Judiciary Test Study Guide

The supreme court does not issue advisory opinions (opinion issued
by a court that does not have the effect of resolving a specific legal case, but merely advises on the constitutionality or interpretation of a law)

• •

Per curiam opinion: unsigned decisions of the Court that states the facts
of the case and the ruling

Majority opinion: written opinion of the majority stating reasoning
for the decision

Concurring opinion: Can be authored by a justice who agrees with
the outcome of a case but for different reasons; may go on record with own opinion; can influence future opinions; can lessen impact of majority opinion Dissent: minority opinions; written by justices who disagree with the majority opinion; may influence future decisions; can undermine majority opinion Period of court history:

○ 1787-1865: nation building, legitimacy of the federal government, and slavery ○ 1865-1937: relationship between government and economy ○ 1938-present: personal liberty and social equality
• Assumption of the power of judicial review in Marbury v. Madison (1803), making the Supreme Court an equal partner in the governing process with Congress and the president.

McCulloch vs. Maryland:

upheld the supremacy of the federal government in a conflict with a state over a matter not clearly assigned to federal authority by the Constitution. Established that it was constitutional to establish a Natl. Bank; used the elastic clause

Federalist 78: Alexander Hamilton described the judiciary as the
branch “least dangerous” to political rights since it has “neither force nor will but merely judgement.” Fourteenth Ammendment: no state shall “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” Once it became clear that a “person” could be a firm or a corporation as well as an individual, business and industry began to flood the courts with cases challenging several government regulations.

Roosevelt’s new deal:

From 1938 to the present, the Court has switched its focus to the protection of personal liberties. This change was partially prompted by the political pressure generated by Franklin Roosevelt's unsuccessful effort to “court pack” the Supreme Court with justices favorable to his New Deal economic package. One justice, Own Roberts, has switched his position. This was called the “switch

in time that saved


but in fact, Roberts had changed his mind before the FDR plan was announced.

District courts: the lowest federal courts where federal cases begin; they are the only federal courts where trails are held; there are 94 in the entire U.S. and its territories Court of appeals: the federal courts with authority to review
decisions by federal district courts, regulatory commissions, and certain other federal courts, such courts have no original jurisdiction, they can only hear appeals; there are only 12, one in each of 11

regions and one in D.C. Supreme Court: the highest there is only one.

federal court in the United States; has final

appellate jurisdiction and has jurisdiction over all other courts in the nation ; •

The tradition by which the Senate will not confirm a district court judge if the senator who is from that state and of the president’s party objects is known as Senatorial courtesy. The latest presidents have tried to get more judges who support their ideas (Carter chose more blacks and women; Reagan chose more conservative, strict-constructionist ones).
To sue, a person must have frivolous, stupid cases:   

standing, a concept which prevents

Must be controversy between adversaries Personal harm must be demonstrated Being taxpayer not entitlement for suit

Sovereign immunity (To sue the government, one must
have its permission)

“Litmus test:” where a potential judge is asked a series of questions
to determine his political inclinations and then chosen or rejected based on that.

Amicus curiae: a term meaning “friend of the court;” refers to
interested groups not directly involved in a suit who may file legal briefs in support of one side Writ of certiorari: written order directing a lower court to send its records on a case to the Supreme Court for review; most cases get to the Supreme court through this American civil liberties union: a liberal group that represents some people who believe that their freedom of speech has been abridged or that their constitutional rights in criminal proceedings have been violated Solicitor general: an official of the Department of Justice; he or she represents the United States when cases are brought to the Supreme Court Stare decisis: informal rule of judicial decision-making in which judges try to follow precedent in deciding cases

• •

Judiciary enforcement power:

a judge has no police force or army, and a person can disobey if the act is not highly visible and if he is willing to risk being charged with contempt of court. The courts depend on other branches for enforcement.


can change the number of judges either on the Supreme Court or in the lower federal judiciary. Congress and the states can amend the Constitution. Congress can alter the jurisdiction of the federal courts and prevent them from hearing certain kinds of cases. All of these checks have their limits. Amending the Constitution is difficult. Attempts to change the size of the Court, like the Roosevelt court-packing plan, are likely to run into opposition from a public that still accords considerable prestige to the Court. The Supreme Court might rule attempts to limit the jurisdiction of the courts unconstitutional.

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