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Chapter 2


This Chapter examines several aspects of the Supreme Court’s authority.

  •     Supreme Court review: It is the Supreme Court, not Congress, which has the authority and duty to review the constitutionality of statutes passed by Congress, and to invalidate the statute if it violates the Constitution.
  •     Review of state court decisions: The Supreme Court may review state court decisions, but only to the extent that the decision was based on federal law.
    •     “Independent and adequate state grounds”: Even if there is a federal question in a state court case, the Supreme Court may not review the case if there was an “independent and adequate” state ground for the state court’s decision. (That is, if the same result would be reached even if the state court had made a different decision on the federal question, the Supreme Court may not decide the case.)
  •    Federal judicial power: The federal judicial power is set forth in Art. III, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution. The federal judicial power includes (a partial listing):
    •      cases arising under the Constitution or under federal statutes;
    •      cases of admiralty;
    •      cases between two or more states;
    •      cases between citizens of different states; and
    •      cases between a state or its citizens and a foreign country or foreign citizens.

The federal judicial power does not include cases where both parties are citizens (i.e., residents) of the same state, and no federal question is raised.

  •     Congress’ control of federal judicial power: Congress has some meaningful control over the federal judicial power:
    •     Control of Supreme Court docket: Congress has the general power to decide what types of cases the Supreme Court may hear, so long as it doesn’t expand the Court’s jurisdiction beyond the federal judicial power summarized above.
    •     Lower courts: Congress may also decide what lower federal courts there should be, and what cases they may hear.

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