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CHAPTER 13: Courts, Judges and the Law (JV30)


U.S.: or or

California Courts:

Los Angeles County Court:

City of Los Angeles Municipal Court:


I.  Questions to ask about U.S. Supreme Court cases


     A.  What was the situation in the country before the case started?

     B.  What facts gave rise to the case?

     C.  Who (or what litigant) first filed the case (the plaintiff)?

     D.  Who (or what party to the case) was the litigation first filed against the defendant]?

     E.  Was the court of original jurisdiction (the trial court) a federal or state court? 

          Was the court of appellate jurisdiction (the appeal court) a federal or state court? (G 358)

     F.  Was civil law or criminal law (either felony or misdemeanor) involved?  (G 357)

     G.  What state or federal law was mentioned in the brief submitted by the plaintiff or

           the defendant?

     H.  What provision of the original US Constitution or Amendments was involved?

     I.    Did the original plaintiff or original defendant appeal the case to the

           U.S. Supreme Court?

     J.  What were the plaintiff's and defendant's U.S. Supreme Court arguments?

     K. Was the judgment of  the Supreme Court members for the plaintiff or defendant?

            l.  How many Justices voted for the plaintiff, how many for the defendant?

            2. How many opinions were written?

           3.  Who wrote the majority opinion?

           4.  Who wrote a concurring opinion? (G 377)

           5.  Who wrote a dissenting opinion? (G 377)

     L.  What was the long term result or significance of the judgment?

            l.  For the plaintiff?

           2.  For the defendant?

           3.  For the history of the United States and daily lives of people in the U.S.?


II.  Three historically significant federal cases arising under civil law

     A.  Marbury v. Madison (1803):  establishes judicial review (G 378-379)

     B.  Dred Scott v. San(d)ford (1857):  prohibits the abolition of slavery by Congress

     C.  U.S. v. Nixon (1974):  Watergate Tape Case concerning executive privilege

          (G 294)



III.  Definitions:  court packing; seniority; small claims divisions, including

U.S. Tax Court, (G 364); amicus curiae, (G 376), stare decisis/precedent;injunction; writ; litigant=party; counsel=attorney; indictment by grand jury; an information; juries:  grand, criminal, civil; class action lawsuit, litigation=lawsuit, (some information can be found on G 358) impeachment and trial; incorporation of the Bill of Rights, affirmative action; Missouri Plan for the retention-election of California judges and justices

                                                                                                                        (January 3, 2002)