網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

judge. In every State there is at least one District Court and in the larger States there are several. Altogether there are in the United States about one hundred District Courts. The District Court has original jurisdiction in nearly all those classes of cases both civil and criminal which arise under the laws of the United States. In this court are tried admiralty and maritime cases, copyright and patent cases, counterfeit cases, cases arising under the postal laws, cases arising under the laws regulating immigration, and naturalization, cases arising under the laws regulating commerce, and other classes of cases cognizable by the authority of the United States.

II. The Circuit Courts of Appeal. For the trial of certain classes of cases upon appeal Congress has established nine judicial circuits and has provided for each circuit a court known as the Circuit Court of Appeals. This court is composed of regular circuit judges and of judges of the other courts, three judges being necessary for the trial of a case. To the Circuit Court of Appeals are brought all appeals from the District Court except in the five following instances : (1) When the case involves a question of jurisdiction; (2) when it involves the construction of the Constitution of the United States; (3) when it involves a question of the constitutionality of a law; (4) when it involves the construction of a treaty; (5) when it involves conviction for higher crimes. These excepted cases must be taken direct from the District Court to the Supreme Court. In all other cases than these the appeal from the District Court lies to the Circuit

Court of Appeals. The decisions of the Circuit Court of Appeals are made final in certain enumerated classes of cases, including copyright, patent and admiralty cases, thus relieving the Supreme Court entirely of those classes of cases. The cases not enumerated as final are still appealable to the Supreme Court.

III. The Supreme Court, consisting of the Chief Justice and eight associate justices. This court holds its regular sessions in the Capitol at Washington, sitting from October to July. The presence of at least six judges is required in the trial of a case, and the judgment of a majority is necessary in rendering a decision. The Chief Justice presides at the sessions of the court, but when the court is forming its decision he is on an equality with the other judges. He has but one vote, and that is often cast with the minority. The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction in all cases affecting ambassadors, ministers and consuls, and in those cases in which a State is one of the parties to the controversy (110). Its appellate jurisdiction includes certain cases which are brought up to it from the Circuit Court of Appeals, and all those cases which must be brought to it direct from the District Courts. As there is no higher tribunal a decision of the Supreme Court of the United States is accepted as being the law of the land.

CHAPTER VII

THE STATE LEGISLATURE

In outward form, at least, the legisture of one State, although it may be widely separated by distance, and although it is created independently, is very much like that of another State. All legislatures meet at the State capital; the upper house is always called the Senate and is always much smaller than the lower house, which is usually called the House of Representatives; in all the States members must reside in the district which they represent; in all but eight States the legislature meets every two years, and in all but eight the length of its session is limited to a term that varies from forty to ninety days; in all the States the compensation of members is the same for both houses; in all the States but one a law passed by the legislature can be vetoed by the governor, and the veto can be overcome by a majority vote or by threefifths or a two-thirds vote of both houses; in every State each house is the judge of the qualifications and election of its own members.

Upon assembling, each house of a newly elected legislature elects its presiding officer. In the lower house this officer is called the speaker; in the Senate he is called chairman or president. In most of the States there is a lieutenant-governor, who presides in the Senate but does not vote except where there is a tie. As soon as a clerk, a sergeant-at-arms, doorkeepers, messengers and other minor officers have been elected the presiding officer of each house announces the committees, which are as numerous as the interests and subjects that engage the attention of the legislature, the most important being those on finance, corporations, municipalities, the judiciary, appropriations, elections, education, labor, manufactures, agriculture, railroads. The committees are agencies of the utmost importance, for they are the channels through which all legislation must pass.

Any proposed law, called a bill, immediately after it is introduced and read, is referred to its proper committee. The committee considers the bill in a private room where citizens may appear to defend or oppose it, and if it thinks the bill ought not to become a law it reports it unfavorably, and thus usually kills it. It is possible to pass a bill after it has been thus unfavorably reported, but this is rarely done. The judgment of the committee is practically final. If the bill is reported favorably its title is read and it is allowed to pass upon its second reading. In its regular order it comes up for its third and last reading. Now it is read in full, amended, perhaps, and voted upon. If it fails to get a majority of the votes that is probably the last of it. If it receives a majority of the votes it is sent to the other branch to be acted upon. Here it is referred by the presiding officer to its proper committee, is read three times upon three different days, is fully discussed upon its last reading, and is then voted upon. If it passes without amendments made in this second branch it goes to the governor to be signed by him. If it passes with amendment it must be returned to the house in which it originated to be voted upon in its amended form. If it passes in the house in that form it becomes, as far as the legislature is concerned a law. If there is trouble over the amendment a joint committee, or conference committee, consisting of several members from each house, is appointed to see what can be done to settle the matter. The action of this committee, if it reaches an agreement, is usually accepted by both houses. A bill may originate in either house, but, as a rule bills for raising revenue must originate in the lower house, because this branch is supposed to be closer to the taxpayers.

After a bill has passed both houses it is sent to the governor for his approval. In order to guard against hasty and unwise legislation, and especially against encroachments of the legislature upon the other two departments, the governor, like the President of the United States, can (in all but one State) forbid the passage of a bill by his veto. When he does this he sends the bill back, with his objections stated in writing, to that branch of the legislature that sent it to him. The bill may be voted upon again, and if it can secure the number of votes required by the constitution in such cases it becomes a law in spite of the governor's veto.

To make laws effective there must be strong public

« 上一頁繼續 »