The System of Justice
The Judicial Branch - Courts
From England *Common Law
(let the decision stand)
Civil Cases - concerned with relations between individuals or between organizations
Criminal Cases - against public order
A unified, orderly judiciary’s purpose was originally thought to
strengthen the new federal government which was weak under the Articles of Confederation.
New government needed a high court to interpret and apply the law.
The Supreme Court - stands as the last resort in answering any questions
and all questions involving Federal Law and the Constitution.
Miller v Johnson (1995)
Race cannot be a factor in Georgia
redistricting ( v affirmative action)
Capitol Square v Pinette(1995) Review Board
Columbus Ohio- Klan was allowed to demonstrate.......
but cross burnings and dummy
lynching are prohibited (2002)
US v Nixon (1974)
Executive privilege is allowed until it obstructs justice. (tapes)
Power of Judicial Review
Marbury v Madison (1803)
Marbury sought a writ of mandamus, forcing James Madison to deliver his appointment.
Marshall's 3 principles were established
The Constitution is the Supreme law of the land.
legislative enactments are subordinate
Judges are sworn at all cost to uphold the law.
The President appoints all federal judges subject to the confirmation of the Senate.
Term - Judges of Constitutional Courts are appointed for life, removed only through the impeachment process.
Supreme Court Justices are appointed to life-time terms on the bench
Federalist 78 - Alexander Hamilton
a test of ideological purity
The Court has both appellate and original jurisdiction.
1) hears controversies between 2 or more states
2) all cases against ambassadors and public ministers
4-5000 cases reach the court each year but only 120 cases are heard
They are returned REMAND to the lower courts for reconsideration.
Cases may reach through
1) appeal - petition by a party asking the court to review a lower courts decision
2) certiorari - the Supreme Court directs the lower court to send up records of a
case because of an error. Writ of Certiorari
3) certification - when the lower court is not clear on law and asks for help.
Court is in session 9 months a year
6 justices make up a quorum
The legal argument in a case
amicus curiae briefs
friend of the court attempting to influence the court’s decision
Majority Opinion - a majority decision.
A justice writes for the majority. 8-1, 7-2.
Dissenting Opinion – disagreeing with the majority opinion
Concurring Opinion – justices who agree or disagree with different reasons
Per Curiam Opinion
An opinion that is
short in brevity and unsigned
John Paul Stevens John Roberts
Ruth Bader Ginsberg
Anthony Kennedy Sam
Judicial Activism v Judicial Restraint
How and whether the court’s decisions are translated into actual policy
Should the Supreme Court play and active, creative role in shaping our destiny?
The Supreme Court is the final authority over Constitution and federal law….however
A Court’s decision
v Georgia (1795)
Was reversed by the Eleventh Amend.
Permitting an individual to sue a state in a federal court.
Dred Scott v Sanford (1857)
Reversed by Fourteenth Amendment
The Court’s restraint in the
Plessy v Ferguson (1896)
The New Deal
FDR and Court Packing-
leave conservatism behind
"maximize" court to 15 members
The Warren Court (1953-1969)
Baker v Carr (1962)
Wesberry v Sanders (1964)
Brown v Board of Ed (1954)
Of the Accused-se
Mapp v Ohio (1961)
Gideon v Wainwright (1963)
in forma pauperis
Miranda v Arizona
Escobedo v Illinois (1967)
The Burger Court (1969-1986)
Chief Justice Warren E. Burger
Nixon's appointments were intended to be conservative in nature
(Nixon 4 judges, Ford 1 Judge)
re-defined the 4th Amendment
re-defined the Miranda Rule
restored the death penalty
*Justice Harry Blackmun
Roe v Wade (1973)
-allowed the publishing of the
The Rehnquist Court
William Rehnquist (1986- 05)
7 out of nine justices were appointed by Republican Presidents
Conservative in Nature?
v Kuhlmeier (1988)
-allowed a school to censor its newspaper
California v Greenwood
allows for the searching without a warrant for evidence found in trash
Hustler Magazine v Falwell (1988)
-declined to curb criticism on public figures
US v Eichman
US v Haggerty
Simon and Schuster v
NYS Crime Victims Board (1991)
Struck down "Son of Sam" Law
The Roberts Court ??
Article III created the Supreme Court
-Court sits in session from
October to June
-Congress created the lower federal courts (Judiciary Act of 1789)
-Its size (9 members fixed in 1869)
-Congress can control the
Supreme Courts' Jurisdiction
(11,14,16,26 Amendments were ratified in spite of former SC decisions)
-Other attempts for Amendments
(abortion, school prayer, )
-Congress has passed civil rights laws that have overturned
civil rights decisions
Chief Justice, if in majority, assigns the writing of the opinion
Dual Court System
Two types of Federal Courts
a) Constitutional Courts- federal courts created under Article III,
Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Court of International Trade, District Courts
b) Special Courts- do not exercise broad judicial power of the United States. They are a narrower
Court of Military Appeals, Claims Court,
Tax Court, Territorial Courts, Courts of District of Columbia
Jurisdiction-the power to say the law
any federal statute or provision of the Constitution
Federal Courts hear cases involving
1) the U.S.
or an official
Ambassador or consul to foreign government or its representative
3) State v State (11th Amendment)
citizens of one state suing another
American citizen suing a foreign government or one of its subjects
6) Land grants
exclusive jurisdiction- cases can only be heard in a Federal Court
concurrent jurisdiction - where cases can be tried in both courts
eg. cases that can be tried on state level.
approximately 650 judges handle 300,000 cases per year
(90% case load)
91 District Courts were created by Congress in 1789.
-50 states - 89 judicial districts
- 1 court in D.C.
- 1 court in Puerto Rico
Appeals Court - created in 1891
12 Courts of Appeals(circuits)
11 Judicial circuits - 50 states
1 - District of Columbia
each circuit 4-23 judges
-about 179 circuit court judges
The decisions heard in these courts are final.
They also hear cases for the Court of International Trade, and the US Claims Court.
State Judicial System
NYS Court of Appeals
NYS Supreme Court
Westchester County Court
City Court - New Rochelle
The People of NY v Salerno
Grand Jury - hears evidence and decides if there is enough to indict
Petit Jury - actual trial by Jury
Plaintiff - files a suit in court
To sue, you must have standing
(entitled to start a law suit)
Defendant - may move it to the Federal Level.
The winner of a civil suit does not pay for court costs.
A Case that is brought to court on behalf of the plaintiff and for others with a similar circumstance.
Case against the United States
(sovereign immunity)cannot sue without the government’s
The US Claims Court
- the government cannot be sued without its consent
function is to hear claims against the US Government
16 judges are appointed by the President and Senate for 15 year terms
Territorial Courts- courts
created by Congress for the nation's territories, Virgin Islands, Guam, North Mariana Islands
District of Columbia- has both a Federal
District and an Appellate District Court.
Military Court of Appeals- 1 Chief Judge, 2 associates, appointed for
15 year terms. Court Martial, serious convictions.
US Tax Court- hears tax cases involving tax laws. 12 year terms.
Court Officers- Each Federal Court (91) has a Magistrate, a court officer
who handles a number of legal matters once dealt with by the judges themselves. They
: issue warrants, hear evidence that decides grand jury presentation; set bail in federal criminal cases; try minor offenses
Bankruptcy Judge - for each federal judicial district.
Attorney - their assistants are responsible for prosecution of all persons charged with Federal Crimes
-They represent the US
in all civil actions brought by or against the government in their district.
US Marshall - serves each district court.
They are appointed for 4 year terms. They make arrests, serve papers,
and keep courtroom order and execute court orders.
They serve the Attorney General and are officials of the Department of Justice
The Department of Justice
Headed by the Attorney General
About 73,500 employees
Its function is to provide legal advice to the President and the heads of the vast executive department.
Represents the US in court-
(suits v US)
Handles Anti-Trust violations
US Property cases
(land grants, acquisitions)
- Tax Division
- Civil Rights Division-
Immigration and Naturalization Service(administers and enforces immigration laws)
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)
Enabled law enforcement
to use wiretapping and established a witness protection program
FBI - Involving Federal
violations and Federal Criminal Law
DEA - Federal Narcotics Violations
- Bureau of Prisons - Penal System
Federal and State