Description: This article mainly focuses on the basics ideas about the judiciary, which is the third branch of the government listed in the Constitution.
Welcome to US government, so in this episode, I’m going to go over a few basic ideas about the judiciary, which is the third branch of the government listed in the Constitution. We hear a lot about courts in the litigious US, so it’s a good idea to try to understand how they work. But before we look at the courts themselves, let’s take a step back and ask why we need courts.
At all courts, there are three basic function, interpret the laws, settle disputes and create expectations for action. I’m going to focus on the federal court system. In the US, there are four signal features, it would be possible for the executive branch to perform the functions of courts.
Federal Courts are hierarchical with the Supreme Court, which means that, higher level courts are able to affirm or overturn the decisions of lower level courts. Federal Courts are also able to perform judicial, review laws passed by Congress, the actions of the States and over presidential. And finally, in the Federal Court system, judges are appointed for life, and their salary can’t be reduced, this is to preserve their independence from the political process.
In the US, we have bot statutory law which legislators make and common that consists of all the passed Court decisions that shape our actions in making future decisions. The key to common law is the idea that a court’s decision sets a precedent that constrains future courts. If the Supreme Court says that you can’t do something, then it is applied to all courts below.
There are two types of Courts, Trial Courts and Appellate Courts. Trial Courts hear the facts from both sides of a dispute. What qualifies as a fact is constrained by the rules of evidence, then after hearing the lawyers’ statements, the facts are decided by applying the relevant law. The Appellate Courts don’t hear facts, they decide questions of law.
There are several types of law, the one that most people are familiar with is the criminal law, when you commit a crime, there’s an actual written law for you. There is a prosecution, the person accused of the crime called the defendant. Almost all criminal cases take place on the state level.
Civil law is the law that you are talking about when you are talking about lawsuits, civil cases arise from disputes between individuals or between individuals and the government. If the plaintiff claims that the defendant has caused an injury and the former can prove the case, then the defendant has to pay damages, in the form of money or jail time.
The third type of law is the public law, where the defendant or plaintiff shows the power of the government or rights of citizens under the Constitution or a federal statute is involved. This can happen in a criminal case where the defendant claims that his civil rights were violated.
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