The Supreme Court - US POLITICS


  The Supreme Court 

> Judicial Review is the power of the the Supreme Court to declare acts of congress, actions of the executive or actions of state government unconstitutional.  The courts power of judical review enables it to interpret the consitituon. In the death penalty cases, the court is saying what the phrase "cruel and unusual punishments" means today (8th amendment). In the case of abortion, the court is saying what the word "liberty" means today (14th amendment). The supreme courts decisions concerning a woman's right to choose an abortion have dominated the arguement about rights and liberties in the US for over 30 years. However, one may argue that it is the courts power of judcial review that turns it into a political insitution.

>  Judicial Activism is an approach to judicial decision making which holds that judges should use their position to promote desireable social ends 

> Judicial Restraint is an approach to judicial decision making which holds that judges should defer to the legislative and executive branches and to precedent established in previous court decisions

> Judicial Independence is the concept that the judiciary should be independent from the other branches of government. That is, courts should not be subject to improper influence from the other branches of government or from private or partisan interests.

> The appointment of Supreme Court Justices 

  • Vacancy occurs through voluntary retirement, death or impeachment 
  • President instigates a search for nominees and interviews potential justices 
  • President announces his nominee
  • The Senate Judicary Committee holds a confirmation hearing on the nominees and makes a recommended vote 
  • The nomination is debated and voted on in the full senate
  • A simple majority vote is required for confirmation 

> Presidents and The Supreme Court 

  • Presidents regard Supreme Court appointments as one of the most important of their presidency as the Supreme Court can appear to be something of an echo chamber through which the voices and views of earlier decades can still be heard to speak.
  • Example;  Anthony Kennedy, in 2017, who was appointed by Raegen was still on the court almost 30 years after Raegan left office
  • Politicisation by the president - There is always the danger that presidents use a "litmus test" on court nominees often scrutinising their previous judgements on controversial cases such as affirmative action, capital punishment or abortion 
  • Example; When president Bush announced his nomination of David Souter in 1990, the first question he was asked by the press was if he asked Souter his views on abortion. He stated that he did not as it would have been inappropriate. On this occassion, President Bush may have been right to deny political considerations as Justice Souter proved to be one of the most consistently liberal members of the court. 
  • However, Presidents have tended to politicise the nominations by attempting to choose justices who share their poltiical views and judicial philosophy. 
  • Example; A former solicitor general, Theodore Olsen, claimed in 2007, that the senate had abandoned its role of "advice and consent" for a


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