Courts: Study Guide WITH Links                          GITELSON CH. 13 AND 4 (MMG) Revised 8-15-2005

A. Federal Judicial Branch: U.S. Supreme Court 

· One of the three branches of the United States government is the judicial branch headed by the

  U.S. Supreme Court.

· The U.S. Supreme Court is the nation’s highest court.

· The U.S. Constitution provides for the creation of the U.S. Supreme Court, and states its jurisdiction. U.S. Supreme Court decisions are based on the

   U.S. Constitution. These decisions may determine whether federal, state, and local governments are acting constitutionally(G 362).

· Since 1865 (after the end of the civil war) it has consisted of nine members - one Chief Justice and eight associate justices.(G 362)

· These justices are appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the U.S Senate. (G 368, 369)

· Once appointed, a U. S Supreme Court member remains in office for life unless he or she retires, or is impeached and then removed.

· The process of removal of a U.S. Supreme Court member begins with impeachment by the House of Representatives, followed by trial and conviction by the U.S. Senate (G 372, 374).


Questions A:

A1.  The U.S. Supreme Court is located in which branch


A2.  What is the highest court in our nation (G. 358)? 

A3.  The jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is stated in

     what document

A4.  What are U.S. Supreme Court decisions based on(G. 359)

A5.  How many members sit on the Supreme Court (G. 362)?

A6.  Who appoints members of the Supreme Court(G.368)?

A7.  What part of Congress approves Supreme Court

     appointees(G 368)?

A8.  How long is the term of a Supreme Court Justice (G.?

A9.  How many associate justices are there on the

     United States Supreme Court?

A10. How can a Supreme Court Justice be removed?

B. U.S. Supreme Court Members
The current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is William H. Rehnquist  (R). The first woman on the Supreme Court was Sandra O'Connor  (R). The first Democratic woman on the Supreme Court was Ruth Bader Ginsburg (D). The first African American on the Supreme Court was Thurgood Marshall (D). The second African American on the Supreme Court was Clarence Thomas (R). The first Italian American on the Supreme Court was

Antonin Scalia(R) (G 370-371).

Questions B:

B1.  Who is the current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court?

B2.  Who was the first woman to sit on the Supreme Court?

B3.  Who was the first Italian American on the Supreme Court?

B4.  Why is Thurgood Marshall important?

B5.  Who was the first Democratic woman on the Supreme Court?

B7.  Who was the first African American on the Supreme Court?

B8.  William Rehnquist serves in what U.S. government position?

B9.  How many African Americans have served on the

     United States Supreme Court?

B10. How many Democratic women have served on the U.S Supreme


C. Court Battles: Litigants and Juries
Before a case is appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, it is decided in a lower federal court-- U.S District Court, or a U.S. Court of Appeals-or it is decided in a state court. Plaintiffs and defendants are two kinds of litigants who are involved in all of these courts. (G 358) Trial juries may be used in both federal and state courts of original jurisdiction where most court battles begin. There are both federal and state courts that have both original jurisdiction and appellate jurisdiction.(G 359)
There are three types of juries: grand jury, criminal jury, and civil jury. A grand jury indicts an accused criminal and directs that he (or she) should be tried before a criminal jury. A civil jury hears non-criminal cases. Sometimes a district attorney will create an “information” that leads to a criminal trial without an indictment from a grand jury. A grand jury consists of 23 to 25 members, criminal jury consists of 12 members, and civil jury consists of 12 members or less.
Questions C:

C1.  A case is decided in which courts before is appealed to

     the U.S. Supreme Court?

C2.  What are two kinds of litigants?

C3.  Both federal and state courts may have what two


C4.  Where do most court battles begin?

C5.  What are the names of three types of juries?

C6.  Which type of jury determines guilt or innocence in a

     Felony trial?

C7.  Which type of jury primarily awards money damage?

C8.  Which type of jury consists of 23 - 25 members?

C9.  If an accused criminal is indicted by a grand jury, which

     jury will determine if the accused should be punished?

C10. For how long may a person convicted of a misdemeanor be

     Sentenced to incarceration in jail?

C11. If you are sent an "information," which kind of jury is

     likely to hear your case?

C12. Which kind of jury consists of least members?



D. Criminal Juries (Two Kinds) for Punishment and Civil Juries for the Award of Damages
There are three kinds of crimes: you can be accused of a felony, misdemeanor, or of an infraction. A felony is more serious, possibly resulting in a jail sentence of more than one year. A misdemeanor results in sentences of less than one year. Civil juries do not imprison people, they award "money damages" or direct the defendant to act (or not act) in a specific way. (civil actions; G 357) (criminal law; G 358)
Questions D:

D1.  What are the three types of crimes?

D2.  Which type of crime is more serious than the others?

D3.  Which type of crime usually results in sentences of less

     than one year?

D4.  Which type of jury determines guilt or innocence in a

     felony trial?

D5.  Which type of jury often awards money damages?


E. Juries: Vote Required and Standard of Judgment
For a grand jury, to determine if the accused should be tried for a crime, a majority vote is required. For a criminal jury, to determine if the accused (the defendant) should be punished by the government(the plaintiff)a unanimous vote is required. A civil jury requires a majority vote to determine liability (responsibility) for harm that has been done.  Civil proceedings can be used to prevent harm from being done by means of an injunction.


A grand jury indictment indicates that a majority of the jury found "sufficient evidence" that the accused committed a crime. All of the jurors in a criminal jury must vote against the accused in order to convict. Those jurors are directed to return a guilty finding only if they are convinced "beyond a reasonable doubt" of guilt. This standard is a very high standard of judgment because the U.S court system prefers that 99 guilty people go free rather than have one not guilty person convicted. The civil jury has a lower standard of judgment. In a civil trial the jury must only find that a "preponderance of evidence" indicates liability.

Questions E:

E1. Which jury or juries require majority of vote?

E2. Which jury requires unanimous of vote to convict a


E3. Which jury looks for "sufficient evidence"

    as standard of judgment?

E4. Which jury convicts an accused criminal if they are

    convinced "beyond a reasonable doubt" of guilt?

E5. Which jury has a lower standard of judgment?

E6. Why does criminal jury has very high standard of judgment?




Stapled pages, PG 817 Judicial Branch Triangles. Learn the Federal Court System

O – original jurisdiction

A- appellate jurisdiction

Original Jurisdiction is the right of a court to hear a case for the first time.

Page 373 of the above mentioned book has a blue page that teaches the procedures used to select

Judges for state courts.

There are two types of elections, the partisan, and the nonpartisan.

*  Partisan elections:

Ø       are party affiliated elections, guided by the party

Ø       Most all our elected officials use this method of elections

Selecting Judges--National Government Level:

The U.S Senate reviews the judges nominated by the President and then decides whether

or not they will accept the nomination of a judge for a “term of good behavior”.


Selecting State Court Judges--

Partisan Election:  election of officials who have a party label listed on the ballot.

Nonpartisan Election:  election of officials who DO NOT have a party label listed on the ballot. (Judges are among the state and local elected officials that campaign In California county judges may be chosen by a nonpartisan election.)


Types of Juries on pages 96 - 97..

A.  Grand Jury (p. 99)

B.  Criminal Jury (p. 96)

C.  Civil Jury 

Impeachment: Chapter 13

“Removing Judges”, pages 372 - 374

      The House of Representatives impeaches the person and the U.S Senate holds the trial.

Pages to look at carefully. These have the answers to the test.

Summary on pages 383-384, all numbers except 8, 9, and 10


Federal Court System

A.     District courts = trial courts / original jurisdiction, pages 361-362

B.      Circuit courts of appeals / appellate jurisdiction,  page 362 and 363f (clickable map is here)

C.      Supreme Court / original and appellate jurisdiction, pages 362-364, especially margin for appeal

C1,) Marbury v. Madison (1803), pages 378-379, especially margin for judicial review

C2.) Supreme Court Cases Study Guide

C3.) Alphabetical list of historic decisions


Who Becomes a Federal Judge?

X.      WASP = White Anglo Saxon Protestant,

      page 371 last full paragraph

Y.       Others,  U.S. Supreme Court

Y1.  Ginsburg (D), page 369f

Y2.  All members with their parties, page 370f; photo, page 375

Y3.  O’Connor (R), page 371 center paragraph

Y4.  Thomas (R), chapter 8/page 229 end

Y3.  Thurgood Marshall, chapter 8/pages 228 end and 229f;  page 371 center paragraph

Z.     Future judges, perhaps sitting in your class?



amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs, page 376m and chapter 8/page 228 end;

majority opinion, page 377 center/concurring opinion and dissenting opinion, page 377m;

civil action, page 357m,

criminal law, trial courts, original jurisdiction, page 358m;

appellate courts (and appellate jurisdiction), page 359m


COURT CASES—See “Court Cases Study Guide (B)” for complete list including Marbury v.Madison


F. Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas (1954)

During the period of segregation, minority children were bused across town to schools of color.  This was difficult for most students which led to the case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas (1954). (G 113, 228, 380, 382, 388)


This civil case quickly acquired the interest of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored people (NAACP), which took  the case to the U.S District Court . Brown the plaintiff was appointed a lawyer,  Thurgood Marshall  by the NAACP(G 113, 214, 228, 229) Thurgood  Marshall  challenged the previous decision of Plessy v. Ferguson which established the precedent allowing  "separate but equal" facilities.(G 370) The court under Chief Justice Earl Warren ruled that discrimination on the basis of race was unconstitutional and separate facilities were not equal.(G 371)  Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas (1954) led to the integration of minority students into schools.

F1. What was the name of the plaintiff?

F2. Who was the defendant in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas (1954)?

F3. Was this a criminal or civil case?

F4. Who appointed  Ms. Brown's  lawyer?

F5. What was the  name of the plaintiff's attorney in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka , Kansas (1954)?

F6. At what level of government was it filed?

F7. Who was Chief Justice that decided Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas (1954)?

F8. What precedent was established by Plessy v. Ferguson