As you are well aware, our government is divided into three separate and equal branches, each of which has the ability to check the power of the other branches. In this unit, we will investigate the final branch of government in this course: the federal court system.
Courts are designed to interpret laws and resolve disputes. They must determine what the wording of the law means and how it applies to very specific, real-life situations. This can be difficult, because life has a way of not falling into nice, easy to define categories. So the courts are in place to be the final word on what the wording of laws mean and whether or not they violate the Constitution.
The most visible component of the system is the Supreme Court. It sits at the top of the court system and has the final say in Constitutional matters. We will spend most of our time looking at the way the Supreme Court hears cases and how the judicial appointment process works. We will also look at the question of whether justices should follow the original intent of the framers of the Constitution (as best as they can figure it out) or whether they should interpret the Constitution taking into account the situation of 21st-century America.
How important is the judicial branch in the policymaking process? Well, judge for yourself.
Assignment #1: Legal Basics
Assignment #2: Structure of Federal Courts
Assignment #3: Special Courts
Assignment #4: Supreme Court Procedure
Assignment #5: Judicial Nominations
Assignment #6: Courts as Policymakers
Assignment #7: Checks on Judicial Power
Assignment #8: Test Review