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Judicial Branch

Another of the three branches of government is the judiciary branch or the court system. Again, our society is too complex to have a single court. Instead, we have courts located in our states and districts within our more populated states. These courts are where people go if they have a dispute with someone else. We prefer using an objective “trier” to resolve our disputes; because the alternative probably is “going behind the shed and seeing who returns.” We do not want to use violence to resolve our disagreements -- that takes away from the civilized society we are seeking. An objective judicial system is considered a more “civilized” way to resolve disputes.

The court will listen to each party explain the dispute, and then determine a solution. Sometimes a judge makes that determination; other times we rely on a jury to determine the solution. Even in trials with a jury, a judge is present to assure that the process (the trial) is conducted according to our laws and that the decision of the jury is consistent with our laws. These laws can be statutes that the legislative branch has enacted, or previous court decisions (which we refer to as precedence or common law). The courts are also responsible for interpreting ambiguities or uncertainties in the law.

Although empowered with considerable discretion with which to interpret law, the courts are limited to interpreting the law to fulfill the intent of the legislature that created the law. Even if the justices do not agree with the program the legislature created, as long as the legislation does not violate the Constitution, the court will interpret and enforce the law as the legislature intended. The court does not have the authority to override the legislature.

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