The Judicial Branch.docx - When you think of the judicial...

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When you think of the judicial system, you might imagine the banging of the gavel and the cries of anguish or joy heard daily in a courtroom. But how much do you really know about the judicial branch as a whole? This lesson provides an overview of the judicial branch of government, including the Supreme Court, and a discussion of the structure of other courts. The Judicial Branch and the Constitution The third article of the US Constitution outlines the judicial branch of the federal government. Article III is quite short compared with the articles that establish the legislative and executive branches. Article III vests judicial power in "one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may . . . ordain and establish. The Constitution gives the federal courts jurisdiction over cases that involve the following: the laws, treaties, and Constitution of the United States diplomatic representatives from other countries laws related to the sea or shipping two or more state governments citizens of different states a state and a citizen of a different state or foreign nation citizens of the same state claiming lands under grants of different states The Judiciary Act of 1789 Because it was left to Congress to define the nature of the federal court system, the first congressional session devoted a large portion of its time to this subject. The result of that session was the Judiciary Act of 1789. In this act, Congress created a three-tier federal court system that included district courts, circuit courts, and the Supreme Court.
District courts were established as the lowest level in the federal court system, and each state was expected to have a district court within its boundaries. Any issue could be appealed to the second level, known as the circuit, or appeals, court, whose jurisdiction would encompass a particular region. The third and highest level of the system was the Supreme Court. In the Judiciary Act of 1789, Congress also set the number of justices who would sit on the Supreme Court at one chief justice and five associate justices. In 1869, to acknowledge the growth of the nation, Congress raised the number of total justices on the court to nine, which remains the number of justices on the court today. Judicial Review Separation of powers stands as one of the defining characteristics of the US system of government. Each of the three branches of government maintains its own powers and roles, and each branch also retains the capacity to check the actions of the other two. The judicial branch of the federal government interprets the statutes, regulations, and traditions that constitute the body of US law. The judiciary's most important power in the system of checks and balances is its power of judicial review. Judicial review is the judiciary's authority to declare congressional legislation and executive actions unconstitutional. If a law is declared unconstitutional, it is void and cannot be enforced.

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