Features of the judiciary

The Constitution vests judicial power in “one Supreme Court and such inferior courts as Congress may from time to time establish. Judges of both the Supreme Court and the lower courts shall hold their offices so long as they conduct themselves with integrity, and within the stipulated time shall receive for their service a remuneration which cannot be reduced during their tenure.”

The power to appoint justices of the Supreme Court is granted by the constitution to the president “with the advice and consent” of the Senate. The Supreme Court and the federal judiciary were officially created by the Judicial Act of 1789.

Federal judges are independent of anyone else’s influence, since the constitution provided them with a lifetime appointment to office. They can only be removed from their positions by Congress through complex impeachment proceedings.

The federal courts hear all cases arising from the interpretation of the country’s constitution, legislation, and international treaties; all disputes in which the United States is one of the parties; all disputes between two or more states, between citizens of different states, between a state or its citizens and foreign states or citizens.

The Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution, adopted in 1795, excluded from the jurisdiction of the federal courts cases against the states brought by citizens of other states or foreign countries.

The federal judiciary is represented by three groups of courts—district, special, and appellate—led by the U.S. Supreme Court.

District courts are federal courts of general jurisdiction that hear cases arising under federal law. Each of them operates within the federal judicial district. There are 94 such counties in the US.

Special courts include the Claims Court (considers property and monetary claims of citizens against the US government), the US Court of Foreign Trade and the Tax Court.

The courts of appeal include the US Court of Appeals for the Federal District (considers appeals against decisions of the Court of Claims, the Court of Foreign Trade), the Interim Emergency Court of Appeals (considers appeals against decisions of district courts). The decisions of these two courts are appealed to the Supreme Court.

The head of the federal judiciary is the US Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court acts as the appellate court in all other cases at the federal level. Most of the cases it hears come on appeal from the lower courts.

The Supreme Court consists of the President and eight members of the Court. Judges are nominated by the President but must be approved by the Senate. The Supreme Court, as a rule, hears cases of national importance. It chooses at its own discretion the cases within its appellate jurisdiction.

If the Supreme Court accepts the case, it sends the request to the lower court. If he does not intend to accept the case for proceedings, the decision of the lower court of appeal is considered final. Decisions of the Supreme Court are drawn up in writing, setting out both the opinion of the majority and the special opinions of the members of the court.

For almost 200 years, the Supreme Court, using its power of judicial review, has invalidated about 150 provisions of federal law. In about 1,200 cases, he invalidated state and local laws.

Each state also has its own court system, which includes one or two types of trial courts, intermediate courts of appeal, and courts of last resort (commonly referred to as state supreme courts). Most state judges are elected rather than appointed by the chief executive. Their terms of office vary greatly.

One of the main tasks of the framers of the constitution was to find the optimal balance between the rights of the states and the needs of the central government. They considered the principle of federalism the main guarantee against the despotism of the central government.

The principle of federalism includes the following main elements:

  • the Union of a number of autonomous political organisms – states, united to achieve common goals;
  • the division of legislative powers between the federal government and the states that are part of the Union;
  • the federal government is a government with enumerated powers, the government of the states is a government with residual powers;
  • each of these centers of power, within the framework of its competence, manages the territory subject to it;
  • each center of power has an independent law enforcement apparatus;
  • the federal government in the sphere of its competence has supremacy (supremacy) over the state authorities.