Courts: Study Guide with Links to Definitions (EJ1)

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

The third branch of the United States Congress is the judicial branch or the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is the highest court in the nation and it determines whether federal, state, and local governments are acting according to the Constitution of the United States. (G 362, 362) The rules of the Supreme Court are established by the Constitution and the Court then interprets its meaning. The Constitution provided for the creation of the Supreme Court, stated its limits of jurisdiction, and also determined how it was to be organized. 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 consent and advice of the U.S Senate. (G 368, 369) Once appointed, a judge remains in office for life or until he or she retires, or is impeached and removed. (G 372, 374)
 
 

Questions:

A1.  The Supreme Court is located in which branch of the U.S. government?

A2.  What is the highest court in our nation?

A3.  What determines the rulings of the Supreme Court?

A4.  How many members sit on the Supreme Court?

A5.  Who appoints the Supreme Court Justices?

A6.  What body must approve Supreme Court appointees?

A7.  How long is the term of a Supreme Court Justice?

A8.  How many associate justices are there in the Supreme Court?

A9.  What is the another name for judicial branch of the U.S. government?

A10.  The jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is outlined in what document?

A11.  How can a Supreme Court Justice be removed from office?
 

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 is Sandra O'Conner  (R). The first Democratic woman on the Supreme Court is Ruth Bader Ginsburg (D). The first African American on the Supreme Court was Thurgood Marshall (D). The second African American on the Supreme Court is Clarence Thomas (R). The first Italian American on the Supreme Court is Antonin Scalia (R).(G 370-371)
 
 

Questions:

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 is the first Italian American to sit on the Supreme Court?

B4.  Why is Thurgood Marshall important?

B5.  How can a Supreme Court Justice be removed from office?

B6.  Who is the first democratic woman to sit on the Supreme Court?

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

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

B9. How many African American have been elected to the U.S Supreme Court?

B10. How many Democratic woman has been elected to the U.S Supreme Court?
 
 

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”information" that results in a criminal trial without a grand jury. A grand jury consists of 23 - 25 members, criminal jury consists of 12 members, and civil jury consists of 12 members or less.
 
 

Questions:

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 jurisdictions?

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 convicted in grand jury, which jury will determine

        whether the accused should be punished or not?

C10. How many years can a criminal convicted of a misdemeanor be sentenced for?

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 two kinds of crimes: you can be accused of a felony or of a misdemeanor. 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:

D1.  What are the two types of crimes?

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

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 primarily awards money damages?

C10. How many years can a criminal convicted of a misdemeanor be sentenced for?
 

E. Juries: Vote Required and Standard of Judgment
 
 

For grand jury, to determine if the accused should be tried for a crime, majority of vote is required. For criminal jury, to determine if the accused (defendant) should be punished by the government (plaintiff), unanimous of vote is required. Civil jury requires a majority of vote to determine liability for harm that has been done or if it can be avoided.

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:

E1. Which jury or juries require majority of vote?

E2. Which jury requires unanimous of vote to convict a defendant?

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?
 
 

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