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TEXT 4: THE NATIONAL JUDICIAL BRANCH

 

The Constitution set up a national government of three branches. Ear­lier in this unit, you read about two of these branches. The first, the legislative branch, is responsible for making the laws. The second, the executive branch, is responsible for carrying out the laws. In this text, you will learn about the third branch of American government - the judicial branch. This branch is responsible for interpreting the laws.

The Judicial Branch of the government is made up of judges and courts. The judges are not elected by the people like the president and members of Congress, they are appointed by the president and then confirmed by the Senate.

There is a hierarchy of federal courts in the United States (Figure 3). District courts cover area of the countries and handle most of the federal cases and the first level of trials. Above them is the 13 courts of appeals. At the top of the Judicial Branch is the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has the final say. Federal judges are appointed for life. They can only be removed from office by death or by impeachment from Congress. This is to allow judges to make decisions based on their conscience and not on what they feel they need to do to get elected.

The job of the courts is to interpret the laws of the Congress. They do not make laws. They also only make decisions on actual cases where someone has shown that they have been harmed.

Figure 3

The Supreme Court

The highest court in the United States is the Supreme Court. It is made up of nine Justices. One of these is the Chief Justice. They are appointed by the President and must be approved by the Senate. Justices have their jobs for life, unless they resign, retire, or are impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate (the removal process as described by the Constitution).

There are no requirements in order to be appointed a Justice, but all have been trained in the law. Many Justices served as members of Congress, governors, or members of the President's Cabinet. One president, William Howard Taft, was later appointed Chief Justice.

The Supreme Court doesn't have a lot of trials. What they mostly do is review cases that have been appealed from the lower courts. Not all cases that are sent to the Supreme Court are reviewed. Around 7,500 requests are sent to the Supreme Court each year and they only consider around 150 important enough to review.

 

The Judicial Process

 

The Constitution states that every person has the right to a fair trial before a competent judge and a jury of their peers. The Bill of Rights adds to this guaranteeing other rights such as a speedy trial, the right to legal representation, the right not to be tried for the same crime twice, and protection from cruel punishments.

Once arrested for a crime, the accused will get to appear before a judge to be charged with the crime and to enter a plea of guilty or not-guilty.

Next the accused is given a lawyer, if they can't afford their own, and is given time to review the evidence and build up their defense. Then the case is tried before a judge and a jury. If the jury determines that the defendant is not-guilty, then charges are dropped and the accused goes free. If the jury has a guilty verdict, then the judge determines the sentence.



If one side feels that the trial wasn't handled correctly or fairly, they can appeal to a higher court. The higher court may overturn the decision or keep it the same. The highest court is the Supreme Court. There is no appealing a Supreme Court decision.

 

Test Quiz

 
1) Which of the following is not a part of the Judicial Branch of government?
The Supreme Court
Federal Court of Appeals
Federal District Courts
The Department of Justice
All of the above
2) What is considered the highest court of the United States?
The Federal Court of Appeals
The Presidential Court
The Supreme Court
The Congressional Court
The Department of Justice
3) True or False: A decision made by the Supreme Court can be appealed to the Senate.
TRUE
FALSE
 
 
 
4) How many justices are there on the current Supreme Court?
 
5) How long is the term for a Supreme Court justice?
1 year
2 years
4 years
6 years
For the rest of their life.
6) What two documents guarantee the right of a fair judicial process to every citizen of the United States?
The Constitution and the Bill of Rights
The Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights
The Magna Carta and the Constitution
The Rule of Law and the Fair Trial Papers
The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence
7) What happens if a person can`t afford a lawyer?
They are automatically determined guilty.
They are given a lawyer by the government.
They must represent themselves before the judge.
The judge acts as their lawyer.
They must take out a loan to pay for a lawyer.
8) About how many cases does the Supreme Court review each year?
9) What is the main reason that federal judges are appointed to their position for life rather than a specific term like most politicians?
Because many cases take years and years to review.
So they will make decisions based on what they think is right, rather than on what they think will help them keep their job.
In order to allow them to learn their job and become good at it over time.
Because most of them are old and will die soon anyway.
 
10) If someone feels that their trial was not fair or was handled wrong, what is the next step they can take in the judicial process?
They can appeal to a higher court of law.
They can ask for a Congressman to pardon them.
They can fire their lawyer and ask the judge for another trial.
They can flee to another country and then declare a new trial.
There is nothing they can do.

 


Date: 2015-01-12; view: 1533


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