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5. Give those persons accused of breaking Federal laws a fair and just trial.

6. Settle disagreements, under certain circumstances, between States and foreign governments or citizens of foreign governments.

You can see that the chief objective of the Federal court system is to provide a way in which persons and groups can settle their disputes in a peaceful way. We do not believe in settling our legal differences by violent methods.


If you read the quotation at the beginning of this chapter, you will see that the Supreme Court of the United States is the only Federal court set up by the Constitution itself. It could not be abolished without amending the Constitution. Let us learn more about it.

The Supreme Court is the highest court in the Nation. When it makes a decision there is no other court to which the case can be taken on appeal. Its decisions are final.

Although the Congress did not create the Supreme Court, it has the power to pass various laws about its organization and work. The Congress decides from time to time how many justices the Court shall have and what their salaries shall be. The President's choice of persons to become Supreme Court justices (when vacancies have occurred) must be approved by the Senate. Within certain limits, the Congress may decide what cases shall be tried in the Supreme Court. The Congress cannot, however, change the powers given to the Supreme Court by the Constitution itself.


The Constitution leaves to the Congress much authority over the other Federal courts. The Fathers of the Constitution did not write the details of our court system into the Constitution. They left much of this to the Congress. It can decide when to establish more Federal courts and judgeships, and what cases each kind of Federal court shall hear. It can even change or abolish any Federal court except the Supreme Court.

The Congress has established two kinds of Federal courts (besides special courts). These are (1) the “District Courts” and (2) the “Circuit Courts of Appeals.” Turn to Figure 52, which shows the relationship of these and other Federal courts.

These lower Federal courts keep the work of the Supreme Court from becoming too heavy. The Congress has passed laws which require that most litigation (trial of cases) in the Federal courts shall start in the District Courts. If persons in certain kinds of cases are not satisfied with the District Court's decision, they can appeal to a higher Federal court. Sometimes such cases can be taken directly to the Supreme Court; sometimes they must be appealed to the Circuit Court of Appeals. In some cases the decision of the Circuit Court of Appeals is final.

Our Nation is divided into 10 judicial circuits. In each of these circuits there is one Circuit Court of Appeals and several District Courts. There is also the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and the District of Columbia is regarded as a judicial circuit. Every person in the United States can be sure that there is a Federal court in his section of the country, no matter where he lives.

The Supreme Court holds its sessions in Washington, the National Capital. For many years it met in a small courtroom in the Capitol. In 1935 it moved into a building of its own, which is one of the most beautiful in Washington.

The Congress has established various special courts. You will notice in Figure 52 that we have certain other Federal courts besides those already mentioned. In 1855 the Congress established a special “Court of Claims." Before this date there had been no court to which a person could present a money claim against the United States Government. The Congress has also set up a “United States Customs Court,” which settles disputes about the amount of any customs tax on goods being brought into

Judicial Branch of Our National

The Courts Explain the Laws

The Supreme Court is the
Highest Court in the Land

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this country; and a “United States Court of Customs and Patent Appeals,” which is an appeal court for customs cases as well as cases in which a person who has been refused a patent on some invention argues that the Department of Commerce has treated him unfairly by its refusal.


Federal judges are appointed by the President and approved by the Senate. They hold office as long as they do their work satisfactorily. If one of them commits a serious offense while in office, he may be impeached by the House of Representatives in the same way that the President and any other civil officer of the United States may

be impeached. The Congress decides the amount of pay which Federal judges shall receive, but the Constitution provides that the salary of judges "shall not be diminished during their continuance in office."

For more than 70 years the Supreme Court of the United States has consisted of a Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices. The Chief Justice acts as presiding officer of the Court and all the justices sit as a group (unless excused for some good reason). All decisions of the Court are reached by a majority vote of the justices who have taken part in the hearings.

All of our Federal judges are required to uphold the Constitution of the United States. After a new Federal judge is appointed, he must take the following oath: I,

do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as

, according to the best of my abilities and understanding, agreeably to the Constitution and laws of the United States: So help me God."


Select the words which will make each of the following state

ments read correctly:

1. The Judicial Branch of our Government

1. makes the laws.
2. explains the laws.
3. enforces the laws.

2. The chief objective of our court system is to give the people a way to

1. change the laws.
2. collect taxes.

3. provide equal justice for all. 3. Federal judges hold office

1. during good behavior.
2. for five years.

3. for one year. 4. The one court which cannot be abolished without amending our Constitution is

1. the Court of Claims.
2. the Supreme Court of the United States.

3. the United States Customs Court. 5. The Federal judges are selected by

1. the voters.
2. the House of Representatives.

3. the President. 6. When Federal judges are chosen, their appointments must be approved by

1. the United States Senate.
2. the people.

3. the newspapers. 7. The presiding officer of the Supreme Court of the United States is called

1. the Chief Justice of the United States. 2. the Chancellor. 3. the Moderator.

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