Supreme Court of the United States and Brandt the Judiciary Essay

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The Judiciary Patrick Brandt

The Judiciary
GOVT 2302: American Politics Patrick Brandt

The Judiciary Patrick Brandt

The Judiciary Patrick Brandt

Constitutional Basis for Courts

• Constitution only creates the Supreme Court – others were

established by Congress shortly after.
• Congress can create “inferior” courts as it sees fit.

Examples: District and Appeals courts, Bankruptcy Court, etc.
• Courts are a primary example of federalism: courts exist at

both levels and enforce the same laws of the nation (state and federal), and the laws of states (state courts).
• Courts stand in a pyramid structure at the state and

federal level.

The Judiciary Patrick Brandt

Courts’ Powers
The Supreme Court and lower courts as well as state courts exist to settle cases or controversies.
• Nature of legal process is adversarial: plaintiffs and

defendants must have opposite interests.
• Disputes must consist of a matter of fact (criminal cases)

or a matter of law or interpretation, or merit (civil cases).
• Courts exercise power over different jurisdictions or areas

of the law
• Provide legal interpretations and settle conflicts between

laws: clarify meaning of legislation and conflicts.

The Judiciary Patrick Brandt

What do Courts do?

• Over 80 million cases are filed in courts each year. • The number of cases, though has little connection with

the importance of a court. Note that the Supreme Court only has about 6000 cases each year, of which less than 150-200 are heard (about 2-3%).
• This is only a fraction of a very large and growing number

of cases.

The Judiciary Patrick Brandt

• Federal courts hear approximately 280,000-300,000 cases

per year.
• About 40,000 of these cases are heard in Federal Appeals

• Most cases are in state courts.

The Judiciary Patrick Brandt

What cases in which court?

The cases a court hears are based on a court’s jurisdiction.
• Original jurisdiction • Appellate jurisdiction • Civil cases, criminal cases, bankruptcy cases.

The Judiciary Patrick Brandt

Basis for decisions

Varies based on the court. . .
• Original jurisdiction • Criminal cases use guilt or innocence: standard is a “proof

beyond a reasonable doubt”
• Civil cases’ standard is a “preponderance of the evidence.” • Appeals: based on the dispute and application of law

The Judiciary Patrick Brandt

State versus Federal Court

• State courts decide matters of STATE law. • Federal courts decide matters of federal law, conflicts in

state and federal law.

The Judiciary Patrick Brandt

State Courts

• Criminal courts: penal law • Domestic courts: family law • Civil courts: hear civil cases • Appeals courts: matters of appeal, not matters of fact • State Supreme Courts: matters of appeal from state

appellate courts

The Judiciary Patrick Brandt

Membership on State Courts

• Selection of judges for state courts is varied. In some

cases, judges are elected, others are appointed. • Other states use merit based systems similar to the Missouri system
• Judges are first appointed by either a state legislature or

Governor. The goal is that the legislature or Governor will use a merit based process to fill judicial positions. • Judges then serve a specified term; normally 2 or 3 years. • Judges then stand for a retention vote. Voters merely vote for or against them–no one stands against them on the ballot. • Judges then serve a longer term, or are replaced.

The Judiciary Patrick Brandt

• Alternatively, states may utilize some combination of

elections or appointments to the bench.
• Patronage • Removal procedures differ by state. Some use


The Judiciary Patrick Brandt

Federal Courts

• •

District courts: Hear federal criminal and civil cases Specialized Federal Courts: congressional or legislative courts
• Tax Court • Patent Court • Military Courts

Appellate Courts: appeals from lower…