The Courts and the Challenge of Democracy

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Essential Facts You Need To Learn For The Test:

More readings: Unstable democracy: Colombia vs Venezuela

The Courts- federal level

  1. The highest federal court is called the US Supreme Court consisting of 9 members. The judge in charge of the Supreme Court is called the Chief Justice. The members of the court are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
  2. They serve for life upon good behavior.
  3. Their original and appellate powers are specified in article 3 of the constitution.
  4. How do they decide to take a case? They can accept or deny a hearing for any case. They have the complete power to do so.
  5. They usually take a case when the constitution is unclear on an issue and it is required for them to explain in a case the full meaning of a constitutional provision. Also if appellate courts disagree on the meaning of a provision, it is up to the supreme court to clarify its meaning.
  6. How do you try to bring a case before the Supreme Court? You need to be an injured party where the injury occurred because of a violation of a federal law or constitutional provision. You must first go through the lower courts and appellate courts before you can petition the highest court. remember the court doesn’t have to take your case even if you have a valid claim for a review.
  7. The concept of judicial review became lawful when Justice Marshall in 1803 declared the full powers of the court beyond article 3. The ruling gave the court full authority to interpret the constitution, to overrule federal laws and actions deemed unconstitutional. and later extended this power over state laws and actions.
  8. Hearings-The court votes to hear a case. Out of all of the 9 judges, 4 must vote for a hearing . When a hearing is granted the court will review all of the arguments presented by attorneys on both sides of the case, then conduct hearings from the attorneys for the parties, this is the oral argument phase of the hearing. After these arguments are heard the court will meet in their private chambers to discuss the merits of the case.
  9. Ruling- Five judges who agree with one of the parties writes the Majority Opinion which explains in full why they ruled the way they did. These opinions are immediately published so that the public, attorneys, and officials understand the ruling.
  10. Please go to the link below for an extensive outline of our Federal court system.

Also read: Courts and New Democracies: Recent Works

Use the lecture contents, internet, and text to answer these questions about our federal court system.

  1. Using the linked information in the lecture describe the three levels of the federal court organization, what is each level called, what kinds of cases do they hear?
  2. What does the term Judicial Restraint mean?
  3. Explain the Doctrine of Judicial Review? How did it originate?
  4. Explain the federal judge appointment process? What two branches of government have authority over this process?
  5. Use your textbook and explain what Stari Decisis means?
  6. How many justices have to vote to have a Majority opinion?
  7. If officials argue over the meaning of a provision in the constitution, what body of law do they consult to get an answer?
  8. Conservatives disagree with the courts when they practice Judicial Activism. What does this term mean and why are conservatives opposed to the use of these interpretations of law? see link
  9. Where would you look to find supreme court cases?
  10. Find and read a case and briefly summarize the ruling in 3 sentences?

short answer

  1. What article of the constitution designates the powers of the supreme court? What are original and appellate powers?
  2. How and why does the supreme court have the power to review the laws and actions of state and federal officials? What year was this power defined and by what authority?
  3. What is the supreme court looking for when they take a case? How many court members have to vote to approve a hearing?
  4. When the court announces its ruling, how many members must vote to making this an official opinion? What is in a dissenting opinion?
  5. What is the full process from taking a case to reaching a final opinion? Explain all of the stages.


Do you think the Trump administration should nominate and approve a new Supreme Court Justice before the election?

Last Updated on October 9, 2020 by EssayPro