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The Supreme Court and the
Protection of Rights and Liberties
Federal Courts
The Supreme Court is the highest court in the federal judiciary as established
in Article III of the Constitution. The passing of the Judiciary Act 1789 created:

13 Courts of Appeals (Circuit Courts) ­ 11 are spread across…

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Justices hold office for life "during good behaviour) ­ This means that
they can be impeached and removed from office by Congress or leave
the court only by voluntary retirement or death. Abe Fortas resigned in
1968 to prevent an impending impeachment.

Appointment Process
1. A vacancy must occur for…

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Recruitment Pools
Typically, the president has four main pools of recruitment to choose from
when appointing a new Supreme Court justice:

Federal Appeals Court (Clarence Thomas 1991/Sonia Sotomayor 2009)
State Courts (Sandra Day O'Connor 1981-2006)
Executive Branch (Elena Kagan 2010, Solicitor General)
Academia (Doug Ginsberg 1987, later withdrew)

Philosophy of…

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Judicial Activism and Judicial Restraint
Judicial activism ­ An approach to judicial decision-making which holds that a
judge should use his/her position to promote desirable ends.

An activist court aims to lead the way in the reform of American Society. The
Warren Court (under Earl Warren 1953-1969) was led by…

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"cruel and unusual punishments" statement of the 8th Amendment means
today. Likewise, the Court can determine whether the 1st Amendment right of
"freedom of speech" applies to the Internet. Former Chief Justice Charles Evans
stated "we are under a Constitution, but the Constitution is what the judges
say it is".…

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Snyder v Phelps 2011 ­ SC upheld the right of the infamous Westboro
Baptist Church to stage anti-gay protests at military funerals

Right to Bear Arms:

United States v Lopez 1995 ­ SC declared the 1990 Gun-Free School
Zones Act unconstitutional stating that Congress had exceeded its
power under Article…

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Checks on the Supreme Court

By Congress:

The Senate confirms all Supreme Court appointments ­ Rejected Bork in
1988 (42 for ­ 58 against)
Impeachment ­ Abe Fortas resigned in 1968 to prevent pending
Congress can alter number of justices on the Court ­ Difficulty of this
highlighted by…


Old Sir


This is a useful, mostly factual survey of the make up and work of the Supreme Court. It could serve students as an effective re-introduction. They should check the latest make-up of the court in order to note any changes since this was posted. Most importantly, students should move on to learn more examples of nominees (successful and unsuccessful), controversial judgements, especially through reading well-known minority judgement reports, where Justices have had significantly different views.

Former Member


Love it - thank you so much!



Good factual details but needs more information on 5-4 cases and reasons for problems within the US Supreme Court. 

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