AP US Government : Structure of the Federal Courts

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP US Government

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Example Questions

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Example Question #272 : National Government Institutions

Which of the following is not one of the main obstacles to Senate confirmation that have historically stood in the way of a President’s nominee to the Supreme Court?

Possible Answers:

A President who nominates their candidate right at the beginning of his/her first term

A President whose party has a minority in the Senate

A nominee who has committed proven (or otherwise substantial) ethical and/or competency violations

A nominee whose views make it likely that his/her nomination will alter the Court’s policy balance

Correct answer:

A President who nominates their candidate right at the beginning of his/her first term

Explanation:

When it comes to obstacles faced by a President’s Supreme Court nominee during the Senate confirmation process, there are a few crucial challenges which can delay or even prevent entirely a nomination. History has shown that when a President nominates a new justice right at the end of his/her term in office, the Senate is likely to object. Senators of either party tend to take more issue with a lame-duck President attempting to nominate a new justice than a freshly inaugurated Chief Executive – usually because it is considered unfair (even unsavory) to allow an outgoing President to make such a substantial appointment. Similarly, a President whose political party holds only a minority in the Senate quite naturally often finds his/her Supreme Court nominee subjected to long rounds of debate and other confirmation delays; without a majority of Senators on his side, the Chief Executive can find it difficult to marshal enough definite supporters. On a more personal note, if information comes to the Senate’s attention that a prospective justice has committed (or even seems likely to have committed) ethical and/or competency violations, naturally this poses quite a substantial problem for the nominee. Delays and/or nomination denial have also occurred if it seems apparent to the Senate that a nominee’s views or policy beliefs could lead them to rule in a manner that would alter the Court’s already established balance of decisions (for example, if the new judge is more conservative, that would help the Court’s other conservatives to outnumber the more liberal justices).

Example Question #22 : Structure Of The Federal Courts

Which of the following is not currently one of the main influences upon the selection and appointment of modern federal judges?

Possible Answers:

Ethics and/or morality 

Partisanship 

Competency 

Geography 

Correct answer:

Geography 

Explanation:

Unlike today, when it came to the selection and appointment of federal judges during the nation’s first century, geography played an important role. Presidents and Senators alike looked to a nominee’s geographic background, specifically which region of the country he (nominees in those days were exclusively male) was born in. Geographic considerations were so weighty because often, allegiance to either the Northern or Southern areas of the country carried with it a commonly-held set of opinions on the nation’s most divisive issues (especially slavery, popular sovereignty, and tariffs). In order to preserve the balance of the power in the nation’s capital, as well as the overall impartiality of federal courts, it was vital that a nominee’s geographic allegiances were taken into account, so as not to unduly imbalance decisions or to encourage biased rulings. However, since the close of the nineteenth century, geography has gradually ceased to be so vital; nowadays, the President and Senators tend to place more importance on a nominee’s partisan and/or ideological leanings, as well as their track records concerning both ethical and competent conduct.

Example Question #21 : Structure Of The Federal Courts

There must be at least _______________ District Court in every state.

Possible Answers:

1

2

3

4

Correct answer:

1

Explanation:

This should have been an easy question. The correct answer is 1. There must be at least 1 District Court in every state. That said, there is no legal upper bound for how many district courts a state may have. Georgia, for example, has three district courts. Florida has three as well, California has four, and Alaska has one. 

Example Question #21 : Structure Of The Federal Courts

How many Circuit Courts (federal Courts of Appeals) are there? IMPORTANT: For the purposes of this question, please disregard the “Federal Circuit.”

Possible Answers:

7

12

5

  11
       

Correct answer:

12

Explanation:

This is a slightly tricky question. The correct answer is “12,” although many of you may have been tempted by the answer 11. There are 11 numbered circuits (that is, the “First” through the “Eleventh” Circuit). There are, however, 12 circuits overall, because D.C. has its own Circuit (helpfully named the “D.C. Circuit).

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