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

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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

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