Appellate Judges and Justices - Explained
What are the Dutties of Appellate Judges
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What are appellate court judges or justices?Appellate court judges serve as legal reviewers of trial court decisions. They determine whether the substance and procedure of the trial were Constitutionally adequate or sound.
Next Article: Right to Jury Trial - 6th and 7th Amendments Back to: US COURT SYSTEM
What are the duties of appellate court judges or justices?The duties of an appellate court judge are distinct from those of a trial judge.
How do Appellate Judges determine if the Law was applied correctly?
- Some people would argue that a procedural error should never be grounds for overturning a trial court decision. Others would agree that it should only be grounds for overturning the trial court's decision if it is prejudicial to one of the parties. Whether overturning part or all of the decision is, yet again, a matter of opinion. Some might say that an error in one part spoils the entire decision. Others would agree that dissecting the court's decision and upholding the portion unrelated to the procedural error is appropriate. Substantive errors generally draw more consensus in support of overturning the case. It's likely more people would opine that overturning the entire case is appropriate in such a scenario, as the error of substantive law is far more likely to sway the jury's verdict and findings.
- The appellate court will review the record for procedural and substantive errors. Generally, a procedural error will only affect the decision if prejudicial to the defendant. In this case, allowing the jury to hear a confession that should be excluded on constitutional grounds would be highly prejudicial. Rejecting the defendant's request for a trial by judge alone is likely not a procedural error unless the local rules of evidence grant the defendant that right. The appellate court would also review the jury's instruction to determine if there was a substantive error in the manner in which the law was explained to the jury. An incorrect explanation would certain by prejudicial and result in the case being overturned and remanded.
How do Appellate Judges determine whether a law is Constitutional?
This generally means evaluating the law based upon the appropriate legal standard: Strict Scrutiny, Intermediate Scrutiny, or Rational Basis Standard.
- This discussion goes back to ones view on the role of the court in shaping the law. A judicial activist would say that the role of the court is to step in an interpret these matters in light of public sentiment. Someone who believes in judicial restraint would say that these matters should be addressed by the legislature and not the courts.
- The court will review the constitutionality of the law that has been introduced. It will address the question of whether the Federal Government has the authority to mandate and individual go through the process of acquiring a drivers license. The Federal Governments authority is based upon the Taxing and Spending Power and the Commerce Clause. If the court rules that the Federal Government has this authority, it will apply a standard of review based upon whether a fundamental right is involved. Since that does not appear to be the case (as no enumerated right appears to be infringed, and there is no denial of due process), the courts decision will likely stand under the minimum rationality standard of review, as the law is closely related to a legitimate government interest.
How do Appellate Judges Develop the Common Law?
- Some would argue that the ability of the judiciary to develop laws through interpretation of the law is to ensure that the letters and spirit of the law are upheld. This in other sense ensures that the fundamental principles of a nation are promoted. Others would argue that it usurps power that the Constitution reserves for the legislature. Two example of a case where an appellate court overturned a lower courts decision was in the case of Lochner V. New York (1905), which was later overturned by West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish (1937),
- It would possibly affect the trial court's decision. Trial courts do not generally venture into the realm of interpreting whether a statute is Constitutional. It will, however, apply the current state of the law. If Adam can present this case to the court, the court may be convinced that this is indeed the current state of the law. If so, that would serve as a defense for Adam. If the trial court is not convinced that the ruling in the case is the current state of the law, then it would likely not affect the court's findings. It would, however, open up grounds for appeal of the trial court's decision.