction include:
State suing State. Cases involving Ambassadors.
Which federal Court has no original jurisdiction?
Three common reasons why the Supreme Court would grant 'cert'
Two federal appeals courts come out with two opposite verdicts on the same issue. A state is High Court is ruling on the Constitutionality of a state law OR a federal law.
Can Congress change: the organization of district and circuit courts?
Can Congress change: the Supreme Court's appellate jurisdiction?
Can Congress change: the Supreme Court's original jurisdiction?
Can Congress change: the number of justices on the Supreme Court?
Can Congress change: the number of judges in the district and circuit courts
Can Congress change: the "life" (good standing) term of federal judges?
What is the process for nomination of a federal judge?
Pres nominate; Senate approve (majority vote)
Why has the practice of senatorial courtesy been criticized?
Separation of powers
Can the Supreme Court rule a constitutional amendment unconstitutional (via judicial review)?
No. Once the amendment is approved, it becomes the Constitution, which the Court is sworn to uphold.
If in forma pauperis, does the 6th Amendment guarantee that the federal government must provide a lawyer?
The Supreme Court ruled the legislative veto unconstitutional . Why?
Violation of separation of powers and Checks and Balances.
How does a case under state jurisdiction make it to the Supreme Court?
Appealed out of highest State Court. Deals with a Constitutional issue (standing)
Review notes on federal court jurisdiction v. state court jurisdiction v. concurrent cases. Cases heard by federal courts.
See Review packet
Congress has these checks on the judicial branch:
Senate approval necessary for judicial nominees; Impeachment; can change salary; structure; jurisdiction (to some extent); number of Justices; Amend the Constitution.
President has these checks on the judicial branch:
The Courts have these checks on Congress / the President / Executive Branch:
Why do federal judges have life tenure and protected salaries?
Protects them from popular passions and Congressional or Presidential political pressure.
Long after the Supreme Court ruled prayer in the public schools unconstitutional , schools all
over the country were still allowing prayer and Bible readings. What explains this?
The Courts have no Constitutional Police / no enforcement ability. We police ourselves to some extent, and the executive branch and state executives also have the ability to force compliance.
How long is the normal Supreme Court hearing?
1 hour....30 minutes per side.
Why do the majority of Supreme Court justices have political experience prior to appointment?
Makes it easy for Presidents to identify their leanings (simple litmus testing).
Main role of Federal district courts
(trials related to federal law/jurisdiction)
Main role of federal appeals courts
Appellate court for the federal courts)
Main role of US supreme Court
(some original jurisdiction -----state v. state, ambassadors----but mostly appellate -----Final Stop.... Final Umpire over serious Constitutional disputes)
Give three cases you might see in the district courts:
Two companies from two different states....one suing the other over a patent dispute.
Two local criminals who have been stealing mail from Post Office Boxes
Head of a local gang, a chapter of a national recognized street gang, is caught up in a huge drug bust (involving three and half tons of marijuana)
Give three cases you might see in the Supreme Court:
Search and Seizure case that was appealed from the Michigan Supreme Court.
A 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals rules one way on gay marriage and the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals rules another way.
Michigan sues Illinois for violating water usage agreements related to Lake Michigan.
Explain five ways that the Supreme Court protocol / procedure is different from District (Trial)Court s:
Limited to one hour, 30 minutes per side.
Judge's decision is not immediately following trial. Can take months.
No witnesses are called.
There is no jury, because the Justices are 'jury'.
Selective: they only take the cases they want to. They choose.
How many petitions does the Supreme Court receive?
Thousands (10,000+ many years), though it varies year to year.
How many cases do they take (Cert)?
They grant cert on up to a few hundred. Less than a hundred (usually around 80) of these will lead to oral arguments and written opinions.
Some would argue that the Judiciary Branch (specifically the Supreme Court) is the most powerful of the three branches. Explain this argument and use one case to illustrate.
Judicial Review. Bush v. Gore. Crack. Miller v. Alabama. Citizens United v. FEC. California v. Ciraolo. NJ v. TLO. US v. Nixon. US v. Lopez.
What role for the Judicial Branch did the Founding Fathers envision?
Quiet, insignificant, not that powerful.....just an umpire when necessary.
What would the Founders say about today's federal courts?
"What the .......?!!!!" They would be shocked at the significance of their role.
Which branch did the Founders consider most powerful?
What did the Lanahan article on Brennan and Rehnquist illustrate about Supreme Court nominations?
That they can impact the court significantly because two different judges can have very different interpretations of the US Constitution (Strict constructionist v. Judicial Activist).
Factors that impact who a President may nominate to the US Supreme Court (Yaloff....)?
Interest Groups, Advisors, Key Legislators (from Senate), Public, Media, Make-up of the Senate, new Research tools (via internet) for Litmus Testing.