The Supreme Court

All of my notes from last year. These got me through what I thought was the hardest topic in the course - hope they help you too!

Note: I've put up a separate list of some of the most important Supreme Court cases (

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The Supreme Court
Who are the Supreme Court justices?
John Roberts ­ Chief Justice (and never served as ordinary Justice) replaced William
Antonin Scalia
Anthony Kennedy
Clarence Thomas
Ruth Ginsburg
Stephen Breyer
Samuel Alito
Sonia Sotomayor ­ replaced David Souter
Elena Kagan ­ replaced John Paul Stevens
Chief Justices
2005Present ­ John Roberts
19862005 ­ William Rehnquist
19691986 ­ Warren E. Burger
19531969 ­ Earl Warren
Nomination Process
Good points
o President
Too political
I.e. President will try to pick people who fit the party line
E.g. Bush ­ Alito and Roberts consistently rightwing
But Bush Sr. appointed Souter, who turned out to be more liberal ­ because
Bush didn't check his leanings as carefully as other presidents do
o Senate
Robert Bork ­ rejected by a blue Senate despite having fantastic credentials
Clarence Thomas
Voting patterns ­ barring one or two, vote strictly down party lines
o Campaigning/advertising
For every nomination, there comes a campaign of dirtdigging
Judicial Review
1805 Marbury vs. Madison ­ first time an action is deemed unconstitutional and dealt with
1865 Supreme Court uses 14th amendment (basically civil rights ­ have to give "all persons
born or naturalized in the United States... the equal protection of the laws")
Due Process
14th Amendment
Two types:
o Substantive ­ demands that the substance of the law must not be arbitrary,
unreasonable or unconstitutional
o Procedural ­ demands that the process of the law must be fair
Debate about the extent that the Supreme Court should involve itself in the laws of individual
states ­ biggest example: civil rights
Protection of Rights & Liberties
Freedom of Religion
o 1st Amendment ­ "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,
or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"

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This is the belief that the Constitution was supposed to be interpreted to keep it
contemporary ­ interpreted by the Supreme Court, to be precise
o Loose Constructionalists include Stephen Breyer, Ruth Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and
Sonia Sotomayor
o Constitution should be literally adhered to, rather than allowing for judicial
interpretation (Tea Party philosophy, the morons)
o Strict Constructionalists include John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and
Samuel Alito
Judicial Activism & Restraint
o Taking an active part in the legislative process where…read more

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Justices a huge scope for picking and choosing the cases that fit any political
agenda best.
Another argument says that any power that the Supreme Court might hold is balanced by Congress's
checks and balances on it. Congress can initiate constitutional amendments, which may be used to
overturn a court decisions. It may also reject judicial appointments suggested by the President,
meaning that the President and Congress must agree on an appointment before it can be made. But
this argument, too, has problems.…read more


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