When you are talking about government, you’ve likely heard that there are three equal branches of government, but you might not be clear on just how they all work together. We know that the President nominates judges for the judicial branch and Congress is the one that vets them and approves those appointments, but once the judges are in place, they are meant to have just as much power as either of the other branches. This is how the United States government functions in order to have a set of checks and balances in place. Having said that, there are some things you should know specifically when it comes to the judicial branch of government.
1. The Judicial Branch is the enforcers of the law
There are people who likely don’t think of judges as law enforcement officials but when you boil down their job, that is what it is. Congress writes the laws, the President or governor signs the laws and then the judicial branch makes sure the laws are followed as they were intended. When you are talking about federal courts, you are usually talking about the constitutionality of a case. This is especially true when a case goes in front of the Supreme Court. On a local or state level, the court is likely looking at state statute or regulations issued by a municipality.
2. The judicial branch is layered in order to catch mistakes
While judges are meant to be the ultimate voice on a law, they are also human beings. This means their interpretations of the law might differ from the majority from time to time. The judiciary system is layered in order to give someone who is on the “wrong end” of a court’s ruling some recourse. When you first go before a judge, you are likely appearing in a trial court. If you believe the ruling was wrong, you can take it to the appellate court. If the appellate court is also ruling against you, you may appeal to the Supreme Court.
3. The Supreme Court gets lots of requests
Appealing to the Surpeme Court can be done by almost anyone, but it’s not a slam dunk they will hear your case. It’s estimated that there are 7,500 requests to hear a case sent to the Supreme court every year.
4. The Supreme Court is picky
When going through those 7,500 cases, the Supreme Court will generally pick around 150 per year to actually hear.
5. The Supreme Court can be changed by Congress
While it has been a while since the number of justices on the Supreme Court has changed, Congress can pass a law changing the number. There are currently nine justices and that number has been in place since 1866.