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Carp Chapter 4: Jurisdiction and Policymaking Boundaries

1) Federal Courts Jurisdiction

a) U.S. District Courts
i) Have original jurisdiction in federal criminal and civil cases
ii) Criminal Cases
(1) Covers a wide range of cases, most popular are embezzlement, theft,
drunk driving, drug-related offenses, terrorist offenses, etc.
(2) If no plea bargain is reached, the case goes to trial, and a federal appellate
court can reverse the prison sentence (if the person is found guilty) if its
found to be unreasonable. Government cant appeal a non guilty verdict
(3) Bush passed laws after 9/11 that for the most part were reversed by the
SC, which restored the Guantanamo prisoners the right of habeas corpus
(4) In 2012 Obama passed an act that subjected Americans to detention under
military instead of the legal system, but the wording makes things pretty
iii) Civil Cases
(1) Usually involve the application of the Constitution, act of Congress, or
U.S. treaties
(2) Federal question must be raised in order for there to be jurisdiction
(3) Patent and copyright claims, citizen disputes involving parties from
different states or people outside of the country
(4) Convicted prisoners who contend their incarceration is in violation of their
federally protected rights
b) U.S. Court of Appeals
i) No original jurisdiction; everythings been first argued in some other forum
ii) Has appellate jurisdiction in 2 main areas
(1) Ordinary civil and criminal appeals from the trial courts
(2) Appeals from certain federal administrative agencies and departments and
also from important independent regulatory commissions
c) U.S. Supreme Court
i) Has some original jurisdiction
(1) Suit between two or more states
(2) US vs. a state
(3) Issues with foreign ambassadors
(4) Cases commenced by a state against citizens of another state or country
ii) When jurisdiction is sharedconcurrent jurisdiction
iii) Appellate jurisdiction
(1) Appeals can be heard from all lower federal and territorial courts, and
from most of federal legislative courts
(2) May hear appeals from the highest court in a state
iv) Most of the docket consists of cases the judges have issued a writ of certiorari,
but another is way is certification (when an appeal court asks the SC for
instructions and the SC takes the case for itself)
2) Jurisdiction of State Courts
a) Established in basically the same way as those within the national court system

b) States have varying jurisdictions because of their differing state constitutions

3) Jurisdiction and Legislative Politics
a) Justices more likely to exercise self-restraint and were less likely to use judicial
review to invalidate acts of Congress when the Court perceived the congressional
mood toward it to be hostile
b) Congress tried to dissuade judges in other state from delivering same-sex
marriage decisions via the Defense of Marriage act passed in 1996 under Clinton
4) Judicial Self-Restraint
a) A Definite Controversy Must Exist
i) Federal courts do not render advisory opinions (rulings about situations that
are hypothetical or that have not caused an authentic clash between
(1) Cherokee Indian case people couldnt go to the court with hypothetical
ii) Parties to the suit must have proper standingsthe person bring the suit must
have suffered a direct and significant injury
(1) Line-item veto from Clinton couldnt be declared unconstitutional until
someone was actually injured as a result of the passing of the law
iii) Courts will not hear a case that has become moot
(1) Death of a litigant
(2) Marco Defunis case, sued a law school because of unfair admissions even
though he was admitted and in his final semester when it got the SC it
was declared moot
b) A Plea Must Be Specific
i) Petitioner must be able to cite a specific part of the Constitution as the basis of
the plea
ii) Cant just say that the action violated the spirit of the Bill of Rights
c) Beneficiaries May Not Sue
i) The case will be rejected if the petitioner has been the beneficiary of the law
(1) Farmer who benefits financially from a soil program cant sue after he
finds out his neighbor is benefitting for free
d) Appellate Courts Rule on LegalNot FactualQuestions
i) AC wont hear cases if the grounds for appeal are that the grail judge or jury
wrongly amassed and identified the basic factual elements of the case
ii) Only legal matters are appropriate for appellate review
iii) AC might review based on facts if the trial courts determination was clearly
utterly wrong (the clearly erroneous rule)
e) The SC Is Not Bound (Technically) By Precedents
i) If the SC were inescapably bound by the dictates of its prior rulings, itd have
very little flexibility
ii) This gives the SC a corner of safety to which it can retreat to if necessary
f) Other Remedies Must Be Exhausted
i) Courts wont accept a case unless the case has gone through the lengthy legal
process; SC cant just immediately take a case of magnitude
ii) Exhaustion of remedies refers to possible administrative relief as well as
adherence to the principle of a 3-tiered judicial hierarchy (i.e. appeal to an





administrative officer, a hearing before a committee, or consideration by a

legislative body)
Courts Dont Answer Political Questions
i) A political question is one that ought to be resolved by one of the two other
branches of governmentin the ballot box, legislative halls, chambers of the
ii) Ex When President Jimmy Carter acted on his own initiative to end the
Mutual Defense Treaty between the US and Taiwan, the action was challenged
by the courts by a number of Congressmen, but the high court refused to
involve itself in this political question
The Burden of Proof Is on the Petitioner
i) Laws and official deeds are all presumed to be legal unless and until proven
otherwise by a preponderance of evidence
ii) Exception of this burden of proof principle is when civil rights and liberties
issues are brought up
Laws Are Overturned on the Narrowest Grounds Only
i) A judge may have the option of invalidating an official action on statutory
grounds rather than constitutional ones
ii) Judges may invalidate only that portion of a law they find constitutionally
defective instead of overturning the entire statute
(1) Religious lawcongress only changed a detail of the law, changed the
part of the law stating that for a 20 year period, no part of newly built
college structures could be used for religious worship. Congress changed
the law from 20 years to never
No Rulings Are Made on the Wisdom of Legislation
i) The only basis for declaring a law unconstitutional is that it violates the
Constitution on its face
ii) The law cant just be unfair or bad, it has to explicitly violate the Constitution