In the 2012 election, 59% of eligible citizens cast a ballot. However, only 36% of Americans could name all three branches of government in a recent poll. This discrepancy is explained by yet another statistic: Fully 72% of Americans think they know all three branches.
Meanwhile, the people asking the questions aren’t much brighter. One question the poll asked was: “If the Supreme Court rules on a case 5 to 4, does this mean ... ?” Three answers were provided:
- The decision is the law and needs to be followed
- The decision is sent back to Congress for reconsideration
- The decision is sent back to the lower courts to be decided there
The first answer is the most likely one, but not the only right one. The Supreme Court can remand (by a vote of 5-4, 9-0, or anything in between) a case to a lower court for reconsideration based on other parts of its ruling. For example:
Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated a decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The high court sent the case back, instructing the appeals court to give consideration to the court's recent decision in Tolan v. Cotton, 572 U. S. ___ (2014).
Eight months after hearing oral arguments, amid much anticipation, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday sent a prospectively landmark affirmative action case involving the University of Texas at Austin back to a lower court.