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Judicial Branch & Supreme Court Questions

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  • Consider some of the ways in which state institutions might limit the impact of Supreme Court decisions.
  • Describe the role that federal courts play in interpreting the Constitution. Has this role changed since the establishment of a federal court system? If so, explain.
  • Describe the role that federal courts play in implementing public policy. Has this role changed over the years? If so, explain.
  • Compare and contrast the various types of federal jurisdiction.
  • Discuss why cases involving questions of constitutionality are heard in federal courts rather than in state courts.
  • Discuss why disputes between states are heard in federal courts rather than in courts within the states involved.
  • Discuss why a case involving a foreign government is heard in a federal court rather than in a state court.
  • Why do you think the framers of the Constitution decided to give the president and Congress the power to appoint Supreme Court justices rather than to establish popular elections for these judgeships?
  • How does the nomination process for federal judges reflect the political principle of "checks and balances"?
  • What are some of the problems that executive appointment of federal judges might pose?
  • Describe judicial activism, along with the potential dangers and benefits of its use.
  • Why do you think some federal judges are appointed for life while others are not?
  • What conclusions about the system of justice in the United States can you draw from the fact that most federal courts are appellate courts?
  • Do you agree or disagree with critics who charge that military commissions violate the rights of defendants in its cases?
  • Why is it important for the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces to operate as a civilian tribunal?
  • How can a dissenting opinion influence judicial precedent?
  • Despite public protest over his former membership in the Ku Klux Klan, the Senate confirmed the nomination of Hugo Black as a US Supreme Court justice in 1937. Would a president today nominate a candidate with controversial ties similar to those of Black? Why or why not? If so, would that candidate stand a chance before today's Senate Judiciary Committee? Why or why not?
  • Consider the final outcome of the My Lai courts-martial. Do you think justice was served? Explain why or why not. If not, how do you think the federal courts-martial process could be revised to better administer justice?
  • Compare and contrast the My Lai courts-martial to those that followed the incidents at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2004.

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