Supreme Court Check List

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Identify and Explain the Role of the Supreme Court

Article 3: The judicial power of the US shall be vested in one SC and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain or establish

Set to be the guardian of the sovereign, entrenched document continint the USAs findamental law and core values

Today the court plays a very different role from that envisages in 1787 + debate oftern revolves around whether it is now seen as political aswell. Has the power of constitutional interpretation of the vague language. Resolves conflicts that arise over constitutional workings or the branches and layers of American government and over the protection of the rights in the Bill of Rights

By convention they have the power of judicial review, discovered in Marbury V Madison 1803. 

Untill 1865 cases coming before the court involved issues relating to federal-state relations and slavery; eg) Dred Scott V Sandford in 1857 conclduing slavery was constitutional.

From 1870s to 1940s cases realtedmore to state regulation of the economy. With economic issues largerly settles the emphasis then shifted to civil liberties and civil rights cases msinly by Warren + Burger courts 

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Structure of the Federal Courts

Supreme Court sits at the top of the federal judicary

Judicary Act of 1789: Congress immediately set up a system of lower federal courts. There are now 13 courts of appeal, known as circuit courts and below those 94 trial courts known as District courts.

Vast majority of cases start at federal level in district courts, and from there are appealed up the ranks. 

Cases can also arrive from State supreme Courts if questions involving the federal government are raised.

The US SC only hears cases it wants too; reject over 94% of their cases.

  • Rarely, they hear cases that have not been previously heard by a lower court, such as between one state's government and another.
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Membership of the Supreme Court

9 members on the SC- 1 chief and 8 associate justices

only removed through impeachment

chief justice set the tone of the court but has no stronger powers

only been 16th cheif justices in 210 years

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Search Pool for Recruitment

US Courts of Appeal: one tier below the Supreme Court and usually have heard cases before they arrive at the SC. Current court all been chosen from the Courts of Appeal.

State Courts: Sandra Day O'Connor nominated by Reagan came from state courts. Bush's nomination Souter had been on state court only 3 months before he was chosen.

Executive Branch: 1971: Nixons nomination Rehnquist had been serving as number 2 in the justice department.

Congress: Geroge Mitchell was often mentioned as a potential nominee, he'd been the Senate majority leader

State Governors: Earl Warren had been governor of California. 

Academia: law professor from good uni, Reagan nominate professor Gingsbur but he later withdrew

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Strict Constructionism: literal and conservative, tends to stress the retention of as much power as possible by the governments of individual states

Loose Constructionism: loose and liberal, stress the grants of power to the federal government

Judicail Activism: an approach to decision making which holds that a judge should use his or her position to promite desirable social ends

Judicial Restraint: judge should defer to the legislative and executive branches who are politically accountable to the voters. And put a huge set on following precedent

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