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2.6: End-of-Chapter Material

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    97143

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    Summary

    The United States’ system of government is called federalism and consists of one federal government regulating issues of a national concern and separate state governments regulating local issues. The bulk of criminal lawmaking resides with the individual states because of the police power granted to the states by the Tenth Amendment. Ninety percent of all criminal laws are state laws. Many federal crimes are also state crimes, and a defendant can be prosecuted federally and by a state without triggering double jeopardy protection. If a federal statute exists on an issue, a state statute cannot conflict with it because of the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause.

    The U.S. Constitution establishes three branches of government. The legislative branch consists of Congress and has the authority to create laws. The executive branch is headed by the President of the United States and has the authority to enforce the laws created by the legislative branch. The judicial branch is headed by the US Supreme Court and has the authority to interpret laws and the Constitution. Each branch has checks and balances over the others, and the judicial branch ensures that no branch oversteps its authority and violates separation of powers. State governments mimic the federal branches of government at the state level and set forth authorities in each state’s constitution.

    The federal court system exclusively adjudicates federal matters and consists primarily of the US District Court, the US Court of Appeals or Circuit Court, and the US Supreme Court. Each state has its own court system consisting primarily of a trial court, intermediate court of appeal, and possibly a high court of appeal. Trial courts have original jurisdiction and can accept evidence. Appellate courts have appellate jurisdiction and are limited to reviewing the trial courts’ decisions for error.

    Key Takeaways

    • The three sources of law are constitutional, statutory, and case law.
    • The sources of law are ranked as follows: first, constitutional; second, statutory; and third, case law. Although it is technically ranked the lowest, judicial review makes case law an extremely powerful source of law.
    • The purpose of the US and state constitutions is to regulate government action.
    • One purpose of statutory law is to regulate individual or private action.
    • The purpose of case law is to supplement the law when there is no statute on point and also to interpret statutes and the constitution(s).
    • The court’s power to invalidate statutes as unconstitutional is called judicial review.
    • Law comes from three places, the Constitution, a statute, or a case. Collectively, these categories are commonly referred to as the sources of law
    • The three branches of government are the legislative branch, the executive branch, and the judicial branch.
    • The head of the federal legislative branch of government is Congress. The head of the state legislative branch of government is the state legislature.
    • The Senate represents every state equally because each state has two senators. The House of Representatives represents each citizen equally because states are assigned representatives based on their population.
    • The head of the federal executive branch of government is the president. The head of each state’s executive branch of government is the governor.
    • The head of the federal judicial branch of government is the US Supreme Court. The head of each state judicial branch of government is the highest-level state appellate court.
    • Federal courts are exclusive and hear only federal matters or cases involving diversity of citizenship. State courts are nonexclusive and can hear state and federal matters. All federal criminal prosecutions take place in federal court, and all state criminal prosecutions take place in state court.
    • Jurisdiction is either the court’s power to hear a matter or a geographic area over which a court has authority.
    • Original jurisdiction is a court’s power to hear a trial and accept evidence. Appellate jurisdiction is a court’s power to hear an appeal and review the trial for error.
    • Three federal courts adjudicate criminal matters: the trial court, which is called the United States District Court; the intermediate court of appeal, which is called the United States Court of Appeals or Circuit Court; and the high court of appeal, which is called the United States Supreme Court. The district court has original jurisdiction; the Circuit Court and US Supreme Court have primarily appellate jurisdiction.

    Websites of Interest


    This page titled 2.6: End-of-Chapter Material is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Rob Henderson via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.