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The Judicial Branch: Article 3

1.Types of Cases
a)Civil Cases
-One person or group accuses another of
wrong-doing (lawsuits/ class action lawsuit)
Accuser= “Plaintiff” Accused=
(Case name: Plaintiff vs. Defendant)

Settlements usually made in the form of

b)Criminal Cases
-The Government accuses a person or people
of breaking the law
Plaintiff= Government
(Case name: The People vs. Defendant,
Michigan vs. Defendant, US vs. Defendant)
Trials results in jail time or fines
c)Constitutional Law
-Civil OR Criminal cases that challenge the
principles of the US Constitution
1.Types of Courts
a)State Courts
Trial Courts of Limited Jurisdiction- only hear
specific types of cases
Probate- estates of those who have died
Family- adoption, divorce, custody
Small Claims- less than $5000 (in most
Municipal- city ordinances
Trial Courts of General Jurisdiction- can hear
most all cases, sometimes used as an appeal
court for Limited Jurisdiction cases
Intermediate Appellate Court- hear appeals at
the state level
State High Court- the state’s equivalent of the
Supreme Court
Jurisdiction of State Courts:
-State Constitution -Family
-State Criminal Offenses -Sale of goods
-Negligence claims -Corporations and
-Contract Breech Business
-Probate -Elections
-Zoning and Property
b)Federal Courts
Congress has the ability to create new courts.
Over time, the following courts have been

-US Court of Claims (cases -Bankruptcy Court

vs. govt)
-US Court of Military
-US Court of International Appeals
-US Tax Court
-Magistrates-( judges who
assist parties involved -US Court of Veteran’s
in a trial to come to an
agreement) Appeals

US District Courts- the US is divided into 94

“districts,” each with a federal courthouse.
Questions of federal law are tried within these
districts first
US Circuit Court of Appeals- the 94 districts
are merged into 12 “circuits” in which those
who are challenging the result of their trial
can “appeal” the decision.
Issues of Law vs. Issues of Fact
(Trial Procedures- Judge) (The things the Jury must
Only Issues of Law can be questioned.
US Supreme Court- the highest court in the
land. They have the final say on all cases that
reach it.

Jurisdiction of Federal Courts

Constitutional Issues
Federal Issues
Suits between states
Maritime Law
1.The US Supreme Court

a)The Docket
-Cases may be heard through the appeals
-If the case is important enough, those
involved in the case may ask the Supreme
Court to hear it. If the court agrees, it will
obtain the case through a writ of certiorari
-At least 4 justices must believe that the case
is important enough to hear.

-Currently 9 Justices
-“Chief Justice” is the leader
-Nominated by the President, approved by the
-No formal requirements, serve Life-Long

-Each side submits a written statement of
their position called a “Brief”
-Other parties not directly involved but who
may be affected by the decision are also
allowed to file briefs (called Amicus Curiae)
-Each side given only 30 minutes to present
their case to the court
-Justices listen to arguments and then return
to a private chamber to discuss the merits of
the case.
-There is no time limit on how long it takes the
Supreme Court to decide a case
-Justices take a vote to decide the outcome of
the case
-Outcomes expressed as “Opinions”
Majority Opinion- the official stand of the
Court. The majority of the Justices feel this
Concurring Opinion- Justices who agree with
the majority, but for a different reason, write
a separate opinion.
Dissenting Opinion- Justices in the minority
are responsible for putting their objections
into writing in case a similar case presents
itself in the future. It may be used to help
overturn a previous decision.
e)Power of the Court
-No real enforcement powers
-Precedents: Supreme Court decisions set
the standard for the interpretation of the
Constitution for similar cases down the road
(stare decisis- “let the decision stand”)
-Judicial Review: The Supreme Court has the
ability to declare acts of the Government
“Constitutional” or “Unconstitutional”
Marbury vs Madison

f) Policy-Making Power
-Since Justices are nominated by the
President, most of them have similar political
views as the President. These views influence
the decisions that the court makes.
Judicial Activism- The Constitution should be
adapted to today’s world
Judicial Restraint- The Constitution should be
interpreted strictly and literally
Example: Gun Control

2nd Amendment
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the
security of a free State, the right of the people to keep
and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Weapons of the late 1700s Modern weapons