Jan 13 2016

A Supreme Judiciary

The US Supreme Court was not described in detail in the US Constitution in 1787. However, three things were made clear:

  • The US Constitution is the “supreme law of the land”
  • A Judicial branch serves to balance the Legislative and Executive branches
  • The power of the Judicial branch was established in a supreme court and a system of inferior courts to be defined later

In 1789 the Judiciary Act established a three tier layer of courts: the Supreme Court, Circuit courts, and District courts.

Supreme Court justices serve for life.

The Marbury v. Madison ruling in 1803 established the power of review by the Supreme Court of laws passed by the Legislative branch.

The Fourteenth Amendment, ratified in 1868 after the Civil War, used the term, “equal protection of the laws” to extend the protection of federal rights to the states and therefore involve the Supreme Court in state affairs.

The factors listed above have created a Supreme Court that is aristocratic in essence and circumvents many of the checks and balances originally instituted in the American system of government.

Both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison disagreed with the idea that the Supreme Court had the exclusive authority to rule on whether or not a law is constitutional. They argued that states had the right to declare Federal laws unconstitutional and it was inherently wrong for the top Federal court to be the arbiter of disputes between Federal and state issues.

Both the Congress and the States actually have the power to restrain the Supreme Court, but seem to lack both the awareness that they can do that and the political will to follow through.