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Unformatted text preview: The Federal Courts Lecture Outline Judicial Review Ideology of the Supreme Court The liberals and conservatives on the court Some Surprises Judicial Restraint v. Judicial Activism Judicial Nominees The Court and Public Opinion Structure of the Federal Courts The Federal Courts The Basics The president nominates justices to US District Courts, US Court of Appeals, and to the US Supreme Court US Senate confirms (or rejects) by majority vote There are no constitutional qualifications for the federal courts US Supreme Court nominees are expected to have to have served in either state or lower federal courts--or--to be legal scholars One controversy surrounding the Harriet Miers nomination (2005) was that she has no judicial experience and is not a legal scholar The US Supreme Court usually hears less than 100 cases per year 1000s of attempted appeals to the Supreme Court each year, the vast majority of which are not heard by the Supreme Court US Supreme Court Powers Judicial Review The power to strike down US and state laws and executive orders as unconstitutional Not explicitly defined in US Constitution as a power of the Supreme Court; , but Court assumed judicial review as an inherent power First established in Marbury v. Madison (1803) Congress gave Supreme Court an unconstitutional power to deliver Writ of Mandamus to place a position of Justice of the Peace Court has since struck down many laws and decided controversies the other branches have failed to resolve A few examples Segregation in the schools (Brown v. Board of Education (1954)) Anti-abortion statutes (Roe v. Wade (1973)) Term limits for US Congress (US Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton (1995) Line-Item Veto (Clinton v. City of NY (1998) Struck Down by Supreme Court Federal Laws Ideology of the US Supreme Court The Liberals Stephen Breyer -- appointed by Clinton in 1994 Ruth Bader Ginsberg -- appointed by Clinton in 1993 David Souter -- appointed by Bush41 in 1990 John Paul Stephens -- appointed by Ford in 1975 The Conservatives Samuel Alito appointed by Bush43 in 2006 John Roberts -- appointed by Bush43 in 2005 Bush nominated Roberts to Chief Justice of the United States after Chief Justice Rehnquist died in 2005...Rehnquist served for 33 years on the court Clarence Thomas -- appointed by Bush41 in 1991 Anthony Kennedy -- appointed by Reagan in 1988 Antonin Scalia -- appointed by Reagan in 1986 Ideology: Some Surprises John Paul Stevens (1975 to present) Most consistent liberal vote on the court, even though Stevens was appointed by a Republican (Ford) Stevens was conservative early in his tenure, became increasingly liberal later in tenure David Souter (1990 to present) A consistent liberal vote, even though he was appointed by a Republican (Bush41) Conservatives today worry that Harriet Miers may turn out to be a surprise like Souter was Anthony Kennedy (1988 to present) More moderate than conservative, even though he was appointed by a Republican (Reagan)...voted to uphold abortion and gay rights Sandra Day O'Connor (1981 to 2006) O'Connor officially resigned in Feb 2006. She was the swing vote on close 5-to-4 decisions...more moderate than conservative, even though she was appointed by a Republican (Reagan)...voted to uphold abortion and gay rights Ideological Views Toward Courts Conservatives: Courts should exercise "judicial restraint," judge the law, don't make public policy Abortion and gay marriage are two areas where courts have made public policy Abortion Supreme Court made up a right that cannot be found in the US Constitution Gay Marriage Massachusetts Supreme Court created a right for gay couples that never existed; marriage has always been afforded to men and women only...US Supreme Court has not yet ruled on this issue Liberals: Courts should exercise "judicial activism" to protect fundamental rights not honored by legislatures Legislatures have traditionally resisted integration of the schools, minority voting rights, legalized abortion, and now gay marriage Courts must uphold fundamental rights Judicial Nominations Abortion the one issue that matters most when deciding nominations to the US Supreme Court Reagan/Bush41 era appointees to the US Supreme Court failed to outlaw abortion in the Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) In Bush's first term, Democratic US Senators used the filibuster to block floor votes on a select few conservative Bush nominees to US Courts of Appeal Republicans threatened to abolish the filibuster, a Senate traditions for more than 100 years A compromise worked out over Bush's nominees: The Senate would confirm 3 of 10 of Bush's circuit court nominees if Republican Senate leaders promised not to abolish the filibuster 5 of Bush's nominees confirmed in the end In Bush's second term, he has had 2 US Supreme Court nominees confirmed by the Senate with surprisingly little resistance In their Senate confirmation hearings, both Roberts and Alito were very vague about their legal/judicial views on abortion The Courts and Public Opinion The federal courts are "anti-majoritarian" in principle Federal judges are not elected and thus are not (in theory) subject to the "public will" or public opinion The US is not a pure democracy: the purpose of the constitutional design of the judiciary was to insulate the judiciary from the "public will" US Supreme Court has struck down laws that receive overwhelming public support--and--upheld policies that are extremely unpopular with the public (see next slide) Still, in most cases, the federal courts decide cases in a way that reflect the "public will" (or public opinion) Public Opinion & Federal Courts The Federal Court System 3 layers Supreme Court 12 Circuit Courts of Appeal + 1 specialized Circuit Court of Appeals 94 District Courts ...
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This note was uploaded on 03/18/2008 for the course POLS 1336 taught by Professor Mcfaden during the Spring '08 term at University of Houston.
- Spring '08