Gov Judicial Branch Unit Review

Judicial system review worksheet:

  • Identify the organization and jurisdiction of federal, state, and local courts and the interrelationships among the various types of courts.
  • Determine the role that judges play in the court system and describe the ways they are appointed.
  • Explain the structure, function, and process of the Supreme Court.

Government Homework:
1. Read Chapter 15.5 pp.292-295
2. Constitution Unit Test – Fri 11/1
3. Judicial Quiz III – Sat 11/2



Honors Gov: Media Influence on Politics

george-bush-debates-on-cnn     Public officials at all levels of government work hard to both attract and shape media coverage. The most common way to do this is by staging an event and inviting the press. Presidential press conferences are an example of staged events.

Politicians also try to influence the press by granting interviews to reporters. Often they set ground rules that indicate what information reporters can use and how they can identify their source. When speaking on the record, politicians usually put their own spin on issues. Their goal is to convince both reporters and the public that their view of events is the correct one. They also try to include colorful sound bites that capture their main points in just a few words. They know that short sound bites are more likely to be run in news stories than are long speeches. Public officials sometimes use off-the-record conversations to float trial balloons. If the reaction is negative, the official can let the proposal die without ever having his or her name attached to it. Off-the-record conversations are also used to leak information to the press. They may want to expose wrongdoing, stir up support for or opposition to a proposal, spin the way an event is covered, or curry favor with reporters.

In 1960, Richard Nixon and John Kennedy participated in the first televised debate between two presidential candidates. Nixon, weakened by a bout of the flu, appeared nervous, awkward, and uneasy. His face looked pale and sweaty, all the more so because he did not allow the television producers to improve his appearance with makeup. Kennedy, in contrast, appeared confident, relaxed, and appealing. Those who watched the debate on television concluded that Kennedy had won. Those who listened on the radio considered Nixon the winner. The difference reflected not what the two candidates said about the issues, but rather the images they projected. This outcome underscored the growing importance of image over issues in political campaigns.

Advertising is expensive. Candidates spend up to 80 percent of their campaign funds, on paid ads. Media consultants use opinion polls to make sure that money is spent effectively. Political advertisements usually fall into two broad groups. The first group deals with issues, the second with images. Ads in either group can be positive or negative. Positive ads are aimed at making you like or respect a candidate, while negative ads are designed to make you dislike or fear his or her opponent. Both types of ads use persuasive techniques well known to advertisers.

Positive issue ads promote a candidate’s position on topics calculated to appeal to voters. A positive issue ad might highlight the candidate’s determination to improve funding for schools or to hold the line on taxes. Negative issue ads, on the other hand, criticize the opponent’s stand on issues of importance to voters. A positive image ad might show the candidate as a selfless public servant, a strong leader, or someone who cares about ordinary people. The candidate might be portrayed as a hero or as just plain folk. In contrast, a negative image ad might portray the opponent as weak, inexperienced, or lacking in integrity. Often negative ads include unflattering photographs of the opposition candidate. The desired effect is to convince voters that this person is somehow unfit for public office.

For all they spend on advertising, candidates and their media consultants work hard to attract news coverage as well. Almost all aspects of a campaign are designed to generate as much free publicity as possible. Often this is done by creating a photo opportunity for the candidate. A photo op is a carefully staged event designed to produce memorable photographs and video images.

National nominating conventions are also staged to attract maximum media coverage. In the past, conventions were dominated by long speeches and debates over the nominees and platform that bored television viewers. In response, parties have streamlined their conventions. Most serious business is completed off camera. Prime time speeches and events are designed mainly to promote the party’s ideas and candidates to the viewing public.

Studies of election news coverage show that most reporting falls into two distinct patterns. The first pattern, horse race coverage, treats an election as a sporting event. Horse race stories focus on who is winning and why. Issues are discussed only in terms of whether they will help or hurt the candidate’s chances. Opinion polls, often sponsored by a news organization, are used to track who is ahead or behind. The results of the polls are then covered by the media as campaign news.

The second pattern of coverage, soap opera stories, focuses on the ups and downs of candidates and their campaigns. Soap opera stories thrive on gossip, scandals, and personality. Questions of character are more important than issues. In their hunger for soap opera stories, reporters sometimes practice what has become known as gotcha journalism. The aim of gotcha journalism is to catch the candidate making a mistake or looking foolish.

At some point during a campaign, media consultants may advise a candidate to go negative. This means switching from a positive, upbeat campaign to negative campaigning, also known as mudslinging. The decision to go negative is not taken lightly. Polls show that the public dislikes attack ads. Going negative also leaves the candidate open to criticism for running a mean-spirited campaign.

Campaigns go negative because it works. Negative ads work by discouraging voters who might have supported a candidate under attack from going to the polls. Others contend, however, that negative campaigning actually stimulates voter interest. They argue that going negative works not by discouraging voting, but instead by causing more voters to go to the polls and choose a different candidate on Election Day. Like it or hate it, negative campaigning is part of our political tradition. How well it works depends on how you and voters like you react to what you see and hear during each election season.

Honors Gov Homework:
1. Constitution Unit Test – Friday 11/1
2. SSA Health Care Paper – due Friday 11/8


Gov: Judicial Court Proceedings

Trial Court v. Appeals Court

Trial Court: Jury Selection

Trial Court: Opening Arguments


Trial Court: Witness Testimony


Appeals Court: Oral Arguments


Trial Court: Trial Verdict

  1. Compare and contrast the court proceedings in a Trial Court versus an Appeals Court.


Honors Gov: News Media

mass-media5     Never before in human history has so much information been made available to us through the mass media. Today, we have 24-hour news programming available on both radio and cable television stations. A growing number of people now get instant news on demand using the electronic media, computers, cell phones, and other communication devices that connect to the Internet. The Web makes billions of documents stored in computers all over the world accessible to anyone with an Internet connection.

Most Americans a generation ago,  looked to trusted news media, newspapers, news magazines, and broadcast news shows, for information on politics and public affairs. The news media rely on a small army of reporters, fact-checkers, and editors to research and report stories in an accurate, unbiased manner. Beginning in the late 1980s, new ways to communicate with the public about politics began to appear. These new media include talk radio, television talk shows, television news magazines, televised town hall meetings, and cable comedy shows spoofing the news of the day. More recently, news-oriented Web logs, or blogs, have emerged as another new medium.

The news media have three essential roles in a democracy. The first is serving as a watch-dog over the government. The second is setting the public agenda. The third is supporting the free exchange of ideas, information, and opinions. One of the greatest concerns of our nation’s founders was the potential for government officials to abuse their power. They saw a free press as a guard against corruption and the misuse of power.

Too much happens in the world for the press to report on everything. News editors and producers have to choose what to cover and what to leave out. These decisions help determine what issues get placed on the public agenda. Politicians and activists try to harness this agenda-setting power of the media to focus attention on issues they care about.

Finally, the news media serve as a marketplace of ideas and opinions. The airwaves today are filled with opinion journalism, the chatter of talking heads eager to share their views with the world. Most people who tune into these electronic debates do so not to receive objective analysis, but rather because they share the talk show host’s political point of view.

Many Americans believe that the media have a liberal or conservative bias. Nevertheless, most professional journalists strive to be fair and unbiased in their reporting. In its code of ethics, the Society of Professional Journalists calls on its members to be “honest, fair and courageous.” It cautions that “deliberate distortion is never permissible.”

What critics see as media bias may, in reality, be a reflection of how news organizations work. Most news media outlets are businesses. They need to attract readers, listeners, or viewers to survive. With limited space or time to fill, their reporters, editors, and producers have to make choices about what stories to cover. These decisions are less likely to be motivated by political ideology than by what they think will attract and hold an audience.

Journalists look at many factors in choosing what stories to cover. One is impact. Will the story touch people in some way, even if only to make them mad or sad? A second is conflict, preferably mixed with violence. Does the story involve a crime, a fight, a scandal, or a disaster? A third factor is novelty. Is the story about a “hot topic” or a breaking news event? A fourth is familiarity. Does the story involve people we all know and find interesting? These factors influence what you see and hear as news. Because reporters like novelty, you won’t see many stories about ongoing issues or social problems. Because they want conflict, you won’t see much coverage of compromise in the making of public policy. And because they are looking for impact, bad news almost always wins out over good. As an old saying in journalism goes, “If it bleeds, it leads.”

Honors Gov Homework:
1. Constitution Unit Test – on Friday 11/1
2. SSA Health Care Paper – due Friday 11/8

Gov: Judicial Review

supreme-court-viewpoints1     The most controversial cases decided by the Supreme Court are often those that involve judicial review. Nowhere does the Constitution mention the power of judicial review. In 1803, the Supreme Court took on that duty for the first time in Marbury v. Madison. In that case, the Court declared a portion of the Judiciary Act of 1789 to be unconstitutional. It thus established the power of the judiciary to review the constitutionality of legislative or executive actions. Over time, judicial review has become the judicial branch’s most important check on the other two branches. More than two centuries after the Court assumed this power, Americans are still divided about its proper use. On one side are supporters of judicial activism, and on the other are advocates of judicial restraint.

Judicial activism is based on the belief that the Court has both the right and the obligation to use its power of judicial review to overturn bad precedents and promote socially desirable goals. Liberals tend to be more supportive of judicial activism than are conservatives. They look to the Court to defend the rights of women and minorities, for example, when legislatures fail to act.

Advocates of judicial restraint hold that judicial review should be used sparingly, especially in dealing with controversial issues. Conservatives tend to be more supportive of judicial restraint than are liberals. In their view, elected representatives, not unelected judges, should make policy decisions.

Government Homework:
1. Read Chapter15.4 pp.288-291
2. Constitution Unit Test – Friday 11/1
3. Amendments Quiz III – close on Saturday 11/2


Gov: Supreme Court Chooses Cases

Courtroom_flt2     Some cases begin at the Supreme Court because they fall under its original jurisdiction. However, the vast majority of cases reach the Court only as appeals from lower court decisions.

The main route to the Supreme Court is when a lower court petitions the Court for a writ of certiorari, an order to send up the records on a case for review. When cases come to the Court, the justices and clerks decide which ones are worthy of serious consideration, and the chief justice puts them on a “discuss list” for all the justices to consider. If four of the nine justices agree to accept the case, the Court will do so.

After the Court accepts a case, the lawyers on each side submit a brief. Parties who have an interest in a case’s outcome may also submit a written brief called amicus curiae. The justices listen to oral arguments from lawyers for each side of each case.

The Court then recesses and considers arguments in these cases. A majority of justices must be in agreement to decide a case.

The Court issues one of four types of written opinions, which are as important as the decision itself. An opinion may be unanimous. A majority opinion expresses the view of the majority of justices. A justice who agrees with the majority’s decision but for a different reason may write a concurring opinion. A dissenting opinion is the opinion of justices on the losing side in a case.

Government Homework:
1. Read Chapter 15.3 pp.285-288
2. Amendments Quiz II closes Wed 10/30
3. Constitution Unit Test on Fri 11/1


Honors Gov: Public Opinion

PblicOpinion2     Public opinion is commonly defined as the sum of many individual opinions about a public person or issue. Three views to consider on how public opinion come to be shaped are:

Public opinion is shaped by special interest groups. Some believe that public opinion is less about what individuals think and more about what the special interest groups they belong to advocate. Because many such groups represent large numbers of people, they are listened to when they speak out on issues.

Public opinion is shaped by journalists, politicians, and other opinion makers. Those who support this view observe that most of us don’t have time to become informed on every issue. Instead we look to influential opinion makers for information and advice. These opinion makers may be journalists, public officials, business leaders, or activists. Because they have access to the media, “their” opinions often become “our” opinions.

Public opinion is shaped by what politicians say it is. This last view recognizes that politicians often talk about “what the people think” without evidence to back up their claims. They may sincerely believe that they have their fingers on “the pulse of the public.” Or they may hope that by claiming that the public agrees with them loudly enough, they will convince the American people that it must be true.

However, public is seldom a single view held by all Americans. The U.S. is simply too large and diverse for that to be true. Public opinion serves our democratic system of government in three key ways. First, it guides leaders as they make decisions about public policy. Public opinion also serves as guard against hasty or poorly understood decisions. Lastly, public opinion serves as a kind of glue in a diverse society like ours. Widespread agreement on basic political beliefs holds our society together, even in times of intense partisan conflict.

Honors Gov Homework:
1. Constitution Unit Test – Fri 11/1
2. SSA Health Care Paper – due Friday 11/1