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American courts use an adversarial system, a legal system in which a judge plays a relatively passive role as attorneys battle to protect each other's interests.
A legal system in which judges take an active role in investigating cases and questioning witnesses.
Dual Court System
Separate court systems of state and federal courts throughout the U.S. Each state court is responsible for interpreting laws and constitution of that specific state, while federal courts are responsible for the U.S Constitution and laws enacted by Congress.
They are courts of original jurisdiction meaning they receive cases first, consider the evidence and make the initial decision. They process most cases through settlements and plea bargains.
Federal Court System
U.S. Supreme Court, 13 U.S Courts of Appeals, 94 U.S District Courts.
- U.S. v Stevens (2010) law that violates first amendment for selling dog fights videos.
- U.Student Aid Funds v. Espinosa (2010) bankruptcy can discharge student debt regardless of claim of hardship
- Graham v. Florida (2010) 8th amendment violation for juvenile life sentence for non-homicide offense.
- Kelo v. New London (2005) no constitutional violation for city forcing owner to sell house.
The power of American judges to nullify decisions and actions by other branches of gov. if the judges decide those actions violethe the constitution or the relevant state constitution.
Granholm, Gov of MI v Heald (05/16/2005)
State laws in MI and NY prohibiting direct sales of wine to consumers by out-of-state wineries, US SC struck them down as violating the Commerce Clause of the US C.
DC v Heller (06/26/2008)
Local officials barred the ownership and possession of handguns by anyone other than the police. US C struck it down because it violated the right to bear arms in the 2nd Am
Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (6/28/2004)
U.S Citizens were not entitled to contact attorneys and be detained indefinitely according to the president, US C struck it downs and rejected the arguments, made it possible for them to attend court and contest their detention.
Citizens United v Fed. Election Comm (1/21/10)
Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 sought to prevent corporations from spending funds to support or oppose political candidates. US C struck it down because it violated 1st Am free speech rights of corp.
Marbury v. Madison (1803)
A case in which the US SC asserted the power of judicial review, despite the fact that hte concept is not explicitly mentioned in the U.S Constitution.
Process in congress for removal of the president, federal judges and for other high officials.
writ of mandamus
A legal order through which a court directs a gov. official to take specific action required by law.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt unsuccessful proposal in 1937 to permit the appointment of additional justices to the US SC for each serving judge who reached 70.
Traditional deference by U.S Senators to the wishes of their colleagues concerning the appointment of individuals to federal judgeships in that state.
a legal rule established by a judicial decision that guides subsequent decisions.
Roper v Simmons (2005), Stanford V Kentucky
US SC decided that based on the 8th Am. it is prohibited to execute murderers younger than 18, overturning their Stanford v Kentucky 1989 of 16-17 year olds.
judges that are followers of original intent approach call themselves advocates of judicial restraint, opposite to judicial activist where they "exceed their authority by injecting their own viewpoints into interpretation
An approach to interpreting the U.S C that permits the meaning of the doc to change with evolving values, social conditions, and problems. Judges argue that there is no way to know the intention of the author and ratifiers.
The idea that justices follow specific theories of constitutional interpretation and carefully consider precedents in making decisions is often labeled as the legal model.
states that SC justices opinions are driven by their attitudes and values.
Strategic voting model
SC justices vote strtegically in order to advance their preferred goals, even if it means voting contrary to their actual attitudes and values in some cases.
Miranda v. Arizona (1966)
the SC followed its own precedent from this case when it reaffirmed that, prior to questioning, police officers are required to inform detained criminal suspects of their right to remain silent and their right to thepresence of an attorney during questioning (Dickerson v U.S, 2000)
when the SC declined to make a decision in a case brought by a US Citizen who had been jailed as a suspected terrorist and denied all constitutional rights (Rumsfeld v Padilla. 2004)
an approach that emphasizes understanding courts as institutions and seeing the role of courts in the larger political system.
Roe v Wade (1973)
Chief Justice Warren Burger was accused of changing his vote in this controversial abortion decision.
A written argument submitted to an appellate court by those who are interested in the issue being examined but are not representing either party in the case; ofter submitted by interest groups' lawyers to advance a pecific policy position. amicus curiae
A case presented or sponsored by an interest group in the court pathway with the intention of influencing public policy.
Enforcing judicial decisions
Courts can issue pronouncements, but they have limited ability to ensure their orders are carried out.
Nixon was ordered to issue the recordings of secretly taped conversations to the prosecutor, but he refused to comply according to SC Justice Lewis Powell
Trail of Tears
The Cherokee Nation won a case against laws ordering their removal on behalf of whites searching for gold. SC John Marshall supported the Cherokees property rights, but President Andrew Jackson declined to enforce the order and were forced to march at gunpoint all to way to an Oklahoma Reservation with an estimated 4000 dying in the way.
Significant Court Cases
Significant Supreme Court Cases
- 1803 Marbury v. Madison— was the first time a law passed by Congress was declared unconstitutional
- 1857 Dred Scott v. Sanford—Declared that a slave was not a citizen, and that Congress could not outlaw slavery in U.S. territories
- 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson—Said that racial segregation was legal
- 1954 Brown v. Board of Education—Made racial segregation in schools illegal
- 1966 Miranda v. Arizona —stated that criminal suspects must be informed of their rights before being questioned by the police.
- 1973 Roe v. Wade—Made abortion legal
- 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger—Ruled that colleges can, under certain conditions, consider race and ethnicity in admissions.