The Judiciary – American Government

Paper, Order, or Assignment Requirements


The Judiciary


The courts play a larger role in making public policy in the United States than they do in any other country in the world. One major aspect of this power is “judicial review”—the right to declare laws of Congress and acts of the executive branch void and unenforceable if they are judged to be in conflict with the Constitution. This is a uniquely American legal practice. Since 1789 the Supreme Court has declared over one hundred federal laws to be unconstitutional. In Britain, by contrast, Parliament is supreme, and no court may strike down a law it passes.

This lesson is designed to introduce you to the distinctive character of the American judicial system, and to teach you the principles and processes in its operations. You should keep the following questions in mind when reading your assignment: What is “judicial review” and how does it create a check on the other branches of government? On what foundations do judges make their legal decisions? What is an appropriate legal basis for legal decision-making? What is the role of politics in the judiciary? Should politics play a part in judicial decision-making? Who has the power to create new courts?


Essay Questions. Answer the following questions thoroughly. These questions must be submitted for grading. Take your time and completely answer each one. Remember: Do not copy your answers from the textbook. Each answer should be one to two pages long.


  1. As the federal judiciary was designed by the founders, it was intended to be the weakest, “least dangerous” branch of government, only exercising the power of judgement. As the judiciary has evolved, however, it has acquired substantial policy-making powers. How was this power acquired and what are the legal bases for it?


  1. Briefly discuss each one of the checks that the legislative and executive branches have over the judicial branch.


  1. Outline the process followed by Supreme Court justices in hearing and deciding a case.


  1. What are the constitutional requirements to be a federal judge? Are there any other formal or informal requirements?