Basic Knowledge of Law

Marbury v. Madison  (1803)

John Adams, Thomas Jefferson

Brief introduction to American judicial system:

Judicial review takes place within federal and state court systems. Federal court system includes general courts, consisting of the Supreme Court (9), Trial courts (89), appellate courts (11); and specialized courts, including Federal Claims, Appeals for the Armed Forces, the Tax Court, Appeals for Veterans Claims, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, International Trade. The district courts are the first judicial level to deal with administrative law cases.

American judicial system is clearly hierarchical. Cases are reviewed from lower to higher authorities.

  1. The authority of Trail/district Courts (89):
  2. they can rule that an administrative action is legal; b. they can find that the administrative action was illegal or unconstitutional; c. block further enforcement of an administrative rule or order; d. remand cases to the agency for further rulemaking, clarification, or adjudication; e. issue temporary restraining orders to prohibit the continuation of a challenged activity while a trial is held or a final decision reached; f. dismiss a suit

Judges explain the legal and logical basis for their decisions in written opinions. Most federal cases, including administrative law cases, begin and end in the district courts. (Rosenbloon 2014, 155)

  1. The courts of appeals are organized by circuit (11)

Appeals court cases are usually heard by three judges (a hearing en banc). Appeals courts serve as a check on the district courts

  1. The Supreme Court sits at the top of the federal court system, holding the authority of original jurisdiction, where decisions are made by majority vote (a majority of voting subscribe to a single written opinion—it becomes the opinion of the Court; agree on the specific holding but not the reasons, there is a judgment of the Court—written opinion—plurality opinion)
  2. Appointment:

Supreme Court, district, and appeals court judges are appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate

Conclusion 1

The structure and function of American judicial system make the application of both “hard look” and “soft look” sensible in cases. The principle of American judicial system could be interpreted into hierarchy and plurality/majority-decision making, which provide the access to further judge and review by higher authority and apply to the simple logic that decisions made by majority are more reasonable.

The application of the “hard look” and “soft look” is based on reasons rather than authority


The main components of justicialibility/reviewability

Standing to sue

  1. Injury in fact: concrete and particularized; actual or imminent not conjectural or hypothetical; injury for standing includes: 1) recreational, aesthetic, or environmental injury; 2) risk as injury; 3) fear as injury; 4) procedural injury; 5) informational injury; 6) other widely shared injuries; 7) states as plaintiffs
  2. Causal connection between the injury and the conduct, referring to procedural violations and Causation, third-party actions and causation, contribution as causation.
  3. The injury will likely be redressed by a favorable court decision. (Funk & Seamon 2011, Chpt. 6)


A judicial decision will have no practical effect because the specific legal dispute has disappeared or already been resolved in some other way. Therefore, a case is not reviewable if it is moot.


Ripeness focuses on whether the matters involved in a case have developed sufficiently to make it ready for judicial review.

Sue/ Indictment







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