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Unformatted text preview: Chapter Fourteen The Federal Judicial System: Applying the Law Chapter Outline I. The Federal Judicial System A. The Supreme Court of the United States 1. Selecting and Deciding Cases 2. Issuing Decisions and Opinions B. Other Federal Courts 1. U.S. District Courts 2. U.S. Courts of Appeal 3. Special U.S. Courts C. The State Courts II. Federal Court Appointees A. The Selection of Supreme Court Justices and Federal Judges 1. Supreme Court Nominees 2. Lower-Court Nominees B. Justices and Judges as Political Officials 1. The Role of Partisanship 2. Other Characteristics of Judicial Appointees III. The Nature of Judicial Decision Making A. The Constraints of the Facts B. The Constraints of the Law 1. The Constitution and Its Interpretation 2. Statutes and Administrative Laws, and Their Interpretation 3. Legal Precedents (Previous Rulings) and Their Interpretation IV. Political Influences on Judicial Decisions A. Outside Influences on Court Decisions 1. Public Opinion and Interest Groups 2. Congress and the President B. Inside Influences: The Justices Own Political Beliefs V. Judicial Power and Democratic Government A. The Limits of Judicial Power B. Debating the Judiciarys Proper Role Chapter Summary At the lowest level of the federal judicial system are the district courts, where most federal cases begin. Above them are the federal courts of appeals, which reviews cases appealed from the lower courts. The U.S. Supreme Court is the nations highest court. Each state has its own court system, consisting of trial courts at the bottom and one or two appellate levels at the top. Cases originating in state courts ordinarily cannot be appealed to the federal courts unless a federal issue is involved, and then the federal courts can choose to rule only on the federal aspects of the case. Federal judges at all levels are nominated by the president, and if confirmed by the Senate, they are appointed by the president to the office. Once on the federal bench, they serve until they die, retire, or are removed by impeachment and conviction. SG 14 | 1 The Supreme Court is unquestionably the most important court in the country. The legal principles it establishes are binding on lower courts, and its capacity to define the law is enhanced by the control it exercises over the cases it hears. However, it is inaccurate to assume that lower courts are inconsequential (the upper-court myth). Lower courts have considerable discretion, and the great majority of their decisions are not reviewed by a higher court. It is also inaccurate to assume that federal courts are far more significant than state courts (the federal- court myth). The courts have less discretionary authority than elected institutions do. The judiciarys positions are constrained by the facts of a case and by the laws as defined through the Constitution, statutes and government regulations, and legal precedent. Yet existing legal guidelines are seldom so precise that judges have no choice in their decisions. As a result, guidelines are seldom so precise that judges have no choice in their decisions....
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