Thursday, May 26, 2011


The Supreme Court

The United States Supreme Court has been a model for other nations in their construction and adoption of national constitutions.  It is clear today that if a nation has a written constitution there must be a body named in that document to enforce the constitution itself.  That is, a constitution requires a constitutional court.  In most of the world, constittional courts are highly respected and care is taken in chosing the justices to retain public confidence in the court.

In our country the creation of a constitutional court came about almost by accident.  The members of the convention of 1787 who drew up the federal constitution did not see enforcing the constitution as a role of the Supreme Court.  Instead, they believed, the enforcer would be the President who would have the power to veto laws passed by Congress if they were unconstitutional.  The requirement that enforcing the constitution should be done by a body not subject to political pressures was demonstrated by the first Chief Justice, John Marshal.  The case which asserted and established the Court's power to enforce the constitution is known as "Marbury vs. Madison."

As Shakespeare wrote, the evil that men do lives after them.  The good is often buried with their bones.  One can say the same about our Supreme Court.  Most of the decisions have been good ones and no one talks about them.  What we remember and talk about have been some of the bad ones.  Here are a few bad ones:

There are other examples of bad decisions, but you see my point.  The Court is not perfect.  However, it has a very important function in our government, that of policing the other two branches, legislative and executive.  In order to carry out its function the Court has to retain the respect of the public.  It must be both politically neutral and legally knowledgeable.  It is unfortunate that recent Presidents have deliberately proposed candidate justices who were biased in favor of economic and political ideologies that agreed with those of the President and his supporters.  It is equally unfortunate that the Senate did not, in most cases, determine and debate the biases of the candidates before voting to confirm them.

Labels: , ,

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?