All true statements about the courts: • The great bulk of American legal business is transacted in the less-noticed courts. • The Supreme Court decides a handful of key issues each year. • Supreme Court decision may directly shape people’s lives. • Federal courts do not hear hypothetical cases.
Standing to sue: must have a serious personal stake in the case, typically determined by whether or not they have sustained or are in danger of an injury. • Class action suits: permit a small number of people to sue on behalf of all other people similarly situated.
One constraint on federal courts is that they may decide only justiciable disputes. • The Constitution specifically provided that there would be a Supreme Court, but left it to the discretion of Congress to establish lower federal courts of general jurisdiction.
Courts of original jurisdiction are trial courts. • Courts with appellate jurisdiction review the legal issues involved in a case. • The Court of Claims is a legislative court
Most criminal and civil cases never reach trial, but are settled out of court. • The vast majority of all civil and criminal cases begin and end in state courts.
The jurisdiction of the district courts extends to each of the following: • admiralty and maritime law cases. • supervision of bankruptcy proceedings. • federal crimes. • civil suits involving federal questions.
Most cases heard by the Supreme Court come from civil actions from lower federal courts. • The U.S. Supreme Court’s jurisdiction includes appellate jurisdiction from both state and federal courts. • In its investigation of Supreme Court nominees, the Senate Judiciary Committee may probe a nominee’s judicial philosophy in great detail.
The functions of the Supreme Court include each of the following: • ensuring uniformity in the interpretation of national laws. • maintaining national supremacy in the law. • resolving conflicts among the states. • hearing cases involving federal questions from state supreme courts.
Senatorial courtesy: • When there is a vacancy for a federal judgeship, the relevant senator will suggest one or more names to the Attorney General and the President. • Federal judicial nominations are not confirmed when opposed by a senator of the President’s party from the state in which the nominee is to serve. • Presidents usually check carefully with the relevant senator ahead of time so that they will avoid making a nomination that will fail to be confirmed.
Judicial selection in the lower courts: • The President usually has more influence in the selection of judges to the federal courts of appeal than to federal district courts. • The department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation conduct competency and background checks on prospective judicial nominees. • Sitting judges may be asked to evaluate prospective judicial nominees. • Nominations to lower federal courts are not confirmed when opposed by a senator from the state in which the nominee is to serve.
Selection of Supreme Court Justices • The President usually operates under fewer constraints in nominating members to the Supreme Court than to the lower courts. • Candidates for nomination to the Supreme Court usually keep a low profile. • The President usually relies on the Attorney General and the Department of Justice to identify and screen candidates for the Court. • Opposition to the nominee’s ideology is generally not considered a valid reason to vote against confirmation.
The first woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court was Sandra Day O’Connor. • The first African American to serve on the Supreme Courts, who had been the NAACP’s lead attorney in Brown v. Board of Education, was Thurgood Marshall.
The most important factors influencing the President’s selection of judges and justices appears to be ideology and partisanship. • Supreme Court justices often try to time their retirement so that a President with compatible views will choose their successor.
writ of certiorari: a formal document that calls up a case which deals with a Constitutional question or in which state laws are claimed to violate federal law. • In order for the Supreme Court to hear oral arguments or decide a case on the written record, four justices must agree to take the case.
Functions of the U.S. Solicitor General’s office: • review and modify the briefs presented in government appeals • represent the government before the Supreme Court • decide whether or not to appeal cases the government has lost in the lower courts • submitting briefs on behalf of a litigant in a case in which the governments not directly involved.
per curiamdecision: is a supreme Court ruling without explanation which resolves an immediate case but has no value as precedent because the Court does not offer reasoning that would guide lower courts in future decisions. • Marbury v. Madison established the principle of judicial review.
Those who are interested in the outcome of a case, but are not formal litigants, sometimes submit amicus curiaebriefs, raising points of view and presenting information that they hope will influence the Supreme Court’s decision.
Principal reasons for the Court’s choosing to hear a case would include each of the following: • conflict between different lower courts on the interpretation of federal law. • cases that involve major issues, like civil liberties. • disagreement between a majority of the Supreme Court and lower court Decisions. • cases submitted for review by the Solicitor General’s Office.
Concurring opinions are those offered by one or more Supreme Court justices not only to support a majority decision, but also to stress a different Constitutional or legal basis for the judgment. • A written opinion in a Supreme Court case is a statement of the legal reasoning behind a decision.
stare decisis: meaning that an earlier ruling should hold for the case being considered. • Judicial implementation: refers to how and whether court decisions are translated into real policy, affecting the behavior of others.
Statements about the Supreme Court case of Marbury v. Madison: • The Court ruled that it had no power to require that Marbury’s commission be delivered. • The Court ruled part of the Judiciary Act of 1789 unconstitutional. • The Court established its power to hold acts of Congress in violation of the Constitution. • The Court ruled that it did not have original jurisdiction over cases involving a write of mandamus.
statements about the courts and pluralism: • When groups go to court, they use litigation to achieve their policy objectives. • Almost every major policy decision these days ends up in court. • The habit of always turning to the courts as a last resort can add to policy delay, deadlock, and inconsistency. • Agencies and businesses commonly find themselves ordered by different courts to do opposite things.
Advocates of judicial activism emphasize that the courts may alleviate pressing needs, especially of those who are weak politically or economically, left unmet by the majoritarian political process. • The view that judges should play a minimal role in policy making is called judicial restraint.
A justice on the Supreme Court instructs his law clerks to notify him when a petition for review contains an issue that the solicitor general is particularly concerned about. This particular justice is relying on Cue Theory to determine which cases to grant review.
Know what civil cases are. • Define plaintiff. • The Supreme Court’s acceptance of in forma pauperis petitions reflects the principle of equal protection under the law.
Several years ago the states of New York and New Jersey were involved in a legal dispute over the status of Ellis Island. Which court would have original jurisdiction over the matter? • US Supreme Court
The case of a black man named Virgil Hawkins who tried to get admitted to the University of Florida Law School illustrates how other courts and other institutions of government can be roadblocks in the way of judicial implementation.
In the immediate aftermath of the Supreme Court’s famous Brown v. Board of Educationdecision, the President and Congress refused to enforce speedy compliance with the ruling, thus severely weakening implementation over the next decade.
President Carter appointed more women, African Americans, and Hispanics to the federal district and circuit courts than all previous presidents combined. • In Federalist #78, Alexander Hamilton argued that the federal courts’ ability to implement its decisions in the form of policy would be limited, because of its inability to enforce its decisions.
The fact that Miranda v. Arizona required law enforcement officials to Mirandize suspects prior to any questioning, even though it does not say so in the Constitution is a good example of judicial activism. • The most effective way a private citizen can implement Supreme Court decisions is through filing a lawsuit.
The fact that the Supreme Court did not provide a timeline for desegregation in Brown v. Board, nor specifically defined obscenity in Miller v. California demonstrates the influence of public opinion on judicial decision making.
What is the quickest and easiest way that Congress can aid or hinder in the implementation of a Supreme Court decision? • Enact legislation.
Vaguely worded opinions give a great deal of discretion to lower court judges, who can freely interpret it. • The president in recent years who probably had had the greatest influence on judicial policy making has been Ronald Reagan.