American Judicial Power
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American Judicial Power

The State Court Perspective

Michael Buenger and Paul J. De Muniz

American Judicial Power: The State Court Perspective is a welcome addition to the breadth of studies on the American legal system and provides an accessible and highly illuminating overview of the state courts and their functions.
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Chapter 2: Key concepts

Michael Buenger and Paul J. De Muniz


A precise definition of the term “judicial power” is difficult to come by in large measure because the exercise of such power is so dependent on its constitutional, political and cultural context. Yet in a larger sense, how a state or a nation defines this term has tremendous implications on the authority of the courts in relationship to specific cases and their larger governmental role. So contextual is this term, that it is often defined by judges either in reference to inclusive case considerations of what it is, e.g., “each and every type of case or controversy defined as part of the judicial power” excluding cases deemed to be trivial, or in reference to more philosophical considerations for what it is, e.g., “a judicial act seems to be an act done by competent authority, upon consideration of facts and circumstances, and imposing liability or affecting the rights of others,” or in reference to what might be called the “soup bowl” definition, e.g., the “authority or capacity which is necessary or proper to render it [judicial power] effective”.

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