GOVT 2302 The Judiciary Definition and Historical Background
This begins a discussion of the last of the three institutions of American and Texas Government.- Judiciary.- United States Federal Courts.- Texas Judicial System.
Blog PostsAppealsCommon LawThe JudiciaryJudicial ElectionsJudicial ReviewTexas JudiciaryTrials
To get an idea of what we will cover, you may wish to look at these:Article 3 of the U.S. Constitution and Article 5 of the Texas Constitution
The United States Judiciary is composed of one Supreme Court, 11 Courts of Appeals, and 94 District Courts, which also include bankruptcy courts.
The Texas Judiciary is headed by two top courts – The Texas Supreme Court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Beneath these are 14 Courts of Appeals, district courts, county courts, municipal courts, and justice of the peace courts.
The judiciary is unique among the three branches since its members - on the national level - are appointed for lifetime terms. The President makes the appointment and the Senate confirms it, though confirmation is not a guarantee.
Judges in Texas, however, are elected. Appellate and Supreme Court judges are elected in overlapping 6 year partisan elections. This makes them accountable to the general public, but this can make them subject to majoritarian pressures to act against minorities.
Judicial appointments were meant to ensure the judges would have the “peculiar qualifications” necessary to hold the office. They are expected to know a few things about the law.
In order to ensue that judges are not controlled by whatever entity is appointing them to office, they are given lifetime tenure.This is the source of their independence.
While the legislative and executive branches are accountable to the electorate, the national judiciary is subject to the law and the Constitution as they interpret it.This checks the majority – the judiciary is the institution most able to secure the rights of the minority.
Because they are appointed, the judiciary is not considered to be a political branch. It does not make decisions subject to public approval. It generally refuses to rule on political questions, leaving those to the legislative and executive branches.
The courts are fully detached from the general public, yet public opinion on the court tends to be higher than of the elected institutions.
DefinitionJudiciary: 1611, from L. judiciarius "of or belonging to a court of justice," from judicium "judgment," from judicem (see judge). The noun meaning "a body of judges, judges collectively" is from 1802.- online etymology dictionary
A Basic Function of the JudiciaryAdjudication: The legal process by which an arbiter or judge reviews evidence and argumentation including legal reasoning set forth by opposing parties or litigants to come to a decision which determines rights and obligations between the parties involved. - Wikipedia
In a broader sense, the Judiciary in the American governing system does these three things: 1 – it provides a forum for the reconciliation of disputes in society2 – it interprets statutory and constitutional law3 – checks the legislative and executive branches
1 The Judiciary provides a forum for the arbitration of disputes in society.
Three ways to categorize disputesCriminal and CivilState and Federal Trials and Appeals
A criminal proceeding places a group or a citizen in a confrontation with the state. The accusation is made that a law has been violated.
A civil proceeding places the individuals or groups in a confrontation with each other.Most typically it is argued that a contract has been violated, or a damage inflicted (tort).
Criminal and Civil proceedings are distinct. Each has its own set of rules for how to arrive at a decision and determine punishment.
As with the other two branches, separate legal systems exist on each level of government.
Disputes involving state laws are handled in state courts, though lower level disputes are handled in county and city courts.
Disputes involving federal laws are handled in federal courts. Ultimately all laws have to abide by the U.S. Constitution which means that disputes from any level of government can ultimately be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.
In a trial, evidence is presented to an impartial jury that determines guilt or innocence.In an appeal, a panel of judges determines whether the procedure in the trial was constitutional.
The meaning of statutory legislation is clarifiedClean Water ActEqual Pay Act of 1963
“commerce”“necessary and proper”“speech”“probable cause”“cruel and unusual”
The precise definition of these words and phrases can be subject to debate.
The power to overturn legislation and actions of the executive. The Constitution would be effectively meaningless without this power residing somewhere.
Judicial Review does not exist in the Constitution. The power was considered to be dangerous and subject to abuse. The institution with this power could become tyrannical.
In Federalist #78 Alexander Hamilton argues that the judiciary must have the power of judicial review.
This was the basis of the decision in Marbury v. Madison where the courts claimed the power for themselves.
1 - The Common Law A definition: Law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals (called case law), rather than through legislative statutes or executive action, and to corresponding legal systems that rely on precedential case law.