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    The Judicial Branch

    Article III of the Constitution of the United States guarantees that every person accused of wrongdoing has the right to a fair trial before a competent judge and a jury of one's peers.

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    The Judicial Branch

    Article III of the Constitution of the United States guarantees that every person accused of wrongdoing has the right to a fair trial before a competent judge and a jury of one's peers

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    Where the executive and legislative branches are elected by the people, members of the Judicial Branch are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

    Article III of the Constitution, which establishes the Judicial Branch, leaves Congress significant discretion to determine the shape and structure of the federal judiciary. Even the number of Supreme Court Justices is left to Congress — at times there have been as few as six, while the current number (nine, with one Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices) has only been in place since 1869. The Constitution also grants Congress the power to establish courts inferior to the Supreme Court, and to that end Congress has established the United States district courts, which try most federal cases, and 13 United States courts of appeals, which review appealed district court cases.

    Federal judges can only be removed through impeachment by the House of Representatives and conviction in the Senate. Judges and Justices serve no fixed term — they serve until their death, retirement, or conviction by the Senate. By design, this insulates them from the temporary passions of the public, and allows them to apply the law with only justice in mind, and not electoral or political concerns.

    Generally, Congress determines the jurisdiction of the federal courts. In some cases, however — such as in the example of a dispute between two or more U.S. states — the Constitution grants the Supreme Court original jurisdiction, an authority that cannot be stripped by Congress.

    The courts only try actual cases and controversies — a party must show that it has been harmed in order to bring suit in court. This means that the courts do not issue advisory opinions on the constitutionality of laws or the legality of actions if the ruling would have no practical effect. Cases brought before the judiciary typically proceed from district court to appellate court and may even end at the Supreme Court, although the Supreme Court hears comparatively few cases each year.

    Federal courts enjoy the sole power to interpret the law, determine the constitutionality of the law, and apply it to individual cases. The courts, like Congress, can compel the production of evidence and testimony through the use of a subpoena. The inferior courts are constrained by the decisions of the Supreme Court — once the Supreme Court interprets a law, inferior courts must apply the Supreme Court’s interpretation to the facts of a particular case.

    The Supreme Court of the United States

    The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the land and the only part of the federal judiciary specifically required by the Constitution.

    The Constitution does not stipulate the number of Supreme Court Justices; the number is set instead by Congress. There have been as few as six, but since 1869 there have been nine Justices, including one Chief Justice. All Justices are nominated by the President, confirmed by the Senate, and hold their offices under life tenure. Since Justices do not have to run or campaign for re-election, they are thought to be insulated from political pressure when deciding cases. Justices may remain in office until they resign, pass away, or are impeached and convicted by Congress.

    The Court’s caseload is almost entirely appellate in nature, and the Court’s decisions cannot be appealed to any authority, as it is the final judicial arbiter in the United States on matters of federal law. However, the Court may consider appeals from the highest state courts or from federal appellate courts. The Court also has original jurisdiction over limited types of cases, including those involving ambassadors and other diplomats, and in cases between states.

    Although the Supreme Court may hear an appeal on any question of law provided it has jurisdiction, it usually does not hold trials. Instead, the Court’s task is to interpret the meaning of a law, to decide whether a law is relevant to a particular set of facts, or to rule on how a law should be applied. Lower courts are obligated to follow the precedent set by the Supreme Court when rendering decisions.

    In almost all instances, the Supreme Court does not hear appeals as a matter of right; instead, parties must petition the Court for a writ of certiorari. It is the Court’s custom and practice to “grant cert” if four of the nine Justices decide that they should hear the case. Of the approximately 7,500 requests for certiorari filed each year, the Court usually grants cert to fewer than 150. These are typically cases that the Court considers sufficiently important to require their review; a common example is the occasion when two or more of the federal courts of appeals have ruled differently on the same question of federal law.

    If the Court grants certiorari, Justices accept legal briefs from the parties to the case, as well as from amicus curiae, or “friends of the court.” These can include industry trade groups, academics, or even the U.S. government itself. Before issuing a ruling, the Supreme Court usually hears oral arguments, where the various parties to the suit present their arguments and the Justices ask them questions. If the case involves the federal government, the Solicitor General of the United States presents arguments on behalf of the United States. The Justices then hold private conferences, make their decision, and (often after a period of several months) issue the Court’s opinion, along with any dissenting arguments that may have been written.

    Source : www.whitehouse.gov

    About the Supreme Court

    Supreme Court Background Article III of the Constitution establishes the federal judiciary. Article III, Section I states that "The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish." Although the Constitution establishes the Supreme Court, it permits Congress to decide how to organize it. Congress first exercised this power in the Judiciary Act of 1789. This Act created a Supreme Court with six justices. It also established the lower federal court system.

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    About the Supreme Court

    About the Supreme Court Supreme Court Background

    Article III of the Constitution establishes the federal judiciary. Article III, Section I states that "The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish." Although the Constitution establishes the Supreme Court, it permits Congress to decide how to organize it. Congress first exercised this power in the Judiciary Act of 1789. This Act created a Supreme Court with six justices. It also established the lower federal court system.

    The Justices

    Over the years, various Acts of Congress have altered the number of seats on the Supreme Court, from a low of five to a high of 10. Shortly after the Civil War, the number of seats on the Court was fixed at nine. Today, there is one Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices of the United States Supreme Court. Like all federal judges, justices are appointed by the President and are confirmed by the Senate. They, typically, hold office for life. The salaries of the justices cannot be decreased during their term of office. These restrictions are meant to protect the independence of the judiciary from the political branches of government.

    The Court's Jurisdiction

    Article III, Section II of the Constitution establishes the jurisdiction (legal ability to hear a case) of the Supreme Court. The Court has original jurisdiction (a case is tried before the Court) over certain cases, e.g., suits between two or more states and/or cases involving ambassadors and other public ministers. The Court has appellate jurisdiction (the Court can hear the case on appeal) on almost any other case that involves a point of constitutional and/or federal law. Some examples include cases to which the United States is a party, cases involving Treaties, and cases involving ships on the high seas and navigable waterways (admiralty cases).

    Cases

    When exercising its appellate jurisdiction, the Court, with a few exceptions, does not have to hear a case. The Certiorari Act of 1925 gives the Court the discretion to decide whether or not to do so. In a petition for a writ of certiorari, a party asks the Court to review its case. The Supreme Court agrees to hear about 100-150 of the more than 7,000 cases that it is asked to review each year.

    Judicial Review

    The best-known power of the Supreme Court is judicial review, or the ability of the Court to declare a Legislative or Executive act in violation of the Constitution, is not found within the text of the Constitution itself. The Court established this doctrine in the case of Marbury v. Madison (1803).

    In this case, the Court had to decide whether an Act of Congress or the Constitution was the supreme law of the land. The Judiciary Act of 1789 gave the Supreme Court original jurisdiction to issue writs of mandamus (legal orders compelling government officials to act in accordance with the law). A suit was brought under this Act, but the Supreme Court noted that the Constitution did not permit the Court to have original jurisdiction in this matter. Since Article VI of the Constitution establishes the Constitution as the Supreme Law of the Land, the Court held that an Act of Congress that is contrary to the Constitution could not stand. In subsequent cases, the Court also established its authority to strike down state laws found to be in violation of the Constitution.

    Before the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment (1869), the provisions of the Bill of Rights were only applicable to the federal government. After the Amendment's passage, the Supreme Court began ruling that most of its provisions were applicable to the states as well. Therefore, the Court has the final say over when a right is protected by the Constitution or when a Constitutional right is violated.

    Role

    The Supreme Court plays a very important role in our constitutional system of government. First, as the highest court in the land, it is the court of last resort for those looking for justice. Second, due to its power of judicial review, it plays an essential role in ensuring that each branch of government recognizes the limits of its own power. Third, it protects civil rights and liberties by striking down laws that violate the Constitution. Finally, it sets appropriate limits on democratic government by ensuring that popular majorities cannot pass laws that harm and/or take undue advantage of unpopular minorities. In essence, it serves to ensure that the changing views of a majority do not undermine the fundamental values common to all Americans, i.e., freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and due process of law.

    Impact

    The decisions of the Supreme Court have an important impact on society at large, not just on lawyers and judges. The decisions of the Court have a profound impact on high school students. In fact, several landmark cases decided by the Court have involved students, e.g., Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District (1969) held that students could not be punished for wearing black armbands to school to protest the Vietnam War. In the Tinker case, the Court held that "students do not shed their rights at the schoolhouse gate."

    DISCLAIMER: These resources are created by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts for educational purposes only. They may not reflect the current state of the law, and are not intended to provide legal advice, guidance on litigation, or commentary on any pending case or legislation.

    Source : www.uscourts.gov

    The Supreme Court’s Overruling of Constitutional Precedent

    By exercising its power to determine the constitutionality of federal and state government actions, the Supreme Court has developed a...

    The Supreme Court’s Overruling of Constitutional Precedent

    September 24, 2018 R45319

    By exercising its power to determine the constitutionality of federal and state government actions, the Supreme Court has developed a large body of judicial decisions, or “precedents,” interpreting the Constitution. How the Court uses precedent to decide controversial issues has prompted debate over whether the Court should follow rules identified in prior decisions or overrule them. The Court’s treatment of precedent implicates longstanding questions about how the Court can maintain stability in the law by adhering to precedent under the doctrine of stare decisis while correcting decisions that rest on faulty reasoning, unworkable standards, abandoned legal doctrines, or outdated factual assumptions.

    Although the Supreme Court has shown less reluctance to overrule its decisions on constitutional questions than its decisions on statutory questions, the Court has nevertheless stated that there must be some special justification—or, at least “strong grounds”—that goes beyond disagreeing with a prior decision’s reasoning to overrule constitutional precedent. Consequently, when deciding whether to overrule a precedent interpreting the Constitution, the Court has historically considered several “prudential and pragmatic” factors that seek to foster the rule of law while balancing the costs and benefits to society of reaffirming or overruling a prior holding:

    Quality of Reasoning. When determining whether to reaffirm or overrule a prior decision, the Supreme Court may consider the quality of the decision’s reasoning.

    Workability. Another factor that the Supreme Court may consider when determining whether to overrule a precedent is whether the precedent’s rules or standards are too difficult for lower federal courts or other interpreters to apply and are thus “unworkable.”

    Inconsistency with Related Decisions. A third factor the Supreme Court may consider is whether the precedent departs from the Court’s other decisions on similar constitutional questions, either because the precedent’s reasoning has been eroded by later decisions or because the precedent is a recent outlier when compared to other decisions.

    Changed Understanding of Relevant Facts. The Supreme Court has also indicated that changes in how the Justices and society understand a decision’s underlying facts may undermine a precedent’s authoritativeness, leading the Court to overrule it.

    Reliance. Finally, the Supreme Court may consider whether it should retain a precedent, even if flawed, because overruling the decision would injure individuals, companies, or organizations; society as a whole; or legislative, executive, or judicial branch officers, who had relied on the decision.

    A survey of Supreme Court decisions applying these factors suggests that predicting when the Court will overrule a prior decision is difficult. This uncertainty arises, in part, because the Court has not provided an exhaustive list of the factors it uses to determine whether a decision should be overruled or how it weighs them.

    The Appendix to this report lists Supreme Court decisions on constitutional law questions that the Court has overruled during its more than 225-year history.

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    Constitutional Questions

    Domestic Social Policy

    Report Type: CRS Report

    Source: EveryCRSReport.com

    Raw Metadata: JSON

    The Supreme Court's Overruling of Constitutional Precedent

    Updated September 24, 2018 (R45319)

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    Contents

    Introduction

    The Doctrine of Stare Decisis

    Brief History of the Doctrine

    Reasons for the Supreme Court's Adherence to Principles of Stare Decisis

    Reasons for the Supreme Court's Overruling of Precedent

    Applying the Doctrine in Constitutional Adjudication

    Originalism, Textualism, and Stare Decisis

    Factors the Supreme Court Considers When Deciding Whether to Overrule Constitutional Precedent

    Quality of the Precedent's Reasoning

    Workability of the Precedent's Rule or Standard

    Whether the Precedent Is Inconsistent with Related Decisions

    Whether There Is a Changed Understanding of Relevant Facts

    Reliance on the Precedent

    Economic Reliance Societal Reliance Government Reliance Conclusion

    Tables

    Table A-1. List of Overruled Supreme Court Decisions

    Appendixes

    Appendix. Overruled Supreme Court Decisions on Matters of Constitutional Law

    Summary

    By exercising its power to determine the constitutionality of federal and state government actions, the Supreme Court has developed a large body of judicial decisions, or "precedents," interpreting the Constitution. How the Court uses precedent to decide controversial issues has prompted debate over whether the Court should follow rules identified in prior decisions or overrule them. The Court's treatment of precedent implicates longstanding questions about how the Court can maintain stability in the law by adhering to precedent under the doctrine of stare decisis while correcting decisions that rest on faulty reasoning, unworkable standards, abandoned legal doctrines, or outdated factual assumptions.

    Although the Supreme Court has shown less reluctance to overrule its decisions on constitutional questions than its decisions on statutory questions, the Court has nevertheless stated that there must be some special justification—or, at least "strong grounds"—that goes beyond disagreeing with a prior decision's reasoning to overrule constitutional precedent. Consequently, when deciding whether to overrule a precedent interpreting the Constitution, the Court has historically considered several "prudential and pragmatic" factors that seek to foster the rule of law while balancing the costs and benefits to society of reaffirming or overruling a prior holding:

    Source : www.everycrsreport.com

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