JUSTICE FOR ALL? How Cases Reach the U.S. Supreme Court The Supreme Court The highest court in the judicial branch of the U.S. gov’t The court of last resort in civil and criminal cases The Nine Justices One Chief Justice Eight associate justices Appointed by the president With the advice and consent of the Senate Serve during good behavior until death, retirement, or resignation U.S. Canada Judicial Review Judicial review empowers the Court to: Interpret the Constitution and invalidate laws violating the Constitution Interpret federal statutes and other federal law Ensure the supremacy of federal laws over state and local laws Legal Influences The Constraints of the Facts The circumstances of a litigation Cannot rule unless the parties bring an actual case The Constraints of the Law Which laws are relevant Interpretation of the Constitution Interpretation of statutes Interpretation of precedent Political Influences Outside Influences Public opinion Interest groups Public officials Inside Influences Personal beliefs Political attitudes Relationships between justices Appeals from Federal Courts Getting Your Day in Court Supreme Court Review Requests for review per year: ~9000 Decisions per year: ~80 Cases can reach the Supreme Court in three ways. Certiori Petitions Granted Granted 1% 0% 0% Granted (1%) Not Granted (99%) Denied 99% Path #1: Original Jurisdiction Cases that only the Supreme Court is empowered to hear Don’t require appeal Example: disputes between states over boundaries Relatively rare (1-2 per Term) Path #2: Appeal from Federal Court Cases on appeal from lower federal courts The Court is required to hear some cases as a matter of law. However, it can choose to hear most cases as a matter of discretion. By granting or refusing a writ of certiorari Granting the writ requires four justices to vote to hear case Path #3: Appeal from State Court Cases on appeal from state supreme courts that present a substantial federal question Usually involving the denial of constitutional rights Review is discretionary Process Justices grant certiorari Parties submit briefs Others who are not involved in the case but have an interest in the outcome submit amicus briefs Oral arguments Opinions Oral Arguments Blah! Give-and-take between the lawyers and the Justices Helps identify issues that weren’t properly briefed Magnifies the strengths and weaknesses of each side's arguments Lets Justices ask hypothetical questions to gauge likely effects Allows the public and media to hear judicial proceedings Opinions Very long, extensively footnoted documents that serve as a record of the decisions Written with help of Justices’ law clerks Four main types Majority Concurring Dissenting Per curiam Lockyer v. Andrade Under California’s three strikes law, a court sentenced Andrade to life in prison for shoplifting. Did this violate 8th Amendment prohibition on cruel & unusualChemerinsky (Lawyer) punishment? Andrade Lockyer: Holding No. Without any clearly established law to define a three-strikes policy as cruel and unusual punishment, Andrade’s sentence didn’t violate the 8th Amendment. Sources on Lockyer v. Andrade http://supreme.lp.findlaw.com/supreme_court/dock et/2002/november.html (lower court decisions and briefs) http://www.oyez.org/cases/20002009/2002/2002_01_1127 (audio recording and transcript of oral argument) http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/011127.ZS.html (Supreme Court opinions) Morse v. Frederick An Alaska high school principal disciplined a student for displaying a banner saying “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” at a school-sponsored event. Did this violate First Amendment protection for freedom of speech? Morse: Holding No. Without violating the First Amendment, educators could suppress student speech at school-supervised events on the grounds that the speech was reasonably viewed as promoting use of illegal drugs. Morse: Appeal Oral Argument Mertz (Lawyer) Student Protest Morse v. Frederick raised questions about the balance between the right to speech versus the need for order. Some students had very strong opinions on where to draw the line. Morse: Conclusion Morse v. Frederick eventually settled for $45,000. Last we heard, Frederick was abroad teaching English (but not constitutional law) in China. Meanwhile, “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” became a popular Tshirt slogan. Sources on Morse v. Frederick http://www.aclu.org/free-speech/morse-vfrederick (Supreme Court briefs) http://www.oyez.org/cases/20002009/2006/2006_06_278 (audio recording and transcript of oral argument) http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/06278.ZS.html (Supreme Court opinion) Safford Unified School Dist. v. Redding Arizona school officials strip-searched a 13-year-old girl accused of giving her classmate some Ibuprofen. Did this violate Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable searches? Savana Redding Redding, her mom, and her attorney YouTube video: http://rubroadcastnewswriting.wordpress.com/2009/06/ Safford: Holding Yes. The strip search violated the Fourth Amendment because the officials lacked reasons to suspect that the Ibuprofen was a danger or that it was concealed in her underwear. Sources on Safford v. Redding http://www.scotusblog.com/casefiles/cases/safford-united-school-district-1-vredding/ (lower court decisions and briefs) http://www.oyez.org/cases/20002009/2008/2008_08_479 (oral argument transcript and audio recording) http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/08479.ZS.html (Supreme Court opinion) Select Sources http://www.catea.gatech.edu/grade/legal/scotus.html http://www2.maxwell.syr.edu/plegal/scales/court.html This presentation is adjourned.