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Unformatted text preview: Chapter Three: The Judicial System 97 C HAPTER 3 T HE J UDICIAL S YSTEM S ECTION 3.1 T HE F EDERAL C OURT S YSTEM 97 A Court is only as sound as its jury, and a jury is only as sound as the men who make it up. Harper Lee To Kill a Mockingbird, 1960 Todays legal environment makes it a very real risk that a business will become involved in the litigation process during its existence. In fact, a number of states have established specialized courts to hear business cases. This chapter will present an overview of the court system in the United States so that the business entrepreneur or executive may gain a better understanding of the different types of courts, their rules and their specializations. Article III of the Constitution provides that the judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such other inferior courts as Congress may from time to time establish. The court is the last branch of the government to be addressed by the Constitution and very little direction is provided by the framers in that historic document. Article III merely creates the Supreme Court of the United States and it glaringly fails to set forth the Courts powers, com- position or jurisdiction. In what one may call a lack of respect, the framers also gave Congress the power to create the remaining courts thereby making the court system seem subservient to the legislature. The First Congress of the United States accepted this grant of power when it enacted the Judiciary Act of 1787. Through the efforts of Sena- tor Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut, the legislature created thirteen judicial districts and three circuit courts throughout the country. Ini- tially, the Supreme Court consisted of one chief justice and five other jurists who met twice a year in the Nations Capital, the initial session commencing on the first Monday of February, and the other on the first Monday in August. The Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction over all controversies of a civil nature in which a state is a party and exclusive jurisdiction over proceedings against ambassadors or other public ministers consistent with the law of nation. The Supreme Court also has appellate jurisdic- tion or the ability to hear cases on appeal from the federal circuit courts and courts of the states. Hodge_CH03.pmd 10/13/2008, 10:34 AM 97 98 Law for the Business Enterprise During its first few years, the Supreme Court heard very few cases and was viewed as the weakest branch of the government. This perception changed dramatically in 1801 when John Marshall became the Chief Justice and issued the landmark ruling in Marbury v. Madison . This case established the fundamental principle that the Supreme Court uniquely has the power to declare a law of Congress unconstitutional....
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