Supreme courts supreme controversies essay

What is the function of the Supreme Court? What sort of justices best serve the Court's high purposes? How does the Court decide which cases to review, and how does it decide the cases that it does review?

Supreme courts supreme controversies essay

Federal appellate judges, including justices on the United States Supreme Court, have cited his work. Liberal arts professors anxious about the state and fate of their discipline might look to him to demonstrate the practical relevance of the humanities to everyday society.

Finkelman specializes in American legal history, slavery and the law, constitutional law, and race and the law.

Had they aligned their operative principles with the ideals of liberty, equality, and justice enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, liberty rather than racism and oppression might have defined antebellum America.

Finkelman insists that the legacy of Marshall, Story, and Taney had enormous implications for the state of the nation, strengthening the institutions of slavery and embedding in the law a systemic hostility to fundamental freedom and basic justice. These are strong allegations, attributed to only three individuals.

Yet the evidence adds up. Start with Marshall, a perennially celebrated figure who, unlike many of his generation, in particular his occasional nemesis Thomas Jefferson, has escaped scrutiny on matters of race and slavery. In fact, Marshall would go so far as to overturn the verdicts of white Southern jurors and the judgments of white Southern judges who, in freedom suits, sided with slaves and against masters.

Marshall could be an ardent nationalist attempting to effectuate the supremacy of federal law. One is therefore tempted to attribute his rulings against state laws in cases about slavery to his longstanding desire to centralize federal power.

Supreme courts supreme controversies essay

But that is only part of the story. Finkelman brings to light exceptions, including when Marshall selectively deferred to state law if doing so meant that slaves remained the property of their masters. Finkelman highlights these decisions to show that Marshall was hypocritical, compromising his otherwise plenary nationalism to ensure that contractual and property arrangements regarding slaves were protected by law.

Pennsylvaniawriting for the Court, he deemed unconstitutional a state ban on the extradition of blacks out of Pennsylvania for purposes of slavery. Story jumped at the chance to pronounce the primacy of federal law over state law even if it meant employing the Supremacy Clause to validate the Fugitive Slave Act of The decision jeopardized the liberty of every black in the North, whether free or fugitive.

The injustice of this opinion was profound. By the end of the Civil War, he was vehemently denounced and widely despised. At times Finkelman exaggerates or wishfully portrays the role of judges. Choteau [], in which Marshall declined the opportunity to enforce federal law that could have freed a slave who had traveled into free territorybut not in all of them.

If a judge were faced with a problem of statutory construction, he there were only male judges then could have asked what the language of the statute meant, how it applied to the concrete facts and material rules before him, and whether it was constitutional, but anything more would have arguably exceeded the scope of his office.

The Constitution was silent about slavery until the Civil War Amendments, also known as the Reconstruction Amendments. Prior to them, any attempt to render slavery unconstitutional would have required appeals to natural law, natural rights, or other like doctrines that appear in the Constitution only in spirit, not in letter.

Finkelman suggests another alternative: He cites, among other things, the congressional powers exercised in the reenactment of the Northwest Ordinance and the enactment of the Missouri Compromise and Oregon Territory; the admission of new free states into the United States; the due process guarantees of the Fifth Amendment; the rights of criminal defendants protected by the Sixth Amendment; the Privileges and Immunities Clause; and the guarantees of the First Amendment.

Each of these would have been problematic during the period Finkelman covers. There was not yet a 14th Amendment through which provisions of the Bill of Rights could have been incorporated to apply against the several states, although state constitutions contained protections of fundamental rights that federal judges recognized and affirmed.

Moreover, the provisions Finkelman enumerates empowered Congress, not the courts, to pursue robust antislavery measures. Courts could have responded to and interpreted actions and directives of Congress, but they could not have initiated legislation or litigation.

Had the Constitution enabled federal judges and the United States Supreme Court to strike down proslavery laws and regulations with ease, the Civil War Amendments might not have been necessary. But they were necessary to facilitate the demise of slavery.Jurisdiction: Original, Supreme Court The Constitution established the Supreme Court's original jurisdiction to provide a tribunal of the highest stature for disputes to which a state was a party and for cases involving the representatives of foreign nations.

Supreme Controversy: Polling and Court Nominations Search Form Search The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has ignited a political firestorm, with Senate Republicans declaring their refusal to vote on any nominee the president might send for confirmation.

The Supreme Court, if satisfied that cases involving the same or substantially the same questions of law are pending before it and one or more High Courts or before two or more High Courts and that such questions are substantial questions of general importance, may withdraw a case or cases pending before the High Court or High Courts and.

The Supreme Court of the United States is the court of last resort in the United States. Many cases that the Court reviews concern the U.S. Constitution, and the Court's decisions have far-reaching implications for the citizenry and the history of the United States.

Oct 19,  · The European Union's highest court ordered Poland to "immediately suspend" the application of a controversial law, which lowered the retirement age of its Supreme Court . The Supreme Court's ruling on President Obama's Affordable Care Act is just one decision in a long line of controversial cases.

TIME takes a look at other landmark rulings.

- The Washington Post