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Lecture 17

GVPT 170 Lecture Notes - Lecture 17: Nonpartisanism, Hybrid System, Sonia Sotomayor

Government and Politics
Course Code
GVPT 170
Patrick Wohlfarth

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American Government: The Judiciary
Structure of the Courts
o Little is specified in Article III.
Size, composition, and jurisdiction is left to Congress.
o The Supreme Court is the final arbiter of federal statutory and constitutional law.
Constitutional vs. Statutory Law
Constitutional Follows the principle of the Constitution
Statutory Consistent with statutes or public laws.
o All cases must involve a federal law or the Constitution.
o There is no explicit right to appear before the Supreme Court.
o Courts are institutionally more insulated from public opinion than Congress or the
Judges are unelected and serve for life.
Judges are less visible to the average citizen.
o Source of Power
Judicial Review Marbury v. Madison (1803)
Marbury holds that Congress may not pass laws that go against the
Constitution and it is the role of the judiciary to determine
Perceived Legitimacy
The courts generally enjoy higher public approval than Congress
or the President.
Scope of Government
Government expansion & new laws new areas for involvement.
o Limitations:
Limited to reactive behavior; courts can only decide things brought before
Reliance on others to enforce decisions.
Need to preserve legitimacy.
Three-Tiered Judicial System
o At the top: The Supreme Court
o Below them:
Court of Military Appeals
Lower military courts
13 courts of appeals
Independent regulatory and other government agencies
94 U.S. District Courts
Specialized Courts: U.S. Tax Court, Court of International Trade,
Court of Claims
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