Ch.11 Module - -1Ch.11 - The Courts This chapter begins...

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-1Ch.11 - The Courts This chapter begins with a discussion of the role of the judiciary in deciding the 2000 presidential election. These events highlight the deep connection between the judiciary and the political process—despite the popular idea that the judiciary is not a “political” institution. Judges must choose between competing values. Freedom, order, and equality vie for dominance in the nation’s highest court. The U.S. Constitution created only one court—the U.S. Supreme Court—and sketched the rough contours of federal judicial power. The real design took shape in the first Congress. (Much of that handiwork can be seen in today’s court system.) Congress created federal (national) courts that would coexist with the courts in each state but be independent of them. But the judiciary was not viewed as a powerful branch of government until John Marshall was appointed the third chief justice in 1803. Marshall’s opinion in Marbury v. Madison (1803) established the power of judicial review, the power to declare acts of coordinate branches (and acts of state government) void because they violate the U.S. Constitution. This power appears to conflict with democratic theory because an unelected branch can trump an elected branch in the name of the U.S. Constitution. The federal courts form a hierarchy, with the Supreme Court at the apex, the courts of appeal in the middle, and the district courts at the base. Note that most litigation arises in state courts; federal courts have limited jurisdiction to decide criminal and civil cases. Policymaking in the courts occurs at all levels, but it is most pronounced in appellate courts, where the emphasis on judicial opinions enables judges to create precedents. The Supreme Court deserves special consideration because the value conflicts inherent in U.S. democracy often end up before the Court’s nine justices. The Court is a national policymaker with far-reaching impact. The Court exercises influence in part through the power to set its own agenda; it is aided in this function by the solicitor general who represents the federal government before the Court. If presidents are successful in appointing judges who share their values, they can influence policy even after their term as president is over. Although this is true across the federal judiciary, it is especially pronounced for appointments to the Supreme Court. Judges (some more than others) exercise political power. Separation of powers and checks and balances frustrate representative government. Groups that failed to secure or protect their interests in the democratic branches can turn to lawyers and the courts. Pluralist democracy operates when groups press their interests on the government. The open access provided by the courts reinforces pluralist democracy. Although judicial power runs counter to democratic theory, policies emanating from the Supreme Court
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Ch.11 Module - -1Ch.11 - The Courts This chapter begins...

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