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Federal Court Syatem

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The Federal Court System

Chapter 18 Sections 3 and 4

I. The Supreme Court

A. The supreme court of the United States is the only court specifically created in the constitution

a. Chief Justice of the United States

b. Eight associate justices

II. Judicial Review

A. 1st asserted its power of judicial review in the classic case of Marbury vs. Madison in 1803

a. aftermath of the stormy election of 1800

b. Provision of the Judicial Act of 1789, in which congress had created the federal court system. Law gave the Supreme Court the right to hear such suits in its original jurisdiction (not on appeal from a lower court).

1. Court Refused Request

B. Marshall's powerful opinion

a. The constitution is, by its own terms, the supreme law of the land

b. All legislative enactments, and all other actions of the government, are subordinate to and cannot be allowed to conflict with the supreme law

c. Judges are sworn to enforce the provisions of the Constitution and therefore must refuse to enforce any governmental action they find to be in conflict with it

III. Jurisdiction

A. Original and appellate jurisdiction

a. from lower federal courts and from the highest State courts

b. Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution spells out two classes of cases that may be heard by the High Court in its original jurisdiction

1. those to which a State is a party

2. those affecting ambassadors, other public ministers, and councils

B. Congress can implement the constitutional provision

A. The Court shall have the original and exclusive jurisdiction over

1. all controversies between two or more States

2. all cases brought against ambassadors or other public ministers, but not consuls

IV. How cases Reach the Court

A. 6,000 cases are now appealed to the Supreme Court each year. Of these, the Court accepts only a few hundred for decision.

1. Chosen according to "the rule of four": at least four of its nine justices must agree that a case should be put on the Court's docket.

B. Most cases reach the supreme Court by writ of certiorari

1. an order by the Court directing a lower court to send up the record in a given case for review

2. Either party can petition the Court to issue a writ

3. "Cert" is granted in only a limited number of instances Ð'- typically, only when a petition raises some important constitutional question or a serious problem of statutory interpretation.

4. When certiorari is denied, the decision of the lower court stands in that particular case.

a. All the denial means is that, for whatever reason, four or more justices could not agree that the Supreme Court should accept that case for review

C. Few cases do reach the Court in yet another way, by certificate.

1. This process is used when a lower court is not clear about the procedure or the rule of the law that should apply in a case.

2. Lower court asks the Supreme Court to certify the answer to a specific question in the matter

D. Most cases that reach the Court do come from the highest Sate courts and the federal courts of appeal. A few do come, however, from the federal district courts and a very few from the Court of Military Appeals

V. The Supreme Court at Work

A. Court sits from the first Monday in October to sometimes the Following June or July. Each term is identified by the year in which it began.

B. Oral Arguments

1. once accepted case, it sets a date on which lawyers on both sides will present oral arguments

2. The justices consider cases in two week cycle, from October to early May.

3. They hear oral arguments in several cases for two weeks; then the justices recess for two weeks, to consider those cases and handle other Court business

4. Lawyers presentation of oral argument almost always is limited to 30 minutes, in which time they use to emphasize the major points they made in their written briefs

C. Briefs

1. written documents filed with the Courts before oral argument, many run to hundreds of pages

2. The court may also receive amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs.

a. These people have a substantial interest in the cases outcome

b. Filled only with the Court's permission, or at its request

D. The Solicitor General

1. The principal officer in the Department of Justice, is often called the Federal Government's chief lawyer



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