The Supreme Court

  • Created by: Harry
  • Created on: 10-06-14 17:35

Who is currently in the Supreme Court?

  • John Roberts - Strict constructionist
  • Antonin Scalia - Strict construstionist
  • Samuel Alito - Strict constructionist
  • Clarence Thomas - Strict constructionist
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg - Loose constructionist
  • Stephen Breyer - Loose constructionist
  • Sonia Sotomayor - Loose constructionist
  • Elena Kagan - Loose constructionist
  • Anthony Kennedy - Swing justice
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What is a strict constructionist?

  • Interprets the Constitution in a strict, literal or conservative fashion,
  • Tends to stress the retention of as much power as possible by the governments of the individual states
  • Focus on the content of the Constitution
  • Tend to be appointed by Republican presidents
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What is a loose constructionist?

  • Interprets the Constituion in a loose or liberal fashion
  • Tends to stress the broad grants of power to the federal government
  • Focus on the context of the Constitution
  • Tend to be appointed by Democrat presidents
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What is judicial activism?

An approach to judicial decision making which holds that a judge should use his or her position to promote desirable social ends

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What is judicial restraint?

An approach to judicial decision making which holds that a judge should defer to the legislative and executive branches, which are politically accountable to the voters, and should put great stress on the precedent established in previous court decisions

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What is the appointment and confirmation process?

  • A vacancy occurs through death, retirement or impeachment
  • The president instigates a search for possible nominees and interviews short-listed candidates
  • The president announces his nominee
  • The Senate confrimation process begins in the Senate Judiciary Committee and ends up on the floor of the Senate
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What is the president looking for in a nominee?

  • Previous experience
  • Able to hold up against opposition criticism
  • Good in the media
  • A consistent political attitude
  • Similar political philosophy (pack the court)
  • Maybe a minority - to make the bench look like America
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What are the potential problems of the process?

  • Politicisation by the president
  • Politicisation by the Senate
  • Politicisation by the media
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Politicisation by the president

  • Want to pick a judge with similar views
  • Danger that presidents use a 'litmus test' on nominees
  • Try to shape the thinking of the nations' highest court
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Politicisation by the Senate

  • Can unfairly attack potential candidates meaning a biased choice e.g. Robert Bork, one of best scholars of his time had a $15m dollar ad campaign against him launched by interest groups influenced by Democrat opponents on the Senate Judiciary Committee
  • Will look for scandal to harm a nominee's chances e.g. The Senate could have picked up on Clarence Thomas' lack of qualifications but instead focused on the allegations of sexual harassment. "This is a circus. A national disgrace."
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Politicisation by the media

  • Feeding frenzy on any gossip e.g. Clarence Thomas
  • Are known to twist words
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What is judicial review?

The power of the Supreme Court to declare acts of congress, or actions of the executive - or acts or actions of state governments - unconstituional, and thereby null and void

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Judicial review

  • The court can, in effect, update the words of the constitution
  • Gives the court importance but also turns it into a quasi-legislative body
  • The decisions the court makes almost have the effect of a law being passed by congress
  • Sometimes described as a 'third house of the legislature'
  • Roe Vs. Wade, 1973 upheld the constitutional right to have an abortion. This decision is comparable to an abortion rights law passed by congress
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Checks on the judiciary by the legislature

  • Impeachment, trial, conviction and removal from office
  • Propose consitutional amendments
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Checks on the judiciary by the executive

  • Appointment of judges
  • Pardon
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What is an echo chamber?

Where justices sit on the bench longer than the president who appointed them stays on office e.g. justice Scalia was appointed by presidentReagan in 1986

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