Supreme Court of the United States Procedures: Crash Course Government and Politics #20

Hi, I’m Craig, and this is Crash Course Government
and Politics and today, finally, we are stepping into the big leagues. That’s right, I’m trying
out for the Cubs. No, we’re gonna talk about how the Supreme Court of the United States
actually works! I could try out for the Cubs right, Stan? Sometimes people refer to it by the unfortunate
nickname S.C.O.T.U.S but I’m not gonna do it, I’m gonna call it the supreme cocoa, or
cocoa supreme. Now, let’s just be respectful. So strap in and get ready for some highly
technical discussion of procedure as we learn how you, yes you, probably not you, can bring
a case to the Supreme Court. [Theme Music] The first thing you need to take a case to
the Supreme Court is a case, or controversy, and except in certain rare situations where
the court has original jurisdiction, that case has to have already heard and decided
by a lower court and appealed. And not just once; before a case gets to the Supreme Court
you have to have exhausted your appeals at lower levels of the state or federal system.
If you’ve lost your previous appeals but still think that you have an issue worthy of the
court’s attention, you can petition for a writ of certiorari, which people in the know call “the cert”
’cause they’re keepin’ it cash…which is short for casual. For a look at how the court chooses its cases,
let’s go to the Thought Bubble, or the thobub. Lot of nicknames today, Stan! Or ST. Certiorari
is a formal request that the Supreme Court hear your case, but petitioning for a writ
is no guarantee of anything. The federal government’s chief lawyer, the solicitor general, is basically
like a bouncer at a hot club, if you’re old enough to get into a hot club. They screen
out a lot of petitions because those cases don’t raise a lot of federal law questions
or because they’ve already been decided in other cases, or they’re not wearing good enough
shoes to get into the club. If, and it’s a big if, your petition is granted,
it goes into the cert pool – the first round in which the justices decide which cases they’re
actually going to decide. The list of cases that will be decided is called the discussion
list. For the judges to actually hear the case, called granting certiorari, 4 of the
9 justices have to agree to hear it. This is called the rule of 4. The discussion of
the discussion list and decision about whether or not to grant certiorari happens at the
conference, which is like the back of the club where the really well-dressed people
go. So the judges have read your petition and
4 of them have decided that your case is one of about 80 that they will hear, congratulations!
Now you, and the side that disagrees with your position, have to submit briefs. Briefs
are not underwear; briefs are written legal arguments from each side explaining why the
law favors their position. The party bringing the case seeking to overturn the lower court
decision is the petitioner. The party that wants the court to uphold or affirm the lower
court’s decision is called the respondent. The petitioner also files a reply, which attempts
to rebut the respondent, which is not a euphemism. After filing all this, you’re finally on your
way out of the Thought Bubble. I mean you’re on your way to court. Thanks thobub. You might think that there would only be two
briefs in a case, one from each side, and it’s true that there must be at least two.
But often there are many, many more briefs, and even boxer briefs! That’s what Stan wears.
Stan put your pants on! All undergarments aside, individuals or groups who are not actually
parties to the case, but have an interest in the outcome can also file amicus curiae,
or friend of the court briefs. Amicus briefs often contain different legal, economic, or
historical arguments that can sometimes persuade justices and appear in their opinions. They
are also one way that interest groups can attempt to influence the Supreme Court. After the briefs have been filed, the court
schedules oral arguments, giving them time to read and consider the briefs. Each side
gets half an hour to make its case, but this time includes questions from the justices,
so most of the time it’s usually spent answering questions. Imagine a presentation with the
most intense teacher you’ve ever had bombarding you with questions, except that there 9 teachers!
Well, 8 because Clarence Thomas never speaks. After oral arguments, you wait for a decision.
The justices then meet in another conference which is held on a Wednesday or a Friday,
’cause there’s good TV the other days. In order for the court to render an official
decision, 5 of the 9 justices, a majority must agree on at least one of the legal arguments
that either affirms or overturns the lower court’s decision. Although they can also send
a case back down to the lower court for another decision, which is called a remand.
Although, you might call it… a punt! Woo! That was like 30 yards. The chief justice presides over the conference
and assigns the task of writing the court’s decision, called the majority opinion. The
opinions are given in writing, although sometimes justices will read them from the bench. Sometimes
the court will issue a single majority opinion which is a very strong statement of unified
agreement. In the key civil rights case of Brown v. Board of Education, the court issued
a single opinion that was even stronger because it was unanimous. But sometimes the court
will issue multiple opinions on the same case. The decision of the court either to affirm
or overturn the lower court’s ruling is called ‘the holding’, and this is the first thing
you need to know in any Supreme Court decision. The second thing that matters is the legal
reasoning, or rationale, behind the holding. If a justice agrees with the holding in the
majority opinion, but for different legal reasons, they write a concurring opinion.
The rationale in this concurrence is cool and everything, but the lower courts do not
need to follow it. Only the holding of the majority and its rationale are binding on
lower courts. A single justice writes a concurrence, but other justices can sign onto it if they
agree with its logic. For instance, the eagle and I both agree that fish are delicious,
but I would write a concurrence that the scales and the eyeballs are gross. It’s unlikely
this will go to the Supreme Court though. Let’s solve it now. Problem solved. Many Supreme Court cases are not unanimous.
In fact, in an ideologically divided court, you are likely to find a lot of cases decided
by 5 to 4 margins. The judges who are on the losing side who didn’t support the majority
decision can write a dissenting opinion. A dissent does not set a precedent for a lower
court and has no force of law, but often dissents are very eloquent and they can provide arguments
that might persuade later courts in similar decisions. Sometimes, as with the famously
bad case of Plessy v. Ferguson, the arguments in a dissent can form the foundation for the
majority opinion in a later case, even though it can take 50 years to get from a case like
Plessy to Brown v. Board of Education. So that’s the nuts and bolts of how Supreme
Court decisions are made. But before we wrap this up, here are a few key things to remember.
First, there are a lot of hurdles you need to jump over before a court makes a decision
in a case. Most certiorari petitions, there are usually about 8,000 each year, don’t make
it past the clerks or the solicitor general, and don’t get granted. It takes 4 judges to
agree to hear a case, but 5 to render a majority opinion. Only the holding and the rationale
supported by at least 5 of the 9 justices becomes binding precedent for lower courts.
Dissents and concurrences may be fun and interesting to read, especially if there are pictures,
and they may include important legal ideas, but lower courts don’t need to follow them.
So that’s how to court works procedurally, but there’s another way to think about Supreme
Court decision-making. To really understand the Supreme Court, we need to consider the
thinking behind judicial decisions, but that’s for another episode. Thanks for watching. Crash Course Government and Politics is produced
in association with PBS Digital Studios. Support for Crash Course U.S. Government comes from
Voqal. Voqal supports non-profits that use technology and media to advance social equity.
Learn more about their mission and initiatives at voqal.org. Crash Course was made with the
help of these cocoa supremes. Thanks for watching.

Stephen Childs


  1. I liked the information given but that man is distracting, It sounds like he is teaching stupid kindergartners. And even they would role their eye at his incredibly stupid joke. He is worse that a clown. Please script righters stop giving him those bad jokes they are just terrible. The supreme court is not a goofball subject. Finally I don;t much like Thomas but that was pointedly disrespectful. Also he forgot the part were there is always a justice who cam issue a stay of execution as well injunctions for various reasons. And some cases can get by the solicitor general. He is just awful so bad. The punt joke made no science. He s difficult to listen to. I looked it up just now the SG is the office of the respondent. He does not choose the cases of discussion. He was not only too corny for words but what he said was wrong.

  2. How is 30 minutes each side enough time?! Major decisions are all decided by the amount of information able to be discussed during an episode of Looney Tunes?

  3. So if the lower court's are breaking laws, and they continue to abuse their authority, until you have exhausted the lower courts, which could be doomsday when their abusing authority, the supreme court refuse's to hear it! that is BS!

  4. not on 8 chan but on qmap since 17 stage 4 fighting bring it on drop the hammer Q we love you

  5. As the son of Nimrud Alexander, the first CIA Director and his sole heir, and as he was Jewish and had the 1947 Resolution to make Israel a State to be the Safe Haven for Jews who needed to have a homeland, I have dedicated my life since the US attempted to kill me in the St. Joseph Hospital in Burbank, in front of Starbucks on Pass and Oak Streets, and later in the Seventh Day Adventist Hospital, I am making it known that the following comments I posted on my facebook page are hereby posted again:

    This horror was perpetrated by the United States Government by the CIA. It was the work of Dr. John Gunnell born in Canada, who became a US Citizen in order to become the general in charge of the Battle of the Bulge. Dr. John Gunnell is the son of Dr. Joseph Merrick the Elephant Man. No reflection of the Elephant Man who was a Catholic. The Merricks were a Catholic family. In fact, I was baptized a Catholic (even though I was already baptized as a Presbyterian as a baby, so I didn't need to be baptized again. I was already a Christian; but since it meant that I could go to the US, albeit via Canada and Regiopolis College, another Jesuit high school, I agreed. However, John Carey Merrick when he became a young man, he went to Brigham Young University and became a Mormon. He graduated with a BA. He also fought as a boxer by the name of Harry Greb the Pittsburgh Windmill. Obviously he didn't die. Harry Greb has a boxing website. Dr. John Gunnell decided to discard his US Citizenship in order not to stand trial when the US Supreme Court would ask him to come to Washington DC and if found guilty of making the US responsible for the murder of the six million Jews and then blaming it on Germany (and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel has already planned the trial and execution of Dr. John Gunnell to make him pay for the total destruction of Germany by the US and Queen Elizabeth's as the British Monarch who approved the death of the six million Jews and the method of how they were murdered, and later tried to prevent the State of Israel from being formed when as a Queen of Great Britain sent British troops to kill the returning freedom fighters who took back their homeland, the Land of Israel, and flew the Star of David as their flag and they choose the color blue as a sing that Israel was going to be a peacefull nation. Therefore Dr. John Gunnell and Elizabeth II are my target to make sure that the UN Tribunals for Justice should be able to have them both tried and executed by the firing squad. As Dr. John Gunnell has already been sentenced to be executed in Israel by the firing squad, but President Donald Trump is harboring him for financial reasons, and as he is also Canadian born and a traitor, he might also be tried by the same UN Tribunals in order to be executed eventually, also for harboring the two criminals former President Barrack Hussein Obama and his FBI Director James Comey who made multiple attempts and succeeded in assassinating and killing Dr. Barrack Hussein Obama Sr; and since President Donald Trump is also harboring them, and since he has also had the Muslim President Obama raping his wife Melania the First Lady in order 'to teach her a lesson', I am seeking the charging and sentencing all these men who are US Traitors (together with their allies in the US, whomever they may be; I am going to charge them through the US Supreme Court and the UN Tribunals until they are all executed by the firing squad. In the meanwhile if I fail, I shall continue to deny the US and Great Britain the signature under which my father who formed the CIA in 1906 put me in charge of rewarding the US Troops that won the US all wars against their enemies after I bring to Justice the US Traitors mentioned and implied in the US — Victor Nimrud Alexander

  6. I dislike how he explains things. He speaks way to fast for me to grasp hold of the concepts and to process them and slowing the audio resolution doesn't make it better. It would be appreciated if you spoke clearly and not rush to speak. thanks.

  7. As pointed out in other comments, the language around the solicitor general is misleading. Most American Government textbooks point out that, next to the justices, the SG has the greatest power in shaping the flow of cases to the Supreme Court. The wording in the video mixes granting cert with the SG gatekeeping, which is misleading.

  8. you talk way too fast for anyone to follow and all the side comments are extremely distracting. these videos would be soo much more helpful if they were more professional.

  9. and of course the court has rewritten not only the Constitution but Federal Statutes as well. no where in the Constitution does it state that judges shall have absolute immunity, yet the court claims that not only do judges have absolute immunity but so do court clerks have absolute immunity. after all god can do no wrong.

  10. he let in a black woman. Im pretty sure this was done to show they are not racist.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *