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How to Understand the American Judicial System

Learning the process isn't easy, but understanding the American judicial system will lead you to a deeper understanding of the wishes of our founding fathers.


  • Step 1: Investigate the origin Investigate the origin of the law. The United States Constitution was finalized in 1788 and is still the supreme law of the land. It was based on the principal that all people have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The Constitution protects the sovereignty of each state while mandating that they are unified as one nation.
  • Step 2: Understand the authority Understand the authority of the branches. The power of the federal government was balanced among three equal branches to create a long-lasting government that would serve everyone. The three branches are the executive, legislative, and judicial branches.
  • TIP: Americans vote to elect the members of the executive and legislative branches. The members of the judicial branch are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.
  • Step 3: Study the Supreme Court's power Study the Supreme Court's power. The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court and all lower courts are obligated to follow the guides set by the Supreme Court when making decisions.
  • Step 4: Learn about the inferior courts Learn about the lower courts: district courts and the courts of appeals. District courts handle most federal law cases. The U.S. courts of appeals review the appealed district court cases.
  • Step 5: Learn the difference between state and federal courts Learn the difference between the state and federal courts. Each state has its own court system. State courts have hierarchy levels with the highest level being the state's supreme court. Federal courts make sure that state laws obey federal laws. Now you have a good understanding of the American judicial system.
  • FACT: Congress determines the number of Supreme Court Justices. There have been as many as 9 and as few as 6.

You Will Need

  • History lesson

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