Federal Courts - 2006 -STAFF - Federal Courts INTRODUCTION...

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Federal Courts INTRODUCTION TO FEDERAL COURTS AND THE RULE OF LAW The rule of law: federal courts acting legitimately within a rule of law system, as opposed to acting as a purely political institution Marbury v. Madison : The power of judicial review o Congress granted the Supreme Court the power to issue writs of mandamus, which augmented the original jurisdiction granted to the Supreme Court under Article III o Holding: The courts in affirmative lawsuits can challenge acts of the executive and Congress for their constitutionality o “It is the province of the courts to say what the law is” Courts are unique institutions, different from other branches of government in that their primary duty is to enforce the rule of law The Court is made accountable for its actions in a different way than the other political branches because it relies on the consent of the people to do what it does o Other possible readings: The courts must have the power to control their own jurisdiction in order to preserve separation of powers The courts must have the power to protect their own integrity by adhering to the Constitution o Idea that for every wrong there is a remedy and the courts are standing ready to remedy any wrongs POLITICAL QUESTIONS This area particularly tests the idea of a rule of law Doctrine: Courts will refrain from deciding something it believes is a political question o These questions are “non-judiciable” Considerations o Constitutional considerations Look at specific provisions of the Constitution Language in Article III itself : “case or controversy” language describes what must exist for a court to even have the power to review Language in Articles I or II : areas in which what Congress or the executive does is immune to judicial review Look at the structure of the Constitution o Prudential/discretionary considerations The Court has adopted rules to help it decide only the controversies it feels are wise to resolve, and hence keep out of issues which it feels are unwise Baker v. Carr states the traditional test for determining when a federal court should refuse to accept jurisdiction because a case involves a political question: o Textually demonstrable commitment to another branch of government Court is looking for the commitment of responsibility and power, as well as final decision-making authority with respect to that power Must be a very explicit conferral of power in the Constitution
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However, the Court still has the final say as to whether there is in fact the kind of textually demonstrable commitment to remove the court’s power to review, thus preserving its authority to tell the other branches of government that they cannot do something Note that in deciding whether there is a textually demonstrable commitment to another branch of government, the Court ends up deciding the merits of the case as well Examples: Bush v. Gore : o
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  • Fall '06
  • Fineman
  • Law, Supreme Court of the United States, State court

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