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Supreme Court of Sierra
Corte Suprema de Sierra (es)
黃金王國最高法院 (zh)
Tòa án tối cao của Sierra (vn)
시에라 대법원 (kr)
ศาลฎีกาของเซีย (th)
Hukuman ng Sierra Suprema (tl)
シエラの最高裁判所 (ja)
Serran SSerran OSerran MSerran A  Serran CSerran OSerran TSerran E  Serran KSerran I  Serran SSerran ESerran RSerran RSerran A (sb)
Supreme Court of Sierra
Established November 27, 1858
Jurisdiction Kingdom of Sierra
Location Supreme Court Building, Porciúncula
Composition method Prime ministerial nomination, Senate confirmation and royal assent
Authorized by Constitution of Sierra
Judge term length Life
Number of positions One chief justice, eight puisne justices
Website supremecourt.gc.ks
Chief Justice
Currently Preston Brantly
Since March 2, 1997
The Supreme Court of Sierra is the highest federal court in the Kingdom of Sierra and it has the ultimate and discretionary appellate jurisdiction over all inferior federal and provincial courts. The final arbiter and interpreter of both constitutional and federal law, the Supreme Court's scope of power and jurisdiction rests within the Constitution.

The Supreme Court consists of the Chief Justice of Sierra and eight puisne justices who are nominated by the Prime Minister and approved by the Senate and the Monarch. Appointed justices serve for life unless they retire, resign, or are removed from office via impeachment. Each justice are entitled one vote when determining the verdict of a particular case they are presented with. The Court regularly convenes at the Supreme Court Building in Porciúncula where most court hearings are open to the public.

Background

Kingdom of Sierra
Coat of arms of Sierra.svg

This article is part of the series:
Politics and government of the
Kingdom of Sierra


The Constitution of Sierra, which was modeled closely after the United States Constitution, provides for the establishment of a supreme court. A supreme court was seen as the essential counteracting balance to the executive and legislative branches of the Sierran federal government. The court was to be invested with judiciary powers including the right to interpret law and judicial review. As the foundation of the judicial system, all other courts established in Sierra would be inferior which meant that not only were the courts subject to the authority of the Court but virtually any cases and decisions made in the lower courts could, in theory, be brought up to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court is both an appellate and high court of justice. As an appellate court, the Court considers and reviews cases on appeal based on the judgment of inferior courts (usually that from federal district courts). The Supreme Court is also the sole court with the power to rule on legal matters regarding the decisions of federal authorities including acts that may violate the Constitution or federal law. In addition, the Supreme Court may act upon cases that do not otherwise fall under any specific federal court. The Court also has the ability to issue several types of prerogative writs including certiorari and mandamus. The Court may also order a trial de novo wherein it may revive concluded cases and issue a new judgment if deemed necessary to advance the interest of justice.

History

Serranus Hastings

Serranus Hastings, the first Chief Justice of Sierra.

With the ratification of the 1858 Constitution, the Supreme Court was established alongside with the other important organs of the new Sierran federal government. Between 1858 and 1867, the Supreme Court building was located in San Francisco City under the oversight of Serranus Hastings, Sierra's first chief justice. With no precedents or history laid before the new court, the Supreme Court received little reception or attention from politicians and commoners alike. The Court's first case, Santiago v. Hoover (1859) revolved around a land dispute in Central Valley. Under Serranus, the Court helped align the Sierran federalist system closer to the United States' by consolidating more power to the federal government and establishing a clear relationship between the federal and provincial governments.

In 1867, the Serranus Court moved to Porciúncula following the federal decision to change the seat of government from San Francisco City. The Court moved into the current Supreme Court building that year which was right across the street from the Parliament building. The Serranus Court's most prolific case was the Jackson v. Province of the Inland Empire (1867) case where a Southerner from the United States argued that he retained ownership over his slaves whom he had brought over to Sierra. The provincial government seized the man's slaves and promptly freed them in spite of having no laws concerning slavery. The Supreme Court declared that as the slaves were human beings, they could not be treated as property and that what the Inland Empire did was constitutionally upheld. The case paved way to the First Amendment of the Sierran constitution which was proposed and ratified that same year.

In 1862, the Supreme Court asserted the supremacy of the Sierran federal government over the provinces in Johnston-Phillips v. Province of the Inland Empire in which federal law took precedence over provincial and local law. Thomas Johnston-Phillips, a local business owner from the Gold Coast, was granted a letters patent to produce and sell steel throughout the Kingdom. When he attempted to sell steel in the Inland Empire, provincial authorities closed his business and fined him for failing to produce a provincial-issued license and for violating the province-sponsored monopoly of another steel entrepreneur. The Supreme Court declared that letters patent issued by the federal government were supported by the Commerce Clause as it had the power to regulate interprovincial commerce. While the Court upheld the province's requirement of a license, it struck down the province's sponsored monopoly, claiming that interfered with interprovincial commerce as it stifled business and that the law was subservient to the federally-issued patent.

Similar to the judicial progress in the United States, the Supreme Court formulated a concrete principle of substantive due process toward the end of the 19th century. In 1883, Serranus died and was replaced by Chief Justice Henry M. Stevens, who struck down many provincial and federal regulations and laws that interfered with the implicit "liberty of contract" found in the Sierran constitution's Due Process Clause. The Stevens Court and lawmakers in Parliament battled over economic regulations for the next 20 years wherein the principle of government noninterference was championed and gave the Court implicit legislative power and influence over the law. Heavily criticized and met with fierce opposition, Stevens resigned in 1904 and was succeeded by Chief Justice Matthias van Dyke who led Sierra into the new progressive era.

Van Dyke reversed much of the rulings done under Stevens and believed that the government had a social responsibility towards its citizens. In addition, the Van Dyke Court followed the popular political and social trend of the time. As a result, the Court greatly expanded civil liberties within the context of the Constitution. The early 20th century saw Sierra experiencing cultural shift in attitudes toward race, sex, and class, changes that gave rise to modern Sierran culture. In 1906, the Court struck down anti-miscegenation laws (Chung v. Province of Santa Clara, 1906) declaring that governmental prohibition of marriage on the account of race violated both the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of Article IX. At the same time, Van Dyke restricted aspects of government control including striking down mandatory pledge of allegiance (Fontana Valley District v. Hunter, 1934), preventing government infringement of personal privacy (Kingdom of Sierra v. Herwarden), and invalidating federal legislation on affirmative action.

Following Van Dykes' retirement in 1949, Chief Justice Langston Peters was appointed and under his direction, the Peters Court continued most of the policies upheld by the Van Dyke Court although revived rationale exhibited under the Stevens Court. Peters continued upholding cases in favor of civil liberties but overturned various laws whom he believed were violations of the freedom of contract. Peters affirmed the judicial branch's ability to retain its independence from the other branches as well as the power of judicial enforcement. The Peters Court's most prolific and controversial decision dealt with the issue of abortion as was the case in Planned Parenthood of Sierra v. Province of the Gold Coast (1978) and Lambert v. Province of the Gold Coast (1978) wherein Peters ruled in favor of the province in both cases. The province refused to provide funding for abortion clinics and did not force insurance companies to include coverage over abortion under preexisting provincial law. The Peters Court declared that because abortion was a matter of the provincial government, it had the choice of providing and withholding funding towards such procedures or institutions. In the latter case, the Court essentially declared that closely held for-profit corporations were exempt from federal law on moral or religious grounds if the government itself failed to provide that such law was the least restrictive means to further a specific interest. The cases did not alter the legality of abortion which remained a matter up to the provinces but largely struck down direct public and private obligation to financially support abortion procedures. The 1982 case of the Bank of the Orient v. Banking and Financial Services Administration Agency strenghtened the importance of administrative law in relation to the Kindom and established the principle of general deference wherein courts should treat agency regulations and orders as binding law so long as it passed a test of "persuasiveness" and "reasonability" in their cases.

In 1984, Peters died and was succeeded by currently serving Chief Justice Preston Brantly. Under the Brantly Court, Brantly focused on federal preemption and reexamining interpretation of the Constitution, especially within the context of civil liberties. Surveillance laws enabling the government to access private companies' data with direct permission was struck down by the Court (Telecommunication Corporations Association of Sierra v. Kingdom of Sierra, 2004), waterboarding was deemed "cruel and unusual" and therefore illegal (Al-Sadd v. Royal Bureau of Investigation, 2008), and environmental law was dealt with (Province of San Francisco v. Royal Environmental Health and Protection Agency, 2009).

Membership

Name Date of birth Home province Prime Minister Date appointed Party affiliation Law School Prior judicial experience
Preston Brantly
(Chief Justice)
March 27, 1944 San Joaquin Murray April 23, 1984 Royalist University of Gold Coast, Porciúncula Solicitor General of Sierra
Supreme Court of San Joaquin (chief)
Second Circuit Court of San Joaquin
Samuel Strudwick October 10, 1947 Flagstaff Murray June 23, 1987 Royalist Flagstaff State University Third Circuit Court of Appeals (chief)
Provincial Attorney for Flagstaff
Superior Court of Lowell County, Flagstaff (chief)
Isabelle Carmella Ojeda February 2, 1946 Imperial Roberts March 13, 1989 Democratic-Republican Western Inland Empire Law School Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals (chief)
District Court for the Southern District of Imperial (chief)
Anong Metharom February 9, 1951 Orange Roberts March 13, 1989 Democratic-Republican Sierra National University, Grands Ballons Assistant Attorney General
Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals (chief)
District Court for the Eastern District of Orange
Sherry Delano August 25, 1956 Clark Roberts January 3, 1993 Royalist University of Clark, Las Vegas Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (chief)
Superior Court of Paradise County, Clark
Professor at University of Clark, Las Vegas
Rouben Darbinian May 9, 1943 Gold Coast Braggs November 17, 2000 Royalist Glendale Law School Third Circuit Court of Appeals (chief)
Deputy Attorney General of Gold Coast
District Court for the Northern District of Gold Coast
Superior Court of Burbank County, Gold Coast
Michael Kuang September 13, 1957 San Francisco Braggs February 3, 2002 Royalist University of Santa Clara, Berkeley Sierra Court of International Trade
Supreme Court of San Francisco (chief)
District Court for the Central District of the Bay
Ryan Demetriou September 19, 1962 Gold Coast Hong June 3, 2009 Democratic-Republican University of Gold Coast, Porciúncula Third Circuit Court of Appeals
District Court for the Southern District of Gold Coast
Family Court of the Greater Porciúncula Area
Catherine Baker-Perry April 18, 1969 Maricopa Hong June 9, 2011 Independent University of Sonora Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals (chief)
District Court for the Northern District of Sonora
Superior Court of Pima County, Sonora
Deputy Director of the Foreign Action Committee

Court demographics

Currently, the Court has six male and three female justices. One is Latina, two are Asian (Chinese and Han Thai), one is Armenian, one is Greek, and one is Italian. Four of the justices are Baptist, one is Jewish, one is Buddhist, two are Catholic, and one is Armenian Apostolic. The average age is 59 years old and all of the justices have experience in higher education. Puisne Justice Catherine Baker-Perry, appointed on June 9, 2011, became the first openly gay justice in court history and the highest-ranking Sierran ever to have served with such background.

In the past, the Court was predominantly a Protestant, white male institution although since the Sierran Cultural Revolution, the Court has seen much more diversity to better reflect society. Lawrence Thompson was the first African Sierran justice in 1963 and Gabrielle Cortes was both the first female and Hispanic Sierran justice in 1968. Anong Metharom became the first Asian Sierran justice in 1989.

Seniority and seating

Daily procedure and operations in the Court revolve around seniority with the Chief Justice considered the most senior member in Court regardless of his/her actual length of service. All of the Puisne Justices are ranked according to their years of service. Seniority determines where a justice sits at the Court bench during sessions with the Chief Justice in the center and the most junior justices on either extremity of the bench. Traditionally, seniority also determines when one may speak or vote—the Chief Justice generally goes first and then passes along the right to speak or decide according to seniority. With the exception of the Chief Justice and the seating arrangements, seniority has no legal effect on salary, benefits, or privileges.

Salary

As of 2014, the Chief Justice is paid $220,000 annually while puisne justices are paid $210,000. Under Section I, Article VI of the Constitution, the salaries of incumbent justices may not be altered during their service without the expressive approval of the Parliament and the Monarch. Once a justice has reached the age of service requirements (usually between 65 and 80), the justice may choose to retire and continue earning his/her salary in addition to their pension and cost-of-living payments for the remainder of their lives. If a justice opts not to retire, there is no effect to the justice's current salary but once the justice has passed the age of 80, the salary may increase no greater than 1/4th more than his/her original salary.

Facilities

Supreme Court of Sierra

The current building used by the Supreme Court in Porciúncula.

Old Supreme Court of Sierra

The original building used by the Supreme Court in San Francisco City (1858-1867). Today, it now serves as the Superior Court of Anza Vista County, San Francisco.

The Supreme Court first convened on November 28, 1858 in the Old Supreme Court Building in San Francisco City, a day following the promulgation of the modern Sierran kingdom and constitution. An accidental fire at the building in 1861 temporarily forced the Supreme Court to conduct hearings in an unused chamber in the Old Parliament building for two months while the other building was repaired. Following the decision to relocate the seat of government from San Francisco City to Porciúncula, the Supreme Court held its last meeting at the Old Supreme Court Building on August 23, 1867.

The new Supreme Court building in Porciúncula was built out of stone and marble and imitated the popular Greek neoclassical architectural trend in the United States and Europe. The building featured the main courtroom, offices for the justices, a law library, meeting offices, and a kitchen. Over the years, the Supreme Court received renovation and a building annex was constructed to support Court operations. The kitchen was upgraded to a cafeteria, a gymnasium and bowling alley was installed, a garden was grown, and additional office spaces were created.

Located across the street from the Parliament Building at North Spring Street, the building as well as its annexes are accessible to the public from 9 AM to 4:30 PM (may close earlier depending on the time of sunset) but closed on weekends and holidays. Whenever the Court is out of session, tour guides and lectures are available hourly and there is unrestricted public access (with the exception of the courtroom proper and the security clearances). Whenever the Court is in session or conducts a public hearing, there is limited access to the courtroom where civilians may listen to Court oral arguments. On a first-come, first-serve basis, the courtroom itself can accommodate up to 400 visitors. Since 2007, select cases and hearings from the courtroom are televised and streamed online. Prior to that, all active cases could not be viewed by the public and photographs were not allowed. Since then, the Supreme Court has opened up in an effort to meet government transparency demands.

Jurisdiction

Subsection I of Article VI of the Constitution outlines the Supreme Court's jurisprudence and discretionary power over the federal and provincial courts in Sierra:

The judicial power shall extend to all cases, in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the Kingdom, and treaties made, or which shall be made, under this authority;–to all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls;–to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction;–to controversies to which the Kingdom shall be a party;–to controversies between two or more Provinces;–between citizens of different Provinces;–between citizens of the same Province claiming lands under grants of different Provinces, and between a Province, or the citizens thereof, and foreign states, citizens or subjects.

Subsection II of Article VII however limits the scope of the federal courts including the Supreme Court by forbidding them from hearing any cases propagated against a citizen of another province or foreign state.

The judicial power of the Kingdom shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the Kingdom by citizens of another Province or by citizens or subjects of any foreign state.

There are however, some cases in which the Supreme Court may review such cases as in the event that a province waives this immunity. In addition, under extraordinary circumstances, the Supreme Court may temporarily annul a province's immunity if the case must be reviewed and the act is necessary to advance the interests of justice. Aside from constitutional restraints, Parliament is authorized by Subsection II of Article VI to regulate the Court's appellate jurisdictional oversight.

The Constitution declares that the Supreme Court may exercise original jurisdiction in cases concerning domestic envoys, disputes between the provinces, and other matters not designated to either the provincial courts or inferior federal courts. The Court has appellate jurisdiction over all other cases but is the only federal court that has direct jurisdiction over appeals from provincial courts.

Process

The Supreme Court receives and hears cases on a routine basis based on the judicial calendar. The judicial year begins on the first Monday of September to the last Friday of May or June the following year. Between the end of the previous judicial year and the following year, the Supreme Court is on extended recess and does not hear any cases. However, if circumstances provide it to be necessary, Parliament or the Monarch may summon for the Supreme Court to convene on a specific case during this recess. During an active judicial year, an alternating schedule of "sessions" and "recesses" (usually every 2 weeks) determines whether the Court hear cases and deliver rulings (the former) or discuss cases and write opinions (the latter). Virtually every case that derives from an inferior court must petition to be reviewed in the form of writs of certiorari. Cases where the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction do not need to file a writ of certiorari to be heard or reviewed by the Court. Petitions are reviewed by all the justices and if five chooses to approve the case, the petition will be added to all the cases the Supreme Court must convene on.

Administrative function

Aside from its adjudicative, the Supreme Court is responsible for administrating the federal court system through the National Bureau of Court Administration. The bureau is a branch of the Supreme Court which represents the highest authority in court administration. All of the Supreme Court justices as well as retired justices are chairpersons of the bureau by ex officio. The bureau regulates standard judicial procedure, discipline court officials and employees, requests and lobbies the budgetary demands of the courts in Parliament, and rule on other matters concerning court administration. The bureau is also run by a civilian administrative body who handles the daily operations and general administration of the judicial branch.

See also

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