Hello and welcome to the first episode of the brand new Civ Lib podcast, where we look at the Supreme Court and the first amendment. My name is Arch Grieve and I’ll be hosting this podcast, so let me tell you a little bit about myself.
I’m a graduate of Wright State University, graduating with a degree in social science education, and currently I’m going to school at the University of Dayton in Dayton, OH to get my license so I can get into the classroom. I’m married and currently work as a substitute teacher and meter reader.
In this podcast I’m going to do my best to explain how your first amendment rights have been interpreted over the years by the Supreme Court and the lower courts, looking at the evolution of cases and how those rulings affect us in our everyday lives’. Throughout the podcast we’ll be covering topics like Freedom of religion/ aid to religion, religion in public schools, free speech issues, obscenity, and much, much more.
This podcast will be of particular interest to you if you are taking a Civil liberties course at a college or university, are interested in understanding your rights, or just want to know more about the courts and how they make decisions, and more importantly, how those decisions affect you.
Now, the way I’m designing this podcast to work is that each podcast will focus on an issue, for example the freedom of religion clause, and we’ll look at the evolution of case history surrounding that issue. We’ll go into individual cases and pull out the key facts and reasoning that the court used in coming to a decision. In this first podcast, however, we’re going to cover the basics of the Supreme Court to brush up on all that stuff we learned in government class, so let’s get started.
• The US Federal Court system consists broadly of three levels:
o The US Supreme court
o The 13 Courts of Appeals
o The 94 District Courts of Appeals- where all the facts are decided
• If you make it all the way to the Dist. Court you have an automatic right to appeal to Appellate Court level, but not the Supreme Court
• When you appeal up to the appellate courts, you are dealing with laws/processes and the constitutionality thereof, NOT with the facts of the case
o Some terms you will want to know include:
• Appellant/petitioner: the person who wants to make the appeal
• The appellee/respondent: the person responding to the case
• When you submit a case to the appellate court, however, you do not go to a trial in any sense of what we think of, you file a brief as the appellant as to why you are appealing to the court, and the appellee files a responding brief, explaining why the lower court's opinion was correct, which you then counter in a responding brief, so a minimum of three briefs are present
• Amicus Curiae briefs, or friend of the court briefs, are filed by people who have an interest in the resolution of the case and are not part of the proceedings, often people like the ACLU or the NRA
o From the Appellate courts, you go on to the Supreme Court in the pecking order, although very few cases actually are heard in comparison with the lower courts.
• A Writ of Certiorari, or Writ of Cert, is what you would request of the court, which is your ticket to be heard by the Supreme Court. To be heard you must have 4 Justices (aka the people sitting on the bench) sign it saying they will hear the case, otherwise known as the rule of four
o The Supreme Court
• They sit from Oct. to the end of May, and issue decisions generally by the end of June
• MTW they hear cases
• Th. Is for research
• Fri is when they make decisions
• At the actual hearing only the lawyers are present, and each is given thirty minutes to present his or her case, so a total of 1 hour, during which time justices will often question the lawyer about the case
• Currently the court consists of: ("C" denotes whether they are on the conservative side of the Court or the liberal "L" side)
• CJ John Roberts (C)
• John Paul Stevens(L)
• Antonin Scalia (C)
• Anthony Kennedy (C/L)
• Clarence Thomas (C)
• Ruth Bader Ginsberg( L)
• Stephen Breyer (L)
• Samuel Alito, Jr. (C)
• Sonia Sotomayor- the newest, just replaced Justice David Souter (L)
• Once the court has heard a case they issue an opinion, but it comes a while after they hear it.
• Voting goes in order of seniority, and if the CJ is in the majority (or plurality) opinion, he assigns who writes the opinion. If not, the senior associate justice assigns the opinion
• Concurring opinions
• Dissenting opinions
• Assessing an opinion/ judging the CJ
That's all for this episode, join us next time when we start to get into the first amendment and thanks for listening!
The quote of the day from Justice Learned Hand: "Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women. When it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it."