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The US Supreme Court


... always a major event in US politics reflecting the enormous importance the Supreme Court has. ... drawn from academia or politics. Some have been state ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: The US Supreme Court

The US Supreme Court
Some basic facts
  • There are nine supreme court judges called
  • There is one chief justice and eight associate
  • They are appointed by the President but subject
    to approval by the senate.
  • They stay in the job until they retire or die.
  • The appointment of a new justice is always a
    major event in US politics reflecting the
    enormous importance the Supreme Court has.

How straightforward is the process of appointing
Supreme Court Justices ?
  • Areas to focus on
  • How are they recruited ?
  • Where are they recruited from ?
  • What is the selection procedure ?
  • How are appointments either confirmed or
    rejected ?

  • In what ways could the appointment of Supreme
    Court Justices be seen as one of the most
    important decisions a US President can make ?
  • Areas to focus on
  • Importance of Supreme Court justices
  • Frequency of appointments
  • Tenure of service
  • Legacy.

What are the checks and balances in place
regarding the Supreme Court ? Are they effective
  • Areas to focus on
  • Prevention of overly political appointments by
  • Removal of justices from the Supreme Court
  • The confirmation process

Some technical jargon to learn
  • Originalism focusing on the original meaning of
    the constitution and not trying to update it.
  • Strict Constructionism interpreting the
    constitution in a conservative and ahistorical
    fashion. Upholds states rights.
  • Loose constructionism- interpreting the
    constitution in a liberal and historical fashion.
    Asserts federal over states rights.

Role of Chief Justice
  • First among equals or primus inter pares
  • Does not have control over the court but sets the
    tone and is a guiding influence.
  • Often writes the courts opinion (ie the
    written verdict) at the end of a case.

Appointment of Supreme Court Justices
  • Drawn from diverse backgrounds in the legal
    profession. Most have been judges in lower
    federal courts or state courts.
  • Some are drawn from academia or politics. Some
    have been state governors or congressman.

The confirmation process
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee cross examines the
    Presidents choice of candidate and takes
  • The 14 strong bi-partisan committee votes but
    does not have final say. However, a lost vote at
    this stage usually means defeat in the vote by
    the whole Senate.
  • Senate vote by simple majority confirms their
    appointment. Only 3 candidates have been rejected
    since WW2 (Bork, Haynesworth and Carswell)
  • If the Senate is controlled by the opposite party
    to the President then they may try to block the
    Presidents choice. Example of gridlock ? Also an
    example of the politicisation of the judiciary ?

Importance of nominations
  • Presidents tend to choose candidates who reflect
    their political beliefs and values
  • Ronald Reagan appointed conservative judges, as
    has George W Bush
  • Each new appointment can delicately alter the
    fine balance on the court and leave a legacy that
    will long outlast the president who appointed

Presidents and the Supreme Court
  • The most famous clash between the US President
    and the Supreme Court came in the 1930s.
  • President Roosevelt found many of his social
    welfare and economic policies (the New Deal)
    blocked by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.
  • Roosevelt tried to appoint six more judges but
    was over ruled by Congress. President was seen to
    be trying to pack the court with political
    judges and undermining the separation of powers

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Some issues for debate
  • Should there be fixed terms for Supreme Court
    Justices ? What about an age limit ?
  • Can appointments to the Supreme Court ever be
    free of political bias ?
  • For unelected judges, does the Supreme Court have
    far too much political power ?