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Supreme Court


... the Court, there is a well-developed field of judicial politics, voting records ... numerous voting rights cases. Warren Burger (1969-1986) Roe v. Wade (1973) ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Supreme Court

Supreme Court
US Politics and Society
The Supreme Court
Supreme Court
  • Little in Constitution
  • The judicial Power of the United States shall be
    vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior
    Courts as the Congress may from time to time
    ordain and establish.
  • The Judgesshall hold their Offices during good
    Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive
    for their Services a Compensation, which shall
    not be diminished during their Continuance in

Cramped quarters
Supreme Court Chambers, 1810-1860
Supreme Court Chambers, 1860-1935
Proven its own
  • Through decisions, first, enacting the principle
    of judicial review and, then, reinforcing it, the
    Court has become a major player in the evolution
    of federalism, governmental power, criminal
    justice, and wide range of civil liberties

Structure of the Court
  • 9 justices sit on the bench
  • 1 chief justice and 8 associate justices

Structure of the Court
  • 108 justices in history
  • the Court often carries the name of its chief
    justice the Rehnquist court
  • 1st woman Sandra Day OConnor
  • 1st black Thurgood Marshall (1967-1991)
  • not all have had judicial experience
  • 42 were never judges at all!
  • many were legislators, cabinet members,
  • Chief Justice William H. Taft (1921-1930) was
    President (1909-1913)

Judicial nomination
  • Presidential nomination
  • self-promotion by nominees
  • frequently political shifting the judicial
    philosophy of the Court as well as of the federal
    court system at large
  • judicial appointments often seen as political
  • Good or bad?
  • politicization or democratic accountability?

Presidential impact on judiciary
Senate confirmation
  • lengthy hearings
  • interest groups, e.g. American Bar Association
  • review of past writings, decisions, remarks
  • big issues abortion, civil liberties, civil
  • opposition to conservatives Robert Bork, 1987
  • Hugo Black (1937-71) former member of KKK
  • ethical behavior
  • sexual harassment charges Clarence Thomas, 1991

The Rehnquist Court
  • Generally viewed as conservative
  • conservative Rehnquist, Scalia, Thomas
  • conservative to moderate OConnor, Kennedy
  • moderate Souter, Stevens, Breyer, Ginsburg
  • Will GWB get a chance to nominate?
  • Stevens, 81 (1975-) Rehnquist, 78 (1972-)
  • if so, who?

Judicial process
  • Session begins 1st Monday in October
  • Court generally free to decide which appeals it
    will hear on its docket
  • 95 on appeal, 5 original jurisdiction
  • clerks sift through c. 7000 cases and draw up
    list for discussion
  • rule of four
  • judicial activism can come into play
  • interest groups push test-cases
  • other reasons US govt is party, lower courts are
    in conflict, compelling brief

Expanding Court docket
Players in the Court
  • Plaintiffs
  • Solicitor General US government representative
  • presidential appointee
  • tenth member of the Court
  • amicus curiae friend of the court briefs
  • interest groups, institutions
  • including extensive social science research

Case hearings
  • oral arguments 30 min., incl. questions

  • voting, opinion writing, announcement

Court decisions
  • opinion of the majority
  • concurring and dissenting opinions
  • although justices can also not participate
  • justices positions become public
  • given 200-year history of the Court, there is a
    well-developed field of judicial politics, voting

Major cases of the court
  • John Marshall (1801-1835)
  • Marbury v. Madison (1803)
  • McCulloch v. Maryland (1819)
  • Gibbons v. Ogden (1824)
  • Roger Taney (1836-1864)
  • Dred Scot v. Sanford (1857)
  • Formalist period (1873-1937)
  • Plessy v Ferguson (1896)
  • In re Debs (1895)

Major cases of the court
  • Earl Warren (1953-1969)
  • Brown v. Board of Education (1954)
  • Miranda v. Arizona (1966)
  • numerous voting rights cases
  • Warren Burger (1969-1986)
  • Roe v. Wade (1973)
  • United States v. Nixon (1974)
  • Regents of University of California v. Bakke
  • William Rehnquist (1986-)
  • US Term Limits Inc. V. Thornton (1995)
  • Clinton v. Jones (1997)
  • Clinton v. City of New York (1998)

Civil liberties
  • civil liberties ? civil rights
  • Bill of Rights
  • Freedom of religion, speech, press and assembly
  • Right to bear arms
  • Prohibition against quartering of troops in
    private homes
  • Prohibition against unreasonable searches and
  • Rights for the accused grand jury indictment,
    double jeopardy, self-incrimination, due process
  • Right to speedy and public trial
  • Right to trial by jury in civil suits
  • Prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment
  • Rights not listed in the Constitution retained by
    the people
  • The States or people reserve those powers not
    denied to them by the Constit. or delegated to
    the national govt.

Paradox of rights in federalism
  • Congress shall make no lawbut the states???
  • Barron v. Baltimore (1833) Court argues that
    Bill of Rights pertains only to federal, not
    state laws
  • 14th amendment (1868)
  • No State shall make or enforce any law which
    shall abridge the privileges or immunities of
    citizens of the United States nor shall any
    State deprive any person of life, liberty, or
    property, without due process of law nor deny to
    any person within its jurisdiction the equal
    protection of the laws.

Incorporation of the Bill of Rights
  • Court uses 14th Amendment to strike down
    different state laws that limit rights enumerated
    in Bill of Rights
  • incorporated rights speech, assembly, religion,
    speedy trial, cruel and unusual punishment,
    double jeopardy
  • selective incorporation not all rights
    incorporated as yet, e.g. right to bear arms

Current debates over civil liberties
  • American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
  • separation of church and state (I)
  • prayer in school, mangers on public property,
    government for religious schools
  • freedom of speech (I)
  • sedition, libel/slander, pornography
  • symbolic speech flag burning, hate speech
  • freedom of assembly (I)
  • pro-life protesters around abortion clinics

Current debates over civil liberties
  • right to bear arms (II)
  • right to privacy (IV)
  • electronic surveillance HIV testing sodomy
  • criminal rights (V)
  • Miranda rights
  • due process, property compensation
  • cruel and unusual punishment (VIII)
  • methods of capital punishment, although death
    penalty itself not unconstitutional