1 chief justice + 8 associate justices ❖ rarely case originates at the Supreme Court level ❖ Most of the Court’s work → appellate court. Which Cases Reach the Supreme Court? ❖ Rule of Four ➢ 4 justices approve case → supreme court approves writ cert ❖ writ of certiorari ➢ Supreme orders lower the record of a case for review. ❖ Judges decision: ➢ Approves based on “substantial federal question.” ➢ Deny if feel that a case doesn’t address an important federal law or constitutional issue Supreme Court Decisions ❖ ONLY hears written record + written/oral arguments (briefs) that the attorneys submit ➢ no evidence ❖ justices discuss the case in conference Majorities and Pluralities ❖ Reach decision → chief assigns justice task of writing court opinion ➢ Unless not in majority → second senior justice gets to be bossy ❖ Court opinion ➢ outlines the reasons for the Court's Decision, the rules of law that apply, and the decision ❖ If all agree what happened in case but not why → plurality opinion ➢ Whichever has the most votes win ❖ Plurality = bad ➢ Weak precedent for lower courts to follow Concurrence and Dissent ❖ All judges agree → but one has different reasoning = write it out
(concurring opinion ➢ Concurring opinion ■ Separate opinions prepared by judges who support the decision of the majority of the court but who want to make or clarify a particular point or to voice disapproval of the grounds on which the decision was made ❖ Disagree with court conclusion → dissenting opinions ➢ Separate opinions in which judges disagree with the conclusion reached by the majority of the court and expand on their own views about the case ❖ Disagree (dissenting op) → basis of argument to reverse + new precedent Judges in the Court System ❖ Supreme court = unrepresentative of the profession as a whole ❖ Lots of pressure to be just The Roles and Responsibilities of Trial Judges ❖ Judges must have good discretion! Before the Trial ❖ Judge must: ➢ Whether there is sufficient probable cause to issue a search or arrest warrant. ➢ Whether there is sufficient probable cause to authorize electronic surveillance of suspect. ➢ Whether enough evidence exists to justify the temporary incarceration of a suspect. ➢ Whether a defendant should be released on bail and, if so, the amount of the bail. ➢ Whether to accept pretrial motions by prosecutors and defense attorneys.
➢ Whether to accept a plea bargain ❖ setting pretrial motion dates + decide to grant attorneys’ requests for continuances ❖ Judge = ➢ Negotiator ■ help the prosecution and the defense “make a deal.” During the Trial ❖ Judge = ➢ Referee ■ seeing that the trial unfolds according to the dictates of the law and that the participants in the trial do not overstep any legal or ethical bounds ➢ Teacher ■ explaining points of law to the jury The Administrative Role ❖ Judge = admin ➢ responsible for the day-to-daycourt functioning ❖
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