Tuesday, February 28, 2012

U.S. Federal Courts Structure

While we tend to focus on the Supreme Court, the federal judiciary is much more expansive than that, with federal courts spaced throughout the entire country.

You can see the structure of the Courts system at uscourts.gov.

Part of the Supreme Court's responsibility is to resolve disputes among the other lower federal courts and thereby set national precedent for judicial review of similar constitutional cases in the future. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is considered to be one of the most politically liberal courts in the system, providing some of the most controversial cases brought on appeal to the Supreme Court. For example, the Ninth Circuit has produced controversial rulings on issues such as the use of medical marijuana and the constitutionality of the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Uscourts.gov also has a fantastic map of all the country's courts!

Use the links to answer the following questions in the body of an e-mail to me (20 point):

  1. What is the basic three-tier structure of the federal judiciary?
  2. How many U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals are there?
  3. Where is the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals?
  4. What federal legal entities exist outside the basic federal judicial branch?
  5. What federal appeals court does Illinois belong to? Use the uscourts.gov website to locate this court's website.
  6. What types of information can you learn from the Court's website?
  7. Use the court's website to located all opinions filed by the Court in the past month. What types of cases does the Court tend to hear?
  8. Browse through the opinions. Locate at least one you find interesting. Record the case caption, summarize the background of the case, and finally, summarize the judge's opinion. State whether or not you agree with the judge's opinion.

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