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Chapter 15 - The Judiciary

Terms in this set (66)

- Resolution of legal disputes follows an adversary process
- Trial by jury is crucial to liberty because it inserts a gate of citizen judgment between the accused person and the government that protects the accused from arbitrary detention and unjust punishment. It also provides a gateway of citizen involvement through juror participation.
- Trial involve questions of fact and questions of law
- Trial court decisions about questions of fact are presumed to be valid because the trial judge or the jury directly hears the evidence in the case. But because trial courts sometimes make mistakes about questions of law, the American legal system has followed the British practice by allowing appeals from trial court rulings. In the U.S. federal system, the courts of appeals and the Supreme Court hear appeals, which involve issues of law. These courts do not retry the facts as established by the trial court.
- Criminal law is based on statutory authority, but statutory authority cannot cover all possible civil disputes between individuals. Many disputes involve actions that no legislative authority could have ever imagined. When there are gaps in statutory law, courts rely on judge-made law known as common law. Common law requires judges to accept and rely on previous decisions (if each judge makes his or her own decisions on each case, there can be no common law). Thus, British royal judges developed the practice of reaching decisions based on precedents, the previous decisions of other royal judges. Deciding cases based on precedents means that similar cases are decided similarly. Precedent is perhaps the most fundamental feature of English and American law. Because similar cases get decided similarly, following precedent promotes greater equality, predictability, and stability in law.
- Article III of the Constitution establishes the judicial branch of government. It briefly refers to a Supreme Court of the United States and grants Congress the authority to create lower courts at its discretion. The Constitution grants the federal courts the authority to hear "cases" or "controversies." The Supreme Court has interpreted this provision to require that people who initiate lawsuits have standing (must establish that they have suffered a harm that the law protects them against. Standing is a gate that limits access to the judicial system.)
- Judiciary Act of 1789 - established thirteen district (trial) courts and three circuit courts with both trial and appellate authority that serve at an intermediate level between the district courts and the Supreme Court.. Today, there are 678 district court judges serving in 94 separate district courts and 179 court of appeals judges serving in thirteen intermediate appellate circuits.
- The thirteen intermediate appellate courts include eleven numbered courts, a court of appeals for the District of Columbia, which handles most litigation involving federal agencies, and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which handles customs and patent claims. In addition, Congress established the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in 1978 and the Court of International Trade in 1980. Separately, Congress has established six so-called Article I or legislative courts whose purpose is to help Congress perform its Article I duties. Unlike Article III judges, Article I judges do not serve for life.
- The lawful authority of a court to hear a case is its jurisdiction. In general, jurisdiction for any federal court requires either that the case involves federal law (including the Constitution and treaties); or that the parties include the United States, ambassadors, or other public ministers; or that the parties are residents of different states.
- The Constitution further divides the Supreme Court's jurisdiction into original jurisdiction, the authority to hear a case directly from a petitioning party (as in a trial), and appellate jurisdiction, authority to hear cases on appeals from lower courts. The Constitution then declares that "in all the other Cases" properly before the Court, it would have appellate jurisdiction subject to such exceptions and regulations that Congress shall make.

The Constitution grants the federal courts the authority to hear cases of law and equity. Cases of law and equity can involve
(1)the common law when there are gaps in legislative authority;
(2)statutory interpretation, where the courts have to determine what Congress meant by a statute (for example, is discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy included in the prohibition on sex discrimination in the Civil Rights Act of 1964?); and
(3)constitutional interpretation, where the courts must decide whether a law or practice violates a provision of the Constitution.
- Constitutional interpretation brings forth the greatest power of the federal judiciary, judicial review.
- Judicial Review (established by Marbury v. Madison) - the power of courts to declare actions of Congress, the president, or state officials unconstitutional and therefore void
- Many districts have only one judge
- With rare exceptions, district judges oversee trials alone, not in panels.
- Trials in the district courts are either criminal or civil. In civil suits, plaintiffs (the parties bringing the suit) often request monetary damages to compensate for harm done to them. When rights are alleged to have been violated, they may ask that the practice be stopped.

Civil Procedure
- majority of lawsuits filed in federal court
- After a case is assigned to a judge, the next step in a civil suit is discovery. Discovery grants each side access to information relevant to its suit held by the other side.
- Outside interests can file amicus curiae ("friend of the court") briefs, stating their concerns in a case.
- While trial judges or juries have nearly complete discretion in deciding questions of fact, they are constrained by the courts above them on questions of law.

Criminal Procedure
- In the U.S. federal system, states have primary authority over law enforcement, but the federal government frequently prosecutes drug, weapons, terrorism, and immigration cases, plus other crimes that involve interstate commerce or the instrumentalities of the federal government, such as the post office and government buildings.
- Following indictment, the accused is arraigned, or informed of the charges against him or her, and asked to enter an initial plea of guilty or not guilty.
- About 90 percent of federal criminal cases are resolved through plea bargains, in which the accused person pleads guilty, usually in exchange for reduced charges or lesser sentences.
- In the small number of cases that proceed to trial, the accused person has the right to a trial by jury but is free to request a bench trial, in which the judge decides guilt or innocence.
- A jury in a federal felony case consists of twelve individuals who must reach a verdict unanimously.
- The defendant can appeal a guilty verdict, but the double jeopardy clause of the Constitution prohibits the government from appealing a verdict of not guilty
- If the defendant is found guilty, the judge determines the sentence based on guidelines that depend on the nature of the offense, the number of prior convictions, and other factors as recommended by the U.S. Sentencing Commission. In death penalty cases, the decision on the punishment is left to the jury. That is, following a guilty verdict, the jury hears new testimony by the prosecutor and defense attorney about whether death is the appropriate punishment.
- Within a few days of oral argument, the justices meet in conference to vote on the merits of the case (that is, to decide which side wins) and to assign a justice to write the Opinion of the Court in the case. If the chief justice is in the majority, he determines who will write the opinion. If the chief justice is not in the majority, the assignment is made by the most senior justice who is in the majority.

- The opinion is the heart of the Court's legal and policy-making power. It explains the Court's justification for its decision and sets guidelines for other courts to follow in subsequent cases. To have this authority, it must become a majority opinion by gaining the assent of a majority of the justices.

- Assigning the writing of the Opinion of the Court to a justice does not mean that a majority opinion will result.
- If a justice writes an opinion siding with one side, and other justices agree with the result (that is, agree on who wins) but not with the reasoning, they can concur in the judgment. - they are not joining the Opinion of the Court. Such justices will typically write a concurring opinion that explains their reasoning or join the concurring opinion of another justice.
- Justices who disagree with the result reached by the majority can write a dissenting opinion explaining why they believe the Court's decision was in error.
- If, due to a combination of concurring and dissenting justices, fewer than five justices join the Opinion of the Court, that opinion becomes a plurality judgment rather than a majority opinion. Plurality judgments have less value as precedents than majority opinions.
- Legal approaches often fail to provide a good indicator of what the Supreme Court will do.
- Alternatively, we can consider extralegal approaches to Supreme Court decision making. Extralegal factors go beyond the legal factors that courts are supposed to consider. The most important sets of extralegal considerations include the justices' own preferences and strategic considerations based on the preferences of others. Many, if not most, justices may be labeled activists, justices who decide cases based on their own policy preferences.

Justices's Preferences
- relationship between the justices' ideology and their votes is fairly common. Because Supreme Court scholars cannot obtain information from the justices themselves about their ideology, they use indirect measures.
- this strong relationship does not necessarily apply to state courts or lower federal courts, both of which must follow precedents established by the Supreme Court, at least on matters of federal law.

Strategic Considerations:
- Justices cannot behave solely on the basis of their ideological preferences.
- Negotiations over the content of the majority opinion are a routine part of Supreme Court decision making.

- A justice may need to consider not only the preferences of other justices but also the preferences of other actors in the political environment.
- When the Supreme Court decides for the nation that affirmative action programs are allowed as long as they provide individualized assessments of students' records, they are making policy.
- The fact that this is not merely interpretation of the law is supported by the fact that the justices' ideological preferences overwhelmingly explain their votes on the Court.
- During George Washington's administration (1789-97), the Supreme Court had so little power or status that its first chief justice, John Jay, resigned to become governor of New York. Not until the fourth chief justice, John Marshall, did the Court begin to establish itself as a major player in national politics. The Marshall Court (1801-35; Courts are often named after the sitting chief justice) did so not only by affirming its power of judicial review in the Marbury case but also by setting forth a broad interpretation to the scope of national power in the cases of McCulloch v. Maryland (1819) and Gibbons v. Ogden (1824) and by limiting the authority of state judiciaries in a series of decisions culminating in Cohens v. Virginia

- The decision in McCulloch v. Maryland expanded national power in two ways: (1) by granting the national government the right to create a bank through the necessary and proper clause.. (2) by limiting state power by denying the states the authority to tax activities of the national government.
- Gibbons v. Ogden - Court took an expansive view of national power, declaring that the commerce clause, which granted the national government the authority to regulate commerce "among the several States," would be broadly defined to include not just the shipping of goods across state lines but also the economic activities within a state that concern other states.
- As in McCulloch, what the Constitution grants as a legitimate object of national authority (here, interstate commerce) could not be regulated by a state.
- By establishing judicial review, expanding national power, and ensuring the uniformity of federal law, the Marshall Court set the United States on the path to a strong and unified nation.
- Following the onset of the Great Depression in 1929, citizens called on the states and the national government to try to regulate the economy and to assist workers, but the Supreme Court held firm in creating a constitutional gate that declared much of the economic legislation passed in the early years (1933-36) of Franklin Roosevelt's administration unconstitutional
- Under pressure from Congress and Roosevelt, the Court eventually reversed itself, opening a gateway by allowing government greater leeway in regulating the economy.
- During this same period, the Court began restricting state government limits on civil rights and liberties, while strengthening national power to protect civil rights.

Economic Regulation
- Elected president in 1932 on a platform of economic recovery and reform, Franklin Roosevelt saw several pieces of his New Deal legislation—which aimed to alleviate the nation's economic hardships—struck down by the Court, often by closely divided votes.
- After his 1936 reelection, Roosevelt struck back at the Court, proposing a so-called Court-packing plan that would have allowed him to appoint a new justice for every justice older than 70 who failed to resign.
- This scheme would have increased the Court's size to fifteen and guaranteed judicial support for his economic plans.

- two of the moderate backers of the Court's laissez-faire policies, Owen Roberts and Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, proved themselves responsive to the hostile political environment facing the Court.
- They began to change their votes, providing majorities for both national and state plans to regulate the economy, thereby removing the need for the Court-packing plan.
- In a series of cases decided in 1937, the Court upheld state-level minimum wage laws.
- Nationally, the Court recognized the right of unions to organize and bargain collectively as within the powers of Congress to regulate under the commerce clause.

Increased Protections for Civil Liberties and Civil Rights
- The Court incorporated various provisions of the Bill of Rights, making them binding on the states.
- The doctrine expanded during the liberal Warren Court (1953-69), which made most of the criminal procedure guarantees of the Bill of Rights binding on the states.

- Regarding equal protection, beyond the momentous Hernandez v. Texas and Brown v. Board of Education decisions, the Court launched a reapportionment revolution, setting forth a "one person, one vote" requirement.
- he Warren Court also created a right to privacy that is not explicitly in the Constitution
- regarding criminal justice, the Warren Court demanded that evidence obtained by police in violation of the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches or seizures should be excluded at trial (the exclusionary rule) and that subjects in custody not be interrogated without being informed of their rights to remain silent and to have an attorney

- The Burger Court allowed children to be bused away from their neighborhood schools to increase integration.
- he Burger Court also established abortion rights, limited the death penalty, protected women's rights under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and, in a precursor to the Gratz and Grutter lawsuits, first allowed affirmative action at colleges and universities.
- On the other hand, the Burger Court chose not to extend equal protection rights to the unequal funding of school districts and, in the criminal justice area, limited the reach of the exclusionary rule and the Miranda warnings.`

- The Roberts Court has been decidedly pro-business, hearing more such cases than previous courts and ruling on them in a decidedly pro-business direction.
- Even more important, it ruled that corporations have the same speech rights as citizens, enabling corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns
- On the other hand, the Court upheld Obama's health care plan in 2012, in what was not the conservative position in the case.
- It also ruled that state denial of marriage licenses to same-sex couples was a violation of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
- In 2014, it upheld the Michigan initiative that banned affirmative action in that state.
- The judicial system of the United States promotes the equal right of participation by allowing a single individual who has been harmed by a law to challenge its constitutionality.
- People who have financial resources or who can find support from organized interests may fare better than those who have to act on their own. The action may not be successful. `
- Nevertheless, the judiciary provides a separate gateway to the political system, one that is different in kind from the gateway to the legislative or executive branch. By filing a suit through the judiciary, a single individual can have an enormous influence on the American political system.

- judicial branch is not accountable in any meaningful way: Even if the public is dissatisfied with justices' decisions, Congress has not successfully used the impeachment process to remove justices for those decisions.
- does not mean that the Court is not responsive to the public or to the public's representatives. Responsiveness can happen through four different gateways:
(1) Electoral process: president appointing justices.
(2) in cases in which the Court is unresponsive to congressional preferences, Congress can threaten the Court's institutional authority
(3) current events which can move public opinion and judges' behaviour in the same direction
(4) judges might believe that they have an obligation to rule consistently with public opinion, even if they are not subject to electoral sanctions (approval).
- Justice O'Connor, who split the difference over what can be done in the name of equal protection in the Gratz and Grutter cases, has spoken often about the need of the Supreme Court not to vary too far from public preferences.
- If justices are responsive, it is not because the Constitution's framework requires it; it is because they choose to be.