The Supreme Court

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The roles and power of the Supreme Court

  • Highest court of appeal
  •  4/9 justices have to agree to take a case
  • Interprets and applies the constitution, judicial review
  • Judicial review established by 1803 Marbury V Madison and 1810 Fletcher v Peck
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Checks on their power

  •     Can only review cases brought to them
  •          Cannot enforce
  •          Limited time to take cases
  •         Impeachment (Samuel chase 1805)
  •         Constitutional amendments
  •         Public opinion

However checks are not always effective- Roosevelt unable to add justices and only 1 impeached.

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Strict constructionalism V loose constructionalism

Strict constructionalism

Literal, narrow reading, applying original intent, object to implied rights.

Loose constructionalism

Board interpretation, implied rights, modern circumstances.

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Restraint V Activism

Judicial Activism: break new constitutional ground, strike down federal and state laws, over turn decisions of lower courts and past precedent and taking more cases.

Liberal activism: Brown V Board, Mapp V Ohio, Miranda V Arizona, Roe V Wade, Texas V Lawrence, university of California v Bakke.

Conservative Activism: US V Lopez, DC V Heller, Gonzalez V Carhart, Burwell V Hobby Lobby.

Judicial Restraint: Fewer cases, reluctance to break ground, respect past precedent. Examples: planned Parenthood v Casey, keeping affrimative action.

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The nomination system

  • Nominated by president
  • American bar association will make a report on them
  • Senate judiciary committee hearings
  • Senate vote- need a simple majority
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Nomination system advantages and disadvantages

Arguments for the system:

  •  Presidential choices balanced by the senate and have ABA’s report. Unacceptable candidates are rejected or withdrawn: Bork rejected 42-58, Carswell, Heynsworth.
  • Nominees are almost always well qualified: Breyer and Ginsburg only had 9 and 3 votes against them, only Thomas was rated qualified
  • Women and minorities should be represented: Sotomayor, Thomas, Day O’ Connor, Ginsburg.
  • Independence from presidents: Warren, Brennan, Blackmun, Stevens, Souter, Kennedy

Arguments against the system:

  •  Sometimes the less qualified/less representative get through: Thomas the only African American judge is the most right wing, not representing his community. As well as sexual scandal.
  •  Process is political: Reagan and Bush only nominated right wing. Bork rejected by democrat senate, Alito got through on 58-42 in a party line vote
  •   Presidents can shift the balance of the court. 
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When are nominations controversial

  • All in recent years due to balance of the court
  • Nominees with extreme judicial positions will always be controversial
  • Lack of experience
  • Scandal 
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Abortion Cases

Burger Court, 1973, Roe V Wade

Burger Court, 1980, Harris V McRae 

Rehnquist Court, 1989, Webster V RHS

Rehnquist Court,1992, Casey V Planned Parenthood

Rehnquist Court, 2000, Carhart V Stenberg

Roberts Court, 2007, Gonzalez V Carhart 

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Cases that changed America

Warren Court, 1954, Brown V Board

Warren Court, 1961, Mapp V Ohio

Warren Court, 1966, Miranda V Arizona

Burger Court, 1973, Roe V Wade 

Buger Court, 1977, University of California V Bakke

Rehnquist Court,1989, Texas V Johnson 

Rehnquist Court, 1995, US V Lopez

Rehnquist Court,2005, Roper V Simmons 

Roberts Court, 2008, DC V Heller

Roberts Court, 2015, Obergerfell V Hodges 

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unanimous or almost unanimous decisions

Roberts Court, 2011, Maples V Thomas 

Roberts Court, 2009, Safford School District V Redding

Roberts Court, 2011, Synder V Phelps

Roberts Court, 2014, McCullen V Coakly 

Roberts Court, 2014, Riley V California 

Roberts Court, 2015, Holt V Hobbs

Roberts Court, 2015, EEOC V Abercrombie and Fitch 

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Roberts Court: 5-4

2007, Gonzalez V Carhart 

2008, DC V Heller 

2009, Herring V US 

2009, Ricci V Destefano 

2010, Citizens United V FEC

2014, McCutcheon V FEC

2015, Glossip V Gross

2013 Maryland V King

2014, Town of Greece V Galloway 

2014, Burwell V Hobby Lobby 

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