Supreme Court

What article of the constitution establishes the Supreme Court?
Article 3
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How many Courts of Appeals are there? (circuit courts)
13 (11 across regions, 1 in DC and 1 federal)
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Number of district courts?
94
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Where do the majority of federal cases start?
In the district courts (then to Court of Appeals - circuit)
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How does a case get heard in the SC?
4/9 judges must agree to it
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Which cases are most likely to be heard in the SC?
Those that are most constitutionally significant
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What % of cases sent to the SC do they actually rule on?
Only 1% each year
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What is judicial review?
They review actions of other branches by deciding what is constitutional
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How did the SC get the power of judicial review?
It's implied. Ruled in 1803 Marbury v. Madison
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What's their original jurisdiction?
Cases that don't have to come from a lower court first are those involving ambassadors, between two states or a citizen suing a state
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What's appellate jurisdiction?
The cases they review of a lower court's decision on constitutional law
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When does the term start and end?
From October to June/July
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What article-clause is the Supremacy clause?
A6C2
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What is the supremacy clause?
The federal laws pursuant to the constitution are supreme over state law
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How many justices write the majority opinion?
Just one
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What's a concurring opinion?
Written by judges who are on the majority but came to their decision through different reasons to the written majority opinion
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What's a dissenting opinion?
Written by those in the minority
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What checks and balances are on the SC appointment?
The President nominates but Senate can confirm with a majority, or deny
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Give an example of a SC nominee who has failed Senate approval?
Robert Bork - 1987. Well qualified but v conservative (criticised Civil Rights Act 1964). Not recommended by committee and Senate voted 58-42 NO
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Check and balance that prevents bad behaviour?
Congress can impeach (but have life tenure otherwise)
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What's the checks and balance on a bad decision from the SC?
Congress could alter constitution with amendment
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What amendment altered the Dred Scott v. Sandford 1857 ruling?
14th amendment (equal protection)
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What factors limit the SC's power?
Limited by time, cannot initiate a case, cannot enforce a ruling, legal precedent, cannot bind future courts
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How many cases do they rule on a year?
80 - 100
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What was the first major 2nd Amendment case?
DC v. Heller (2008)
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How long did it take for the Brown v. Board of Education (1954) ruling to be enforced?
10years, the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Went from 1.2% of black students in white schools (in South) to 33% after '64 act
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Is the number of judges on the SC fixed?
Not by the constitution, but by congress
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When did Roosevelt try to alter the number of SC justices?
In 1937
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Why did Roosevelt wish to pack the court in 1937?
He was "relegated to horse and buggy definition' of commerce clause, so they weren't allowing his New Deal legislation
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What suggested the 1937 threat to pack the court worked?
SC upheld 1937 trade unions
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What's stare decisis?
Legal precedent - must stand by previous rulings
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When was the precedent set by Roe v. Wade 1973 upheld?
Planned Parenthood v. Casey 1992 - upheld right to abortion under implied right to privacy. Day O'Connor stuck to precedent
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When can legal precedent be overturned?
If it becomes unworkable, the facts have changed or society now rejects the ruling (change in time)
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Give an example of when legal precedent was overturned during civil rights?
Plessy v Ferguson 1896 (separate but equal) to Brown v Board of Education 1954 (inherently unequal)
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Whats judicial independence?
They're free from influence and pressure of the other branches
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How does the supreme court have judicial independence?
Life tenure and their salaries/pension cannot be decreased
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How long did Scalia serve?
29 years
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When was Chase impeached and why? What precedent did it set?
In 1804 for his views. Set precedent that judges cannot be removed for opinion (independence)
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Where do SC nominees usually come from and why?
The lower courts - they have experience and clear history of past rulings
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Why are justices not elected?
They're neutral 'umpires'
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Who withdrew their nomination in 2005?
Harriet Miers (Bush nom.) Lawyer not judge, lacked a record which worried Conservatives. Nationwide campaign against her
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Who nominated all the current liberal judges?
Obama and Clinton
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Who are the 'loose constructionist' judges on the court?
Breyer, Bader-Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan
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Who is often the deciding vote in 5-4 decisions?
Justice Anthony Kennedy
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What's loose constructionism?
The idea the constitution is not fixed and should evolve with the time
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What's originalism?
Follow the original meaning of the founding fathers
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When did the SC nomination process shift from competence to ideology?
1987 Bork - was totally competent but far too conservative (very pro states rights)
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Why does the constitution need to be interpreted?
Parts are very vague - eg. Commerce clause
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What interpretation was restricting Roosevelt's New Deal?
The strict constructionists felt it exceeded the commerce clause's original meaning
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What did the 1935 SC ruling regarding commerce strike down?
The 1933 National Industrial Recovery Act (minimum wage, working standards)
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How does 1995 US v. Lopez relate to the commerce clause?
Ruled the federal gov cannot enforce the 'Gun Free School Zone Act' as it related too loosely to commerce
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What's the Roe v. Wade 1973 ruling?
Right to privacy = women cannot be denied abortions. Controversial to conservatives socially and because it's a loose constructionist view (14th for slaves, not privacy)
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What % of American people would overturn Roe v. Wade?
29%
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What are loose constructionists said to add to the original text?
Values, purpose and context (of the time)
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Why's the second amendment so controversial?
It's vague so very open to interpretation
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What's the flag burning ruling?
Texas v. Johnson (1989), a 5-4 ruling that burning flags is a form of free speech
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How did Scalia vote in Texas v. Johnson?
On majority side, even though he didn't agree with it, the constitution allows it
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Who was accused of activism before 1937?
Conservatives accused by liberals for being anti- New Deal (commerce clause rulings '35)
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Who was accused of activism from the 40s through to 70s?
Liberals accused by conservatives for the huge expansion of federal government that had been permitted (New Deal, Great Society)
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Example of activist rulings?
Brown v Board (1954), Engel v Vitale (1962)
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Why is the court increasingly conservative since 1970s?
About 3x more appointments from R presidents over D
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So who is now accusing of activism?
The liberals accuse as they are the disadvantaged - rulings go against them
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Details of the highly political SC ruling of 2000?
Bush v Gore (2000). The 5-4 decision decided to stop Florida recounts in 4 districts as made votes unequal (14th - equal protection)
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What was the controversial 2012 decision relating to healthcare?
Whether the individual mandate was constitutional. Upheld under congresses power to levy tax, even though Obama said it wasn't a tax previously
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How did Roberts suggest allowing the individual mandate was the right choice?
Should always try NOT to alter Congress' laws, they're not the politicians
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What ensures they are neutral and not a political institution?
No campaigns, not elected. Have independence
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What gave them political role not long after the constitution's ratification?
Marbury v. Madison 1803
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What did Obama say in 2005, suggesting they are humans and cannot be truly neutral?
5% of cases are not clear, matters "what is in the judge's heart" - not robots, have opinions and bias
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Why does the lack of agreement on how to interpret the constitution matter?
Political - whether it should be LC or O that is correct (no objective answer)
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How has this split into the appointment process?
Since Bork been more political - look to judge's ideology, how they interpret, not just their qualifications. Parties are ideologically more cohesive
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What did both Clinton and Obama want from their nominations to the SC?
Wanted them to believe in the right to privacy (Loose constructionist - liberal)
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Why are 5-4 decisions seen to be political?
If based on law expected to be more cohesive answer - 5-4 suggests a bias from different interpretations
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What % of decisions were 5-4 for Warren's court v. Roberts'?
Warren often seen very political, 12% were 5-4. Today Roberts' is 22%
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Why does the current court have predictable 5-4 decisions?
Kennedy is the swing vote = gives him more power. Shows clear political lines of other judges
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What's the increase in disapproval since 1985?
Up 10% - suggests decisions more decisive
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What did the 2010 FEC decision vary hugely from?
2003 ruling which left bill largely untouched. Difference in court was moderate Sandra Day O'Connor replaced with conservative Alito (Undermines authority of court)
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What % of cases today get at least one amicus brief?
96%
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How many for same sex marriage compared to Brown?
156 v 6
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How many testimonies did Burger have in 1969 compared to Roberts in 2005?
Burger had 3 vs Roberts 70
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Why is the president that nominates them irrelevant to their rulings?
Life tenure, no political pressure, can vote however they choose. President does not know how they will act
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Who did Eisenhower nominate that acted differently to expected?
Earl Warren was a Republican governor but lead a very liberal and activist court
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What are the majority of cases in recent years?
8-1 or 9-0
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Why does it seem like more are political?
The high profile cases are often the 5-4 decisions
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What are justices constrained by?
Precedent and text (sometimes make decisions they don't like)
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What % of Roberts court cases are considered activist?
Only 5%
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How does that compare to Warren and Burger?
They were close to 10%, had double activist rulings
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What did the failed impeachment of Chase set a precedent for?
Showed that SC justices are protected against political pressure - do not have to vote a certain way
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Other cards in this set

Card 2

Front

How many Courts of Appeals are there? (circuit courts)

Back

13 (11 across regions, 1 in DC and 1 federal)

Card 3

Front

Number of district courts?

Back

Preview of the front of card 3

Card 4

Front

Where do the majority of federal cases start?

Back

Preview of the front of card 4

Card 5

Front

How does a case get heard in the SC?

Back

Preview of the front of card 5
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