The Judicial branch

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  • September 24th, 1789 - the First United States Congress establishes the basic structure of the Federal Judiciary. With this act, the American legal system becomes an entity entwined with our fundamental notions of democracy and fair government, equal in power and authority to the Executive and Legislative branches. This program guides viewers through the history of the Judiciary and illustrates how it works in theory and practice. Topics include the main purposes of the Judicial branch - specifically, interpreting the law, determining if laws are unconstitutional, and applying the law to individual cases; the various divisions and levels of courts, such as lower, appellate, and specialized courts; the unique powers of the Supreme Court; summaries of famous Supreme Court cases; and more.


  • Encoded with permission for digital streaming by Films Media Group on Dec. 11, 2009.
  • Films on Demand is distributed by Films Media Group for Films for the Humanities & Sciences, Cambridge Educational, Meridian Education, and Shopware.
  • Mode of access: Internet.
  • System requirements: FOD playback platform.


  • Interpreting the Constitution (1:10) -- The Origins of the Judicial Branch (2:36) -- The District Courts (2:13) -- The Supreme Court (1:27) -- Chief Justice (2:06) -- How Cases are Heard (2:10) -- Supreme Court Opinions (3:32) -- The State Court System (1:19) -- Judicial Review (3:11)
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