American Government Homework Five Answers

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1. A friend of yours wants to become a federal judge. Will your friend have to campaign to be elected? In two sentences, explain the process for becoming a federal judge.

Federal judges are not elected, and there is no public campaign. Instead, he must be appointed by the president, and then he confirmed by a majority vote in the Senate.

2. How many federal district courts are there, and how many federal courts of appeals?

There are 94 federal district courts. There are 13 federal courts of appeals.

3. The Supreme Court receives enormous attention, but what percentage of the cases does it actually accept to resolve? Describe the criteria the Supreme Court uses in deciding whether to accept a case.

The Supreme Court accepts only about 1% of the cases brought before it. The criteria it uses include:

  • (i) two lower federal appeals courts decided the same issue differently (a "conflict among the circuits"); or
  • (ii) the federal government is the party asking for review; or
  • (iii) the case involves an important issue under the Constitution; or
  • (iv) there is a high public interest as demonstrated by the filing of amicus curiae briefs

4. All nine justices on the Supreme Court have an equal vote in deciding the cases. But the Chief Justice has one extra power. What is it?

The Chief Justice decides who writes the opinion for his side in the case. The most senior justice on the other side picks the author of the opinion on the other side. (Individual justices can also write separately too.)

The Chief Justice also determines the cases on the "discuss list" in conference with other Justices.

5. Suppose our political attempts to gain access for homeschoolers to public school activities (bands, sports) have been unsuccessful. We then decide to litigate the issue. What types of claims would we need to raise in order to file a lawsuit in federal court? Give one or two specific examples of claims we might raise.

We would need to raise constitutional or federal law claims, such as deprivation of due process in a property interest in the free public education provided by the state constitutions (Due Process Clause of the 5th and 14th Amendments).

6. How many votes in which governmental body is enough to block confirmation of a federal judge? Explain.

41, because that prevents cloture in the Senate.

7. Judges have immunity against lawsuits for their mistakes and unjustified rulings. Should citizens be able to sue judges personally? Explain.

If citizens could sue judges then it might disrupt our justice system, as the losing side to every dispute might want to sue the judge!

8. Suppose a new federal judge in Southern California announced that he will render all his decisions only in Spanish. Do you object to this? Explain, citing the Constitution if possible.

Much might be lost in translation. Also, the Preamble to the Constitution says "We the people ...," which suggests national unity.

9. In New Jersey, like the federal government and a few other states, state judges are appointed rather than elected. Which do you prefer, elected or appointed judges? Explain your view.

Elected judges must be more careful about the will of the people, which can be good on issues like the Pledge of Allegiance but not so good when a Rule of Law is unpopular.

10. The Supreme Court accepts for review and decision only about 1% of the cases brought before it. Do you think the Court should accept more or less cases for review, and why?

That depends on whether you like the Supreme Court or not. Less may be better if you disagree with the opinions of the Supreme Court!

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