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OUTLINE OF THE,U S LEGAL SYSTEM,Bureau of International Information Programs. United States Department of State,http usinfo state gov. OUTLINE OF THE,U S LEGAL SYSTEM,C O N T E N T S,INTRODUCTION. The U S Legal System 4, History and Organization of the Federal Judicial System 18. History and Organization of State Judicial Systems 44. Jurisdiction and Policy Making Boundaries 56, Lawyers Litigants and Interest Groups in the Judicial Process 72.
The Criminal Court Process 90,The Civil Court Process 118. Federal Judges 140, Implementation and Impact of Judicial Policies 158. The Constitution of the United States 177, Amendments to the Constitution of the United States 192. Glossary 204,Bibliography 212,INTRODUCTION,In this scene from an 1856. painting by Junius Brutus Searns,George Washington standing.
right addresses the Constitutional,Convention whose members. drafted and signed the U S,Constitution on September 17. 1787 The Constitution is the,primary source of law in the. United States,6 OUTLINE OF THE U S LEGAL SYSTEM, Every business day courts throughout the predictability and enforceable. the United States render decisions that common norms that the rule of law. together affect many thousands of provides and the U S legal system. people Some affect only the parties to guarantees, a particular legal action but others ad This introduction seeks to familiar.
judicate rights benefits and legal ize readers with the basic structure. principles that have an impact on vir and vocabulary of American law. tually all Americans Inevitably many Subsequent chapters add detail and. Americans may welcome a given rul afford a sense of how the U S legal. ing while others sometimes many system has evolved to meet the. others disapprove All however ac needs of a growing nation and its. cept the legitimacy of these decisions ever more complex economic and. and of the courts role as final inter social realities. preter of the law There can be no,more potent demonstration of the. trust that Americans place in the rule A FEDERAL LEGAL SYSTEM. of law and their con dence in the U S Overview,legal system he American legal system has. The pages that follow survey that,system Much of the discussion ex. plains how U S courts are organized,T several layers more possibly. than in most other nations,One reason is the division between.
and how they work Courts are central federal and state law To understand. to the legal system but they are not this it helps to recall that the United. the entire system Every day across States was founded not as one nation. America federal state and local but as a union of 13 colonies each. courts interpret laws adjudicate dis claiming independence from the. putes under laws and at times even British Crown The Declaration of. strike down laws as violating the fun Independence 1776 thus spoke of. damental protections that the Consti the good People of these Colonies. tution guarantees all Americans At but also pronounced that these. the same time millions of Americans United Colonies are and of Right. transact their day to day affairs with ought to be FREE AND INDEPEN. out turning to the courts They too DENT STATES The tension between. rely upon the legal system The young one people and several states is a. couple purchasing their rst home perennial theme in American legal. two businessmen entering into a con history As explained below the U S. tract parents drawing up a will to pro Constitution adopted 1787 rati ed. vide for their children all require 1788 began a gradual and at times. INTRODUCTION 7, hotly contested shift of power and SOURCES OF FEDERAL LAW. legal authority away from the states, and toward the federal government The United States Constitution. Still even today states retain substan, tial authority Any student of the Supremacy of Federal Law. American legal system must under uring the period 1781 88 an. stand how jurisdiction is apportioned,between the federal government and. the states,D agreement called the Articles,of Confederation governed.
relations among the 13 states It estab, The Constitution xed many of the lished a weak national Congress and. boundaries between federal and state left most authority with the states The. law It also divided federal power Articles made no provision for a feder. among legislative executive and judi al judiciary save a maritime court al. cial branches of government thus though each state was enjoined to. creating a separation of powers honor afford full faith and credit. between each branch and enshrining to the rulings of the others courts. a system of checks and balances The drafting and rati cation of. to prevent any one branch from the Constitution re ected a growing. overwhelming the others each of consensus that the federal government. which contributes distinctively to the needed to be strengthened The legal. legal system Within that system the system was one of the areas where. Constitution delineated the kinds of this was done Most signi cant was. laws that Congress might pass the supremacy clause found in. As if this were not suf ciently com Article VI, plex U S law is more than the statutes This Constitution and the Laws of. passed by Congress In some areas the United States which shall be. Congress authorizes administrative made in Pursuance thereof and all. agencies to adopt rules that add detail Treaties made or which shall be. to statutory requirements And the made under the Authority of the. entire system rests upon the tradition United States shall be the supreme. al legal principles found in English Law of the Land and the Judges in. Common Law Although both the every State shall be bound thereby. Constitution and statutory law super any Thing in the Constitution or. sede common law courts continue Laws of any State to the Contrary. to apply unwritten common law notwithstanding,principles to ll in the gaps where the. Constitution is silent and Congress This paragraph established the rst. has not legislated principle of American law Where the. 8 OUTLINE OF THE U S LEGAL SYSTEM, federal Constitution speaks no state branches As James Madison explained. may contradict it Left unclear was in Federalist No 51 usurpations are. how this prohibition might apply to guarded against by a division of the. the federal government itself and the government into distinct and separate. role of the individual state legal sys departments Each of Madison s de. tems in areas not expressly addressed partments legislative executive and. by the new Constitution Amend judiciary received a measure of. ments would supply part of the an in uence over the legal system. swer history still more but even today,Americans continue to wrestle with Legislative.
the precise demarcations between the The Constitution vests in Congress the. federal and state domains power to pass legislation A proposal. considered by Congress is called a bill, Each Branch Plays a Role in the If a majority of each house of Con. Legal System gress two thirds should the Presi, While the drafters of the Constitution dent veto it votes to adopt a bill it. sought to strengthen the federal gov becomes law Federal laws are known. ernment they feared strengthening it as statutes The United States Code is a. too much One means of restraining codi cation of federal statutory law. the new regime was to divide it into The Code is not itself a law it merely. The Constitution has vested the power to pass legislation in Congress here gathered in a joint. session for President George W Bush s budget speech in 2001 The executive power in turn. is entrusted to the President,INTRODUCTION 9, presents the statutes in a logical quite speci c but others most notably. arrangement Title 20 for instance To regulate Commerce with foreign. contains the various statutes pertain Nations and among the several States. ing to Education and Title 22 those are less so Obviously the power to in. covering Foreign Relations terpret the less precise delegations is. Congress lawmaking power is lim extremely important Early in the. ited More precisely it is delegated by young republic s history the judiciary. the American people through the branch assumed this role and thus se. Constitution which speci es areas cured an additional and extremely. where Congress may or may not legis vital role in the U S legal system. late Article I Section 9 of the Consti,tution forbids Congress from passing Judicial. certain types of laws Congress may As with the other branches the U S. not for instance pass an ex post facto judiciary possesses only those powers. law a law that applies retroactively or the Constitution delegates The Con. after the fact or levy a tax on ex stitution extended federal jurisdiction. ports Article I Section 8 lists areas only to certain kinds of disputes Arti. where Congress may legislate Some of cle III Section 2 lists them Two of the. these To establish Post Of ces are most signi cant are cases involving a. question of federal law all Cases in,Law and Equity arising under this.
Constitution the Laws of the United,States and Treaties made and di. versity cases or disputes between cit,izens of two different states Diversity. jurisdiction allows each party to avoid,litigating his case before the courts of. his adversary s state,A second judicial power emerged in. the Republic s early years As explained,in Chapter 2 the U S Supreme Court.
in the case of Marbury v Madison,1803 interpreted its delegated pow. ers to include the authority to deter,mine whether a statute violated the. Laws passed by one of the 50 state Constitution and if it did to declare. legislatures such as the New York State,such a law invalid A law may be un. Assembly shown above during a roll call, apply only to the citizens of that state or constitutional because it violates rights. outsiders who reside or do business there guaranteed to the people by the Con. 10 OUTLINE OF THE U S LEGAL SYSTEM, stitution or because Article I did not executive branch consisted of the.
authorize Congress to pass that kind President Vice President and the. of legislation Departments of State Treasury War, The power to interpret the consti and Justice As the nation grew the ex. tutional provisions that describe ecutive branch grew with it Today. where Congress may legislate is thus there are 15 Cabinet level Depart. very important Traditionally Con ments Each houses a number of. gress has justi ed many statutes as Bureaus Agencies and other entities. necessary to regulate commerce Still other parts of the executive. among the several States or interstate branch lie outside these Departments. commerce This is an elastic concept All exercise executive power delegated. dif cult to describe with precision In by the President and thus are respon. deed one might for nearly any statute sible ultimately to him. devise a plausible tie between its ob In some areas the relationship be. jectives and the regulation of interstate tween the executive and the other two. commerce At times the judicial branches is clear Suppose one or more. branch interpreted the commerce individuals rob a bank Congress has. clause narrowly In 1935 for instance passed a statute criminalizing bank. the Supreme Court invalidated a robbery United States Code Title 18. federal law regulating the hours and Section 2113 The Federal Bureau. wages of workers at a New York of Investigation FBI a bureau within. slaughterhouse because the chickens the Department of Justice would. processed there all were sold to New investigate the crime When it appre. York butchers and retailers and hence hended one or more suspects a. not part of interstate commerce Soon Federal Prosecutor also Department. after this however the Supreme Court of Justice would attempt to prove the. began to afford President Franklin D suspect s guilt in a trial conducted by a. Roosevelt s New Deal programs more U S District Court. latitude and today the federal courts The bank robbery case is a simple. continue to interpret broadly the one But as the nation modernized and. commerce power although not so, broadly as to justify any legislation Technically the statute applies only to a. that Congress might pass bank that is federally chartered insured or a. member of the Federal Reserve System,Possibly every bank in the United States. Executive meets these criteria but one that did not. Article II entrusts to the President and could not be construed as impacting. interstate commerce would not be subject, of the United States the executive to federal legislation Federal statutes. Power Under President George typically recite a jurisdictional basis in this. Washington 1789 1801 the entire case the federal charter requirement. INTRODUCTION 11, Federal and state courts hear two kinds of disputes civil and criminal Here an attorney.
representing landowners in a civil action presents his arguments to the South Dakota. Supreme Court, Left civil law covers statutes pertaining to marriage and divorce This couple is being married. in this civil ceremony performed by a judge At right a judge in Texas In the past few. decades the U S judiciary has expanded to include more women and minorities. 12 OUTLINE OF THE U S LEGAL SYSTEM, grew the relationship of the three rules to adjudicate those violations. George Washington standing right addresses the Constitutional Convention whose members drafted and signed the U S Constitution on September 17 1787 The Constitution is the primary source of law in the United States INTRODUCTION

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