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Political Science
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American Government, Oss0112
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The Federal Judicial System: Course Map & Recommended Resources


The Federal Judicial System

The resources included here are intended to map to the following learning objectives for an American Government Course:

  1. Explain how the power of the federal courts has grown over time.
  2. Compare and contrast the structure of federal and state courts, as well as the types of cases they hear.
  3. Describe the judicial selection processes.
  4. Identify the factors that influence Supreme Court justices when they decide cases.
  5. Describe the ways in which the federal courts shape legal policy and decide the scope of individual rights.
  6. Summarize the structure, features, and processes of the Supreme Court.

Discussion Questions and Key Concepts

Discussion Questions

  1. Discuss the process of a Supreme Court justice being nominated and confirmed.
  2. Describe the various judicial philosophies revolving around the interpretation of the Constitution, with special attention to Originalism and Living Constitution theories. What current or former Supreme Court justices best represent each philosophy?
  3. In general, describe the federal court system. Describe the dual court system of the US.
  4. It’s been said that presidents are often disappointed with their nominees to the Court. Discuss why you think that is.
  5. The federal court system has been described as “anti-democratic.” How is the federal court system (especially the Supreme Court) anti-democratic? How is it democratic?

Key Terms or Concepts (Define):

  1. Appellate jurisdiction
  2. Original jurisdiction
  3. Judicial review
  4. Writ of certiorari
  5. Stare decisis
  6. Amicus briefs
  7. Majority opinion
  8. Concurring opinion
  9. Dissenting opinion
  10. Per curiam opinion
  11. Procedural law
  12. Criminal law
  13. Civil law
  14. Judicial restraint
  15. Judicial activism
  16. Senatorial courtesy