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CHAPTER 2 The Role of the Courts LEARNING OBJECTIVES 1.
Explain how the constitutional checks and balances in the U. S. Constitution apply to the courts.
Explain the term “independent judiciary.”
Describe the organizational chart of a typical state court system.
Explain how the geographical jurisdiction of a court is determined.
Explain how the statute of limitations restricts the power of the courts.
Compare and contrast the functions of trial and appellate courts.
Distinguish the role of the federal courts from the state courts.
Identify the level of proof required at each step of the court process.
Compare and contrast direct and discretionary appeals.
10. Explain the procedures that must be followed to have a case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. 11. Explain the function of habeas corpus proceedings. 12.
Explain the applicability of the Civil Rights Act of 1871 to criminal justice personnel.
CHAPTER OUTLINE Featured Case: The Six Trials of Curtis Flowers I.
Introduction Learning Objective 1: Explain how the constitutional checks and balances in the U. S. Constitution apply to the courts. Learning Objective 2: Explain the term “independent judiciary.” Learning Objective 3: Describe the organizational chart of a typical state court system. Learning Objective 4: Explain how the geographical jurisdiction of a court is determined. Learning Objective 5: Explain how the statute of limitations restricts the power of the courts. Learning Objective 6: Compare and contrast the functions of trial and appellate courts. Learning Objective 7: Distinguish the role of the federal courts from the state courts. Learning Objective 8: Identify the level of proof required at each step of the court process. A. Checks and Balances 19 © Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.
Instructor’s Resource Manual B.
Constitution established checks and balances so that Executive Branch, Legislative Branch, and Judicial Branch would have to interact and could reign in each other Independent Judiciary Federal judges are nominated by President and confirmed by Senate; once they take office they cannot be removed by President or Congress except by impeachment Federal judges serve for life even though the President who appointed them leaves office Court Organization Hierarchical Organization o Organization enacted by legislature o Must follow decisions of courts above them on the organizational chart Geographic Jurisdiction Trial court has jurisdiction over crimes committed within its boundaries Appeals from trial courts go to court of appeals based on geographical boundaries established by legislature Statute of Limitations Establishes time limit for starting prosecution More serious crimes have longest statute of limitations Murder usually has no statute of limitations, i.e., it can be prosecuted anytime the suspect is found Functions of Various Levels of Courts State Trial Courts – handle pre-trial matters, trials, and sentencing State Court of Appeals – hear direct and discretionary appeals State Supreme Court – most are mandated to hear death penalty appeals; hear discretionary appeals from state Court of Appeals Federal Trial Courts - U. S. District Court handles trials of cases charged under the United States Code; Federal Court of Appeals hears direct and discretionary appeals U. S. Supreme Court o Marbury v Madison – Supreme Court declared that due to its duty to determine what the law is, it must declare legislation passed by Congress unconstitutional if it conflicts with the Constitution Impact of Case Law If highest court decides a case, all courts within it jurisdiction must follow the ruling in the case o Prior rulings of intermediate appellate courts are no longer binding o Highest court can later reverse its ruling If the highest court has not decided the issues, the intermediate courts can make their own decisions on the issue o These rulings only apply to courts within the intermediate appellate court’s jurisdiction o Court may consider decisions from sister courts but is not bound by them Evidentiary Standards Used by Courts Contemporaneous Objection Rule Defined: Timely and proper objection to the admission of evidence must be made at trial for the issue of admissibility to be 20 © Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.
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considered on appeal. When a witness is testifying, the objection should be made before the witness answers the question (Black’s Law Dictionary, 2006). Prima Facie Case Defined: A party’s production of enough evidence to allow the judge to infer the fact at issue and rule in the party’s favor (Black’s Law Dictionary, 2006). Preponderance of the Evidence Defined: The greater weight of the evidence, not necessarily established by the greater number of witnesses testifying to a fact but by evidence that has the most convincing force; superior evidentiary weight that, though not sufficient to free the mind wholly from all reasonable doubt, is still sufficient to incline a fair and impartial mind to one side of the issue rather than the other (Black’s Law Dictionary, 2006) Beyond a Reasonable Doubt Defined: Proof that precludes every reasonable hypothesis except that which the law requires for the case. In criminal cases, the accused’s guilt must be established “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which means that facts proven must, by virtue of their probative [tending to prove] force, establish guilt (Black’s Law Dictionary 9th Ed. 2009). New York Criminal Procedure Law reasons conviction can be vacated: At any time after the entry of a judgment, the court in which it was entered may, upon motion of the defendant, vacate such judgment upon the ground that: o The trial court did not have jurisdiction to hear a case involving the crime and/or the defendant; o Duress, misrepresentation, or fraud was used by the court or a prosecutor or a person acting on their behalf; o Material evidence introduced at trial was false and was known by the prosecutor or by the court to be false prior to the entry of the conviction; o Material evidence introduced at trial by the prosecutor was obtained in violation of the defendant’s rights under the U.S. Constitution or the state constitution; o The defendant, by reason of mental disease or defect, was incapable of understanding or participating in the court proceedings; o Improper and prejudicial conduct that does not appear in the record occurred during a trial. The conviction should be set aside if an appellate court would reverse the conviction if the misconduct appeared in the record of the trial; o New evidence was discovered after the jury reached a guilty verdict. The conviction can be set aside only if the new evidence creates a probability that, had such evidence been received at the trial, the verdict would have been more favorable to the defendant. A motion based upon newly discovered evidence must be made with due diligence after the discovery of such alleged new evidence. It must show that, even with due diligence, the evidence could not have been discovered before the jury verdict; or o The judgment was obtained in violation of a right of the defendant under the constitution of the state or of the United States. (New York Criminal Procedure Law § 440.10 Sec. 1)
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Instructor’s Resource Manual II.
Post-Conviction Proceedings Learning Objective 9: Compare and contrast direct and discretionary appeals. Learning Objective 10: Explain the procedures that must be followed to have a case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. Learning Objective 11: Explain the function of habeas corpus proceedings. Learning Objective 12: Explain the applicability of the Civil Rights Act of 1871 to criminal justice personnel. A. Direct Appeal All states and the federal courts give a person who is convicted one appeal “of rights” – this appeal can be done without petitioning the court to hear the case Examples of Issues That Can Be Raised on Appeal: o Confession obtained in violation of Miranda rules. o Search violated the Fourth Amendment. o Improper jury instruction given by judge. o Judge improperly sustained objections and refused to allow a witness to testify on important questions. o Judge improperly overruled objection and allowed witness to testify about highly prejudicial material. Examples of Issues That Cannot Be Raised on Appeal: o Weight to be placed on testimony of individual witnesses. o Credibility of each witness. o Possible testimony of witnesses who were not called during trial. o Issues that were not raised in the trial court. o Why the defense attorney used unsuccessful tactics. Harmless Error Rule Defined: An appellate court will not reverse a case if the errors made at trial did not affect a party’s substantive rights or the case’s outcome (Black’s Law Dictionary, 2006) B. Discretionary Appeals – State Court Second and subsequent appeals are allowed only if the higher court agrees to hear the case o Side that lost prior appeal must petition the court and ask for a hearing C. Appeals to United States Supreme Court If there is a constitutional issue involved, state and federal defendants can petition the U. S. Supreme court to hear the case Defendants convicted in federal court can also petition the U. S. Supreme Court for review of federal statutes and procedural rules such as the Federal Rules of Evidence Process: o Must exhaust state court remedies and lower federal court procedures before petitioning U. S. Supreme Court o File Petition for Writ of Certiorari o Indigent defendants may file Petition to Proceed in forma pauperis to reduce costs of appeal o Justices of Supreme Court vote on Petitions – 4 votes required for case to be scheduled for oral arguments (referred to as “granting cert”) 22 © Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.
Full file at http://testbank360.eu/test-bank-criminal-evidence-8th-edition-judy-hails o Attorneys for both sides brief the case o Oral arguments – each side usually as 30 minutes; Justices interrupt and ask many questions o After oral arguments the Justices hold conference and vote on cases o Opinions are written o Decision is announced in open court D. Habeas Corpus Examples of Issues That Should Be Raised by Habeas Corpus o Person was illegally arrested and is being held in county jail. o Person was placed in a mental hospital against his or her will and claims to be legally sane. o Person has served his/her entire sentence but has not been released. o Defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to an attorney at trial was violated because the defense attorney was incompetent. Examples of Issues That Should Not Be Raised by Habeas Corpus o The judge did not give proper jury instructions during the trial. o The evidence presented at trial was not sufficient to convict the defendant. o The defendant should receive monetary payment from the arresting officer because he was arrested illegally. o Any issue raised by a person who is no longer in custody. E. Civil Rights Act Key Provisions of Section 1983 o Deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution o By person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia. Key Provisions of Section 1985 o Two or more persons in any State or Territory conspire o For the purpose of depriving, either directly or indirectly, any person or class of persons of the equal protection of the laws, or of equal privileges and immunities under the laws Examples of Cases that Can Be Filed under Civil Rights Act o Police used excessive force when making an arrest o Police conducted extensive search that violated rules for search incident to arrest. o Police violated Miranda when interrogating the suspect o Filthy, unsanitary prison conditions violated Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment o Failure to provide competent attorney for indigent defendant at a criminal trial Examples of Cases that Can Not Be Filed under Civil Rights Act o Violation of state law that required suspect to be arraigned within 6 hours o Jailor negligently lost inmate’s personal property o Demand to be released from prison Examples of Cases that Have Immunity under Civil Rights Act
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o Officer conducted search that violated a rule established in a very recent Supreme Court decision o Officer in good faith thought there was probable cause for arrest o Prosecutor maliciously filed criminal charges Examples of Cases that Do Not Have Immunity under Civil Rights Act Officer conducted search knowing it was illegal with intent of seizing drugs to “get them off the street” Illegal search by officer who made no effort to stay abreast of relevant Supreme Court decisions
KEY TERMS Absolute immunity – In a civil case under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, judges and prosecutors, when acting in their official roles, have absolute immunity regardless of their state of mind and the case should be dismissed before trial. When they step outside this role they have qualified immunity. Amicus Curiae – Interested parties may petition the appellate court to file an amicus curiae (literally: friend of the court) brief. It is common to have numerous amicus curiae briefs filed for cases before the U. S. Supreme Court. Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 – Congress enacted this law which restricts state inmates’ access to federal habeas corpus. It limits challenges of a conviction to one year after state remedies had been exhausted, prohibits repetitive filings on the same issue, mandates that the inmate combine all the legal issues in one petition, and allocates the burden of proof to the person filing the habeas corpus petition, and establishes a presumption that the state court proceedings were correct which must be rebutted by clear and convincing evidence. Appellant – The person who files an appeal. Appellate courts – General term that applies to all courts that hear appeals. Beyond a reasonable doubt – Proof that precludes every reasonable hypothesis except that which the law requires for the case. In criminal cases, the accused’s guilt must be established “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which means that facts proven must, by virtue of their probative [tending to prove] force, establish guilt. Bivens case – In the case of Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (1971) the Supreme Court established the right to sue federal agents for violation of constitutional rights.
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Full file at http://testbank360.eu/test-bank-criminal-evidence-8th-edition-judy-hails Case law – Case law is the collection of appellate court opinions. Lawyers and judges study case law in order to find opinions that are relevant to the current case. Based on stare decisis, these decisions are binding on lower courts until reversed, vacated, or overruled. Checks and balances – The U. S. Constitution established a system of checks and balances that require interaction between the three branches of government. For example, federal judges (judicial branch) are nominated by the president (executive branch) but must be confirmed by the senate (legislative branch). The judicial system budget is established in a bill which must pass both houses of Congress and be signed by the president. New federal laws must be approved by Congress and signed by the president but the judicial branch can rule that they are unconstitutional. Civil Rights Act of 1871 – This Civil Rights Act, enacted after the Civil War, was designed to give individuals the right to sue in federal court for violations of their constitutional rights. Section 1983 (42 U.S.C. §1983) allows suits for violation of constitutional rights under color of state law. Section 1985 (42 U.S.C. §1985) can be used if there is a conspiracy to violate constitutional rights (no state action is required). Clerk’s transcript – The clerk’s transcript contains a copy of all documents filed with the court in the case, including the entries the clerk made during court days. It does not include a verbatim record of what occurred at each hearing. Compensatory damages – In a civil suit, compensatory damages include payment for expenses such as medical bills and lost wages. Constitutional torts – In Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (1971) the Supreme Court established the right to sue federal agents for violation of constitutional rights. These civil actions are referred to as constitutional torts. Contemporaneous Objection Rule – The Contemporaneous Objection Rule requires that a timely and proper objection be made to the admission of evidence at trial for the issue of admissibility to be considered on appeal. When a witness is testifying, the objection should be made before the witness answers the question. The Contemporaneous Objection Rule applies to both sides in all court proceedings. Direct appeal – A direct appeal is an appeal that is taken immediately after the conviction and is based solely on what happened at trial and other court hearings in the case. Transcripts of the original trial are used; no witnesses are called. No new evidence can be introduced during a direct appeal. Discretionary appeal – In a discretionary appeal, the justices of a higher court decided whether or not they want to hear the case. Statutes established number of justices who must vote to hear the case. 25 © Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.
Instructor’s Resource Manual
Exhaustion of remedies – Statutes frequently require that all possible procedures be completed (exhausted) before a case proceeds to the next level court. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 mandates that all state court procedures be exhausted before seeking relief via federal habeas corpus. General damages – In a civil suit, general damages include money to pay for both physical and emotional “pain and suffering.” Geographic jurisdiction – The case must be filed in a court with jurisdiction over the location where the crime occurred. Granting cert – When the U. S. Supreme Court accepts a case for a full hearing it grants a Writ of Certiorari, commonly called “granting cert.” Habeas Corpus – A Petition for Habeas Corpus is filed in civil court to challenge the legality of confinement. These proceedings may be filed only if the petitioner is currently being held in custody. Examples: denial of reasonable bail, failure to release an inmate at the expiration of a sentence, a conviction obtained when the defendant was denied the right to counsel, and confinement in a mental hospital after the person has regained mental competence. Harmless Error Rule – An appellate court will not reverse a case if the errors made at trial were harmless, i.e., they did not affect a party’s substantive rights or the case’s outcome. Hierarchical organization – An organization that is hierarchical is organized in tiers with each tier reporting to the one above it. In most states the court system has at least three tiers, typically called the trial court, Court of Appeals, and Supreme Court. Impeach – Federal judges hold office “during good behaviour.” The House of Representative can impeach a federal judge for “conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” The Senate hears the evidence and votes on the charges. Independent judiciary – An independent judiciary means that although politicians appoint judges, they do not have the authority to remove them from the bench because of unpopular decisions; judges do not leave office when the party that appoints them loses power. In Forma Puperis – When the U. S. Supreme Court grants a petition to proceed in forma pauperis the individual is allowed to bypass some of the expensive procedures associated with filing a Petition for Writ of Certiorari. This procedure is separate from a request to have an attorney appointed.
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Full file at http://testbank360.eu/test-bank-criminal-evidence-8th-edition-judy-hails Marbury v. Madison – Decided in 1804, this case became precedent for the proposition that the U. S. Supreme Court has the authority to rule than an act of Congress is unconstitutional. Petition for Writ of Certiorari – A Petition for Writ of Certiorari is a request asking a higher court to transfer a case to that court for a hearing. It is the most common method used to request that the U. S. Supreme Court hear a case. Precedent – A published decision of an appellate court becomes precedent for later cases involving the same issue, i.e., judges in lower courts are required to follow the ruling. A court can reverse its own precedent; higher courts can overrule precedents from lower courts. Preponderance of the evidence – The greater weight of the evidence, not necessarily established by the greater number of witnesses testifying to a fact but by evidence that has the most convincing force; superior evidentiary weight that, though not sufficient to free the mind wholly from all reasonable doubt, is still sufficient to incline a fair and impartial mind to one side of the issue rather than the other. Some issues in criminal cases, such as the voluntariness of a confession, must be established by a preponderance of the evidence. In civil cases, the burden of proof is a preponderance of the evidence. Prima facie case – At the preliminary hearing the prosecution must established a prima facie case by introducing sufficient evidence to convince the judge that it is more probable than not that the defendant committed the crime charged. Establishing a prima facie case is a lower burden of proof than what will be required at trial. Punitive damages – In civil cases, punitive damages are awarded if there is intentional or malicious bad conduct. The amount of punitive damages is based on the financial assets of the person who did the malicious act. Qualified immunity – In civil suits under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, most state and local government employees except judges and prosecutors have immunity if it can be shown that their actions were taken in “good faith.” When the judge rules that the defendant has immunity the case is dismissed before trial. “Good faith” has two prongs: the person objectively believed that the actions were constitutional, and the person made appropriate efforts to remain current on Supreme Court decisions and other relevant law. Reporter’s transcript – The reporter’s transcript is a verbatim transcript of what occurred in court. It is made from notes taken by the court reporter. If there was no court reporter at the trial, the attorneys must agree to a “settled statement of facts.” Respondent – The person who must respond to an appeal is called the respondent. When a defendant appeals his or her conviction, the defendant is the appellant and the government is the respondent.
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Instructor’s Resource Manual Section 1983 – Title 42, Section 1983 of the United States Code, which is part of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, allows a person to file a civil law suit in federal court alleging violation of his or her constitutional rights under color of state law. Section 1985 – Title 42, Section 1985 of the United States Code, which is part of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, allows a person to file a civil law suit in federal court alleging conspiracies to violate his or her constitutional rights whether or not government employees are involved. Set Aside the Verdict – After a jury returns a verdict, the judge has the authority to rule that it should be set aside. The most common reasons for setting aside a verdict are: jurors were totally unreasonable in their conclusions, there were serious errors in the trial that will result in reversal on appeal, or newly discovered evidence. State laws may establish additional reasons. Settled Statement of Facts – When there is an appeal in a case where there was no court reporter, the attorneys agree on a statement of the facts presented at trial. Their agreement is made into a report referred to as a “settled statement of facts.” Stare Decisis – In our commonlaw system, prior decisions of appellate courts are considered binding on lower courts (until reversed, vacated, or overruled). This is referred to as stare decisis. Statute of Limitations – The statute of limitations is established by the legislature. It sets time limits for filing criminal charges. For example, in most states misdemeanor charges must be filed with the court clerk within 1 year of the day the crime was committed; for felonies the period is longer (frequently 3–6 years), and for some crimes, such as murder, there is no statute of limitations and the charges can be filed at any time. If the period specified in the statue of limitations has expired, the person who committed the crime cannot be charged; therefore he or she cannot claim the Fifth Amendment as a reason not to answer questions about the crime and Miranda warnings are not required. See, tolling the statute of limitations.
REVIEW QUESTIONS 1.
Explain how the separation of power established in the U. S. Constitution applies to the federal courts.
Explain how judges are selected in the federal system and in your state.
Describe the hierarchical organization of the courts in your state.
How do geographical jurisdiction and the statute of limitations restrict the authority of the courts in your state?
What issues are considered at the trial court? On direct appeal? By the U. S. Supreme Court?
How do the rulings from the federal courts affect the courts in your state?
Where in the court system do the following levels of proof apply: 28 © Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.
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Prima facie case Preponderance of the evidence Proof beyond a reasonable doubt
How many appeals is a criminal defendant entitled to? How can the defendant obtain additional review of the case?
Give 3 examples of situations where it would be appropriate to file a habeas corpus petition. What type of relief can a judge grant in each of these examples?
What must be proven to win a case under Section 1983? When can the defense have it dismissed due to immunity?
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1.
The levels of proof required increases from the time the case is filed until conviction. Is this fair to the defendant? Shouldnâ€™t the prosecution have to establish a higher level of proof at the outset in order to justify put the defendant through the ordeal of a criminal prosecution?
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Instructor’s Resource Manual 2.
The United States Supreme Court decides cases on as narrow of an issue as it can. This results in the need for additional litigation and in some cases results in rules that do not clearly fit together. Wouldn’t it be better if the Court took on the whole issue, such as search incident to arrest, and set forth comprehensive guidelines covered all frequently encountered situations?
STUDENT ACTIVITIES – WRITING ASSIGNMENTS Research the court system for your state. Write a report stating the following: How many levels of courts are there? If possible, provide a diagram. What titles are used for each level? Is there a separate set of courts to handle appeals in criminal cases? What geographical unit (county, city, etc.) is used to organize the trial court? If a person is arrested for a felony (state law) committed in your city: name the court where the charges will be filed; name the court where the trial will be held. Which state appellate court covers the city where you live? If the FBI makes an arrest for a federal crime that was committed in your city, which U.S. District Court will handle the case? Which circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals?
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