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the branch of government comprising the courts and the judges who preside over them

The Constitution and the Judiciary Act of 1789

Establishing the Supreme Court and the Federal District Courts

Supreme court was high court of the land, but framers did not make the court's powers specific

Only one national court (Supreme) and Congress could make all lower courts
Passed Judiciary Act of 1789 which created the federal district courts, with at least one court in every state, meant more to apply state and not federal law

Marbury v. Madison and Judicial Review

Judicial review is the court's authority to review and to strike down laws passed by the other branches of the national government
In the case the court argued that it not only had the power to review acts of congress and the president, but also to decide whether the laws were consistent with the constitution and to strike down the laws that weren't

The Judiciary Act of 1891: Expanding the Federal Courts

Created the Courts of Appeals (circuit courts) to ease caseload that the Supreme Court faces after the federal courts' jurisdiction was widened

Circuit riding

when court justices needed to ride around to hear intermediate-level appeals

Court of Appeals

courts that review the previous decisions made by courts in the federal or state judicial system, only to review law to compare to previous cases, not in current ones
12 today

Common law

made principally by judges reaching decisions in cases, binds all courts considering similar cases in the future

Principle of Stare Decisis

means let the decision stand, means that in deciding cases judges must abide by the legal precedent (authority that earlier cases established)
Created by judicial decisions

Code law (Statutory law)

enacted by legislators to regulate the behavior of individuals and organizations and to deal with a vast array of issues
can respond more rapidly to unprecedented issues
Most legal disputed today center on disagreements involving the interpretation of code law

Civil Law

the body of law dealing with the rights of private citizens (filed by one citizen against another)

Criminal Law

body of law dealing with conduct considered so harmful to society as a whole that it is prohibited by statute and is prosecuted and punished by the government (filed by government against defendant)

Five sources in hierarchy

U.S. and state constitutions
Judicial decisions
Executive orders
Administrative and regulatory laws

U.S. and state constitutions

Constitutional law: the body of law that comes out of the courts in cases involving the interpretation of the constitution


Laws written by legislatures to deal with a particular issue or problem, more specific then common law
U.S. Code is a compilation of all the laws ever passed by the U.S. congress and shows body's priorities and concerns

Judicial decisions

When a judge or panel of judges they may write an opinion that justifies their decision and explains how they have applied principles of stare decisis, then become part of common law

Executive orders

Article II Section1, power invested in president
Have force and effect of law, sometimes used if the president knows that the legislation isn't supported

Administrative and regulatory laws

Bureaucrats get their power from congress and state legislatures
Lets bureaucrats act as if they are legislatives

The Federal Court System

US judicial system is dual court system since it has both federal and state courts
Almost every case starts in a trial court


Ability the court has to hear a case
Federal courts are only allowed to hear cases involving federal questions or diversity or citizenship

Federal Question

question of law based on the interpretation of the US constitution, federal laws, or treaties

Diversity of citizenship

parties in the case are individuals from different states or that the case involves a U.S. citizen and a foreign government

Original Jurisdiction

the court is the first court to hear the case, court must decide what happened and how to apply law

Appelate Jurisdiction

empowers a court to review the decision of the court that has already heard a case

The Structure of the Federal Courts

Federal District Courts at the bottom of the pyramid: decide what happened, apply the law
Courts of Appeals
Special Courts: how judicial branch is coping the growing complexity of the types of cases
Supreme Court: 9 justices, Chief justice has same voting as others but provides organization

Collegial Court

a court made up of justices who must work together to decide on an outcome
The Supreme Court's Jurisdiction: original jurisdiction only in cases involving suits between two or more states

Pool memo

written by supreme court clerks and has info on the case

Discuss list

list of selected cases made by chief justice, based on pool memos
Court discusses the cases and whether to issue a writ of certiorari: "request to make certain", higher courts order to lower court for records of the case to see if there were errors

Rule of Four

justices will hear a case if four or more of the nine justices decide they want to hear it

Considering the Case

Petitioner has to write a brief detailing the desired outcome, then opposing party has thirty days to file its own

Amicus curiae

briefs are a common part of Supreme court litigation, filed by someone who is not party to the lawsuit, document that aims to influence the Court's decision
Seeks to provide information that jurists need to resolve cases and can be very influential
Oral arguments, 30 min each

Meeting in Conference: The deliberative stage

Writing the Opinion

Concurring opinions

agree with how the majority opinion decides the case, but disagrees with at least some of the legal arguments or conclusions reached in this majority opinion

Dissenting opinion

not only disagree with these arguments and conclusions, but also reject the decision in the case

Judicial Activism

court's practice of applying their authority to bring about particular social goals
Role of the courts is to check the power of the federal and state executive and legislative branches when those governmental entities exceed their authority

Judicial restraint

judges defer to the democratically elected legislative and executive branches of government, limits themselves
Competing Legal Interpretations

U.S. law combines two different kinds of law. They are

common law and code law

The notion that it is the role of the Court to check the power of the federal and state executive and legislative branches when those governmental entities exceed their authority is called

judicial review

The early practice whereby Supreme Court justices and district court judges would travel throughout the country to hear appeals cases was called

circuit riding.

Courts that review previous decisions made by courts in the federal or state judicial system are called

courts of appeals

Common law is

law created by courts through the cases they decide.

The U.S. has a dual court system composed of

state and federal courts.

The vast majority of Supreme Court cases are

appellate jurisdiction.

The federal appeals courts will hear any appeal from a federal trial court, while the Supreme Court will

only hear cases it chooses to hear.

Federal judges

are appointed by Congress for life during good behavior.

According to the ______, the Court will agree to hear a case that comes to it under its discretionary jurisdiction if four or more justices vote to hear it.

Rule of Four

Amicus curiae briefs

are intended to provide information to help justices resolve cases.

In Court opinion writing, the writer of the opinion

has incentives to take into account the perspectives of those who agree and those who disagree.

In developing opinions in the U.S. Supreme Court, the power of the justices to persuade their colleagues

is an important factor in determining which opinion will prevail.

Court decisions tend to conform to public opinion because

judges fear the loss of authority from unpopular cases.

The practice of applying the authority of the courts to advance particular social goals is called

judicial activism.

The primary function of the courts in the United States today is

resolution of disputes

Marbury v. Madison

established the principle of judicial review.

Judicial review is the Supreme Court's authority for

adjudicating the constitutionality of laws passed by Congress and acts of the executive branch.

The principle that legal precedents must be abided by is

stare decisis.

Code law is also known as

statutory law.

Administrative law that clarifies and extends otherwise vague legislation is written by

members of the bureaucracy.

The authority of a court to hear and decide a case is called


Courts of appeal

only decide whether the law was applied appropriately.

The chief justice of the United States Supreme Court

has the same voting power as the associate justices.

__________ gives senators—though only those who are of the same political party as the president—a powerful voice in choosing the district court judges who will serve in their state.

Senatorial courtesy

The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction in

suits between states.

the list compiled by the chief justice of the Supreme Court of those cases that he or she thinks may be appropriate for the Court to hear is called the

discuss list.

The written arguments from the petitioner and respondent are considered by the Court, along with

amicus curiae briefs.
oral arguments.
conference discussion with the justices.

In addition to appointing judges, the executive branch has the power to nullify court decisions through


Checks on the federal judiciary include

the legislative branch.
law enforcement officers.
the people who will be affected by the outcome of a court's decision.

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