Unit5_TheSupremeCourt - 1 Unit 5 The Supreme Court Original...

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1 Unit 5: The Supreme Court Original Intent and Judicial Activism The Top-25 Supreme Court Cases since 1824? “A law embodies beliefs that have triumphed in the battle of ideas.” Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Expected Outcomes : To understand the evolution of the Supreme Court in relation to the other branches of power; to appreciate the difference between the “original intent” and “judicial activist” philosophies; and to critically evaluate the political and cultural importance of major Supreme Court decisions. Unit 5 Overview The Supreme Court of the United States has become the final arbiter in many controversial situations. The Court exercises the power of “judicial review,” which is the power to check the constitutionality of a law or of a presidential action. Simply put, the Supreme Court has the last word. It’s the only branch of government empowered to render a final judgment on the interpretation of the US Constitution. The Supreme Court is not democratically elected, its justices being nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The number of justices was not set in the Constitution, but it has evolved into 9, with appointments lasting the term of a natural life. When Chief Justice William Rehnquist died in 2005, Justice John Roberts replaced him as Chief Justice. Samuel Alito replaced Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in 2006. Sonia Sotomayor has recently replaced Justice David Souter Today, the current makeup of the Supreme Court is as follows, and the (Liberal) or (Conservative) designation is widely but not universally accepted for each justice. Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. (Conservative) Justice John Paul Stevens (Liberal) Justice Antonin Scalia (Conservative)
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2 Justice Anthony Kennedy (Centrist/Conservative) Justice Sonia Sotomayor (Liberal) Justice Clarence Thomas (Conservative) Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Liberal) Justice Stephen Breyer (Liberal) Justice Samuel Anthony Alito (Conservative) The Supreme Court began its history with the power granted to it by Article III, Section 2 of the US Constitution: inherent powers. Article III, Section 2. The judicial power shall extend to all cases, in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States… Still, the Court accrued power over time. Two cases - Gibbons v. Ogden (1824) and McCulloch v. Maryland (1819) were examined in Unit 2, and they were important because they added to the Court’s existing power of judicial review. Another earlier 19th century case, Marbury v. Madison (1801) was even more instrumental to the Court’s power of judicial review. Basically, the decision of the case (over a federal appointment) was that the Constitution was “the fundamental and paramount law of the nation.” In other words, when the Constitution conflicts with an act of the legislature, that act is invalid. This case solidified the Supreme Court's power of judicial review. The Supreme Court consolidated its power of judicial review over time, but
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This note was uploaded on 06/18/2011 for the course POLS 210 taught by Professor Prof.wood during the Spring '11 term at American Public University.

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Unit5_TheSupremeCourt - 1 Unit 5 The Supreme Court Original...

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