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Research Paper on the Judicial Branch

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  • Pages: 9
  • Word count: 2035
  • Category: Law

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On May 28, 1788 Alexander Hamilton wrote the Federalist 78. He stated “The Judiciary…has no influence over the sword or the purse… it may be truly said to have neither force nor will, but merely judgment… the judiciary is beyond comparison, the weakest of the three departments of power…” This statement has only grown more valid with each passing year due to biases and inefficiency. The United States Judicial branch is an inefficient branch of government. It consists of one chief justice, eight associate justices. Once appointed by the president they can only be removed from office by death, impeachment, or retirement. The current system today is still the slow inefficient branch that it was when it was founded over 223 years ago. The duties include the following: “Interpreting state laws, settling legal disputes, determining the innocence of an individual, punishing violators of the law, hearing civil cases, and checking the powers of the legislative and executive branch”(The White House).

The speed and presence of bias causes the Judicial Branch to be a weak and inefficient branch of government. The process takes roughly a year for the Supreme Court to make a decision on a case. During the year, they are influenced by social media, as well as others in the court. This makes some of the courts decisions to be biased or influenced which causes some cases to not be fairly tried. The courts often go into gridlock because they often cannot come to a consensus, which causes the process to take even longer. The Chief Justice John Roberts is a considered a liberal conservative. However the Supreme Court is has a conservative slant, causing John Roberts’s job to be a hard one. Thus causing the Supreme Court to come to a consensus, increasing the time it takes to come to a decision and sometimes forcing the court into gridlock. (Gibson) Alexander Hamilton predicted such faults within the Supreme Court some 200 years ago.

From the very beginning of our democratic nation the interpretation of the Constitution was an issue of differing views. It was these differing views that separated the government in the beginning; there were now loose and strict constitutionalists. There were those who believed that anything was permitted as long as the Constitution didn’t specifically say it was banned, these were the loose constitutionalists. The strict constitutionalists, on the other hand, saw the Constitution as guidelines; if it wasn’t specifically stated in the document it was not to be done. This was an example of the contrasting interpretations of the Constitution (Faragher). This is now known as judicial activism and judicial restraint.

The federal courts were finally authorized to officially judge laws put in place in 1803 in the Marbury v. Madison case. It was at this time that the Supreme Court was given the power of Judicial Review. Although, this is not an immediate act, the Legislative and Executive branch would have already passed the law and instilled it within the public before it would be discussed in the federal courts to determine its constitutionality (McBride). The judiciary “ultimately depends on the aid of the executive [branch]” (Hamilton). As Hamilton said in his papers, “[ the judiciary] has no influence over the sword or the purse…merely judgment” (Hamilton).

As a result of the constitution being interpreted by the Supreme Court on law constitutionality, many presidents voiced their opinion on the power of the courts. In the after math of the Depression, in 1937, Roosevelt stated that “he considered a proposal to amend the Constitution and add explicit authority for government intervention in the economy, but he chose the more moderate plan of altering the makeup of the Court because he ‘was consistent in his belief that the real problem was not one of law per se, but of law being twisted by ideologically driven, outcome-oriented judges”'(Toobin). This goes back to judicial restraint and advocates not voicing or demonstrating bias due to personal philosophies or ideologies that arise from the interpretation of the Constitution (Katers).

The interpretation of the Constitution by the Supreme Court also depends on what side the justices, especially the Chief Justice, is on. Presently, under Chief Justice John Roberts, the President’s healthcare plan was passed through. Although at first he sided with the right side he switched by the end of the decision, siding with the majority to put the Obamacare plan into action. Although Justice Clarence Thomas states that if it were up to him it would not be permitted, “The Founding Fathers confirmed that most areas of life would remain outside the reach of the Federal Government” (Toobin)(Negrin). Although in the end neither matters; for like Hamilton said in his federalist papers “[The judicial Branch] may truly be said to have neither force nor will” (Hamilton) for with the legislature, the executive has the power to enact the laws of the nation. Supreme Court has received its fair share of ridicule over the years. The most prevalent complaint against the Court is that it is a system that is weak because it is easily influenced. There are many ways that the court’s decision making process is influenced; through the legal influences, and the outside and inside political influences.

A major way that the court seems to be influenced is through outside sources and especially through public opinion and support, because the government is supposed to rule with the “consent of the governed”. If the government fails to appease the public then it is failing to do its job, which is why public opinion is such a huge influence on court decisions. One example where this is brought to attention was in the 1930’s when the majority of the Supreme Court opposed the agricultural policies of Roosevelt’s New Deal. After Roosevelt was re-elected in 1936 and 1940 and he won substantial majorities, the same justices “accepted the same legislation they has originally opposed” (“Countries Quest”). Media also plays a major role in how the court is influenced. In the case of Trayvon Martin, the media portrayed him as an innocent boy that played football, when in reality he was almost an adult and tattooed. He even posted things like “plzz shoot da #mf dat lied 2 u!” to his twitter account, proving that this young man could be perceived as a threat (“Daily Caller”). This did not give Zimmerman the right to kill Trayvon but, this shows that it is conceivable that Trayvon could have been seen as a hazard. By portraying Trayvon Martin as a much more innocent person then he actually was it is extremely unfair to Zimmerman who had to go through this court system that has already formed a bias.

Another way that the court has been potentially influenced is by having to follow the laws and carry out procedures legally. Some of these legal influences get their start at the very beginning of the process of the Court; selecting the Court Justices. When President picks out these individuals, who are then approved by senate there is much room for bias. If a president happens to appoint many of the justices within their term then there is definitely possibility for all those individuals to have mind sets similar to that of the presidents. This would allow no room for diversity in the court, which would be very unfair to the court cases that involved values that most of the judges were against. The courts are also influenced through their own system because the Solicitor General decides what cases go to court and what cases don’t. Since every person has their own political beliefs the Solicitor General and their opinion have serious influence on the court system. Perhaps the most recognized form of legal influences on the court has been the Constitution, which has been interpreted many ways. Because of the fact that this document was written over 200 years ago by men of the elitist class it has some biases of its own that has had major influence on law making to this day.

Of all the influences on the court the one that probably has the biggest impact on the court’s decision making is the inside influences. Each judge that is appointed into the Supreme Court does so with their own upbringing and their own beliefs. These individual beliefs affect how these justices make decisions; if all the judges lean more to the conservative side that is definitely going to make a difference on whether or not they choose to pass a piece of legislature that forbids gun use by civilians. There is also the fact that these judges typically represent the older population, most of the judge’s “views were shaped during a time when nearly a quarter of our population was not yet born” (Dow). The judges much like most of the government doesn’t represent the majority and instead come from the upper class. Many decisions reflect this and interfere with the will of the people. In the 19th century when the court upheld segregation and then latter permitted women from practicing law is an example of when the court failed to “protect minority”.

Here are a few examples of the Supreme Court’s weak decision making. The Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade has had an impact on America for the worst. Established in Marbury v. Madison, the Supreme Court’s job was to interpret the Constitution and whatever the Supreme Court decided was accepted. But with the Roe v. Wade decision it is still an ongoing problem and a large part of politics today. In 1973 the Supreme Court did decide that “the Texas statue violated Jane Roe’s constitutional right to privacy” (PBS). If the Supreme Court made it clear that “the Constitution’s First, Fourth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments protect an individual’s ‘zone of privacy’ against state laws and cited…marriage contraception, and child rearing are activities covered in this ‘zone of privacy’” why is abortion still an ongoing debate (PBS)? The Supreme Court gives the state power to make more restrictions on abortion so they have the power to refine their own abortion laws. The issues about abortion should come up in State Legislatures rather than a policy issue in primary elections and the general election. After the decision was made the Supreme Court should have established to the nation the power the individual states had to refine these laws. But the Supreme Court’s weakness was established in cases earlier than the seventies.

The Civil Rights Movement that branched from two Supreme Court Decisions that contradict each other. Plessy v. Ferguson established “Separate but equal” and initially birthed segregation in 1895. But, in 1954 Brown v. Board of Education desegregated the schools, and initially started the desegregation of America. The changes of justices in the United States have a direct effect on policies and decisions made, and the outcome as well. The Civil Rights Movement was a movement that turned violent when African Americans fought for their rights. Another root of the Civil Rights Movement was the ignorance of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments. These amendments extended the first ten amendments to African Americans and gave them the right to vote.

Southerners often made blacks take literacy test which gave them an unfair advantage and African Americans a disadvantage considering their lack of knowledge. Also, Jim Crow laws separated minorities and whites in southern but the institutions that were created were not equal. The Supreme Court did not enforce these laws and in order to make the 14th and 15th amendments recognized Lyndon B. Johnson signed off on the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 recognized the racial injustices and enforced action against them, which was the original purpose of the 14th and 15th amendments. From what has been said, the weaknesses of the judiciary have been made clear. It is impressive to think that a man born over 250 years ago correctly predicted a serious problem that affects the US Government to this day. Now that his points have been validated, the problems of the judiciary have been made public in hopes that they will be fixed in the near future.

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