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2.8 The Judicial Branch

2 min readjune 11, 2020

Akhilesh Shivaramakrishnan

Akhilesh Shivaramakrishnan


AP US Government 👩🏾‍⚖️

240 resources
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The judicial branch is the 3rd branch of government and is outlined in Article III of the Constitution. Other key foundations of judicial branch power include one of the foundational documents, Federalist No. 78, along with the case Marbury v. Madison.
Back in the overview of this guide - remember that we discussed that the main function of the judicial branch is to interpret the laws. In order to do this effectively, this branch must be independent. Federalist No. 78 does address this extremely important power of the judicial branch - judicial review. It states that judicial review would protect from abuse of power by Congress.

Judicial Review

Judicial review is the power by which the Supreme Court can review actions of the other branches of government (executive and legislative), and declare them unconstitutional.
This is a major check that the judicial branch has on the other branches. The concept of judicial review was established by Marbury v. Madison. Watch our supreme court cases stream or read the guide for more specifics about this case!

Structure of the Judicial Branch

The Judiciary Act of 1789 was a key piece of legislation as it established the 3-level federal court system which remains today. District courts are the first level of the federal court system. There are 94 district courts, with each state having at least 1.
They decide both civil and criminal cases under original jurisdiction (this just means that they have the power to hear the case first). The next level of the federal court system includes the circuit courts of appeals. There are 13 of these courts of appeals, and they do not hold trials. It is important to remember that these courts decide issues of LAW not issues of FACT.
The highest court in the United States, and the only one specified in the Constitution is the Supreme Court. It reviews cases from state supreme courts as well as federal courts of appeal. 

Marbury v. Madison and Judicial Review

Federalist No. 78 does address this extremely important power of the judicial branch - judicial review. It states that judicial review would protect from abuse of power by Congress. Judicial review is the power by which the Supreme Court can review actions of the other branches of government (executive and legislative), and declare them unconstitutional.
This is a major check that the judicial branch has on the other branches. The concept of judicial review was established by Marbury v. Madison.

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