Outline The Judiciary Chapter 14

Outline The Judiciary Chapter 14 - THE JUDICIAL BRANCH A....

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THE JUDICIAL BRANCH A. INTRODUCTION In most modern democracies the executive and legislative branches hold considerable power, but most grant little policymaking power to the judicial branch. A most important exception to this general rule is the United States, whose judiciary is truly a coequal branch with as much power as the other two. And yet our government did not begin with this almost equal balance of power; the founders almost certainly saw the judiciary as an important check on the legislative and executive branches, but not as a policymaking body. The court system is a cornerstone of our democracy. According to our ideals, judges make impartial and wise decisions that elected officials find difficult to make. Members of Congress, state governors, and the President must always worry about elections and popular opinion. As a result, they may lose sight of the need to preserve our values, and they sometimes set hasty or unjust policies. Under the guidance of Constitutional principles, the courts serve as watchdogs of the other branches of government. B. THE COMMON LAW TRADITION Although the U.S. judiciary differs in many ways from the British system, the tradition of English common law is still very important to both. Common law is a collection of judge-made laws that developed over centuries and is based on decisions made by previous judges. The practice of deciding new cases with reference to former decisions is called precedence . The doctrine of stare decisis (“let the decision stand) is based on [precedent, and is a cornerstone of English and American judicial systems. So, when a Court overturns a previous court’s decision, it is a major event, because to do so breaks the strong tradition of state decisis. (example, given in class: Cases are able to be amended. Gideon vs. Wainwright - Gideon robbed a pool hall, he goes to court without a lawyer, he is found guilty and sent to jail – he writes a note to the supreme court, and states the 6 th amendment gives him the right to a lawyer. The justice looks at it and says they have covered in 1943 (although it is in 1960s)… a different justice takes a look at the case, this is precedence.) C. THE JUDICIARY IN THE CONSTITUTION The Constitution painstakingly defines the structure and functions of the legislative branch of the government. It clearly, although less thoroughly, addresses the responsibilities and powers of the President. However, it treats the judicial branch almost as an afterthought. Article III specifically creates only one court (the Supreme Court), allows judges to
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serve for life and to receive a compensation, broadly outlines original and appellate jurisdiction, and outlines the procedure and limitations for those accused of treason. Article III consists of three section: Section 1: The only court mentioned in the Constitution is the Supreme Court, and Congress is given the right to create all other federal courts. Judgeships are to be held "during good Behavior" (in other words, there are no terms of office), and
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Outline The Judiciary Chapter 14 - THE JUDICIAL BRANCH A....

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