“The republic endures, and this is the symbol of its faith.”
– CHIEF JUSTICE CHARLES EVANS HUGHES
Article III of the United States Constitution puts forth the grounds that define the need for the federal judiciary system, within which, under Section I, it is mentioned that 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.“
As it is said that the Constitution of the United States highlights the requirement of the Supreme Court, to pinpoint the fact that the structure of the same is brought under the umbrella of the responsibility of Congress becomes essential.
The initial utilization of the aforementioned power by Congress took place through the Judiciary Act of 1789, which not only brought into existence a Supreme Court comprising six justices but also laid the foundation for the system of lower federal courts.
1. Understanding the Essence of the Supreme Court
“EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW” is the phrase that not only adorns the top entrance of the Supreme Court building in the United States but also holds the essence of encapsulating the paramount duty that the said body of power holds.
From overseeing all instances and disputes that emerge in connection with the Constitution or the statutes of the United States to serving as the ultimate judge of legal matters, the Supreme Court in the United States not only stands as the highest legal body in the country but also bears the responsibility of upholding the assurance of impartial justice for all as enshrined in the law.
In addition to highlighting the branch’s authority, it also assumes the roles of both protector and explicator of the Constitution.
The Constitution of the United States is a meticulously crafted text that intends to maintain a balance in its composition.
The purpose is not only to establish a national government that possesses the necessary strength and adaptability to cater to the republic’s requirements but also to sustain a sense of restraint and fairness in safeguarding the rights ensured to citizens.
Thus, it can be said that such a framework allows for a harmonious coexistence that takes place between society’s imperative need for structure as well as the individual’s entitlement to liberty.
Running similarly is the concept that states the essence that to achieve these objectives, the Framers of the Constitution had brought into play three distinct branches of government, where each one was bestowed with responsibilities of equal authority.
To add on the aforesaid concept even elaborately, the idea that the intricate function of the Supreme Court that falls under the ambit of this framework arises from its power that bestows the said body of authority with the power to nullify laws or executive measures that, according to the Supreme Court’s thorough evaluation, holds the position where it clashes with the United States Constitution.
On the same lines, it deems it necessary to put forth that such an authority, that is commonly known as the process of “judicial review,” grants upon the Supreme Court of the United States a pivotal responsibility that revolves around the idea of safeguarding individual rights as well as in upholding a “living Constitution.”
From involving the ongoing application of the United States Constitution’s expansive principles to intricate and novel circumstances to ensuring the fact that it holds the level of relevance and adaptability that it requires to function, the essence of the living Constitution as a concept serves to be one of a kind.
The Responsibility of The Justices of The Supreme Court –
Facing a significant exercise of discretion, the Justices of the Supreme Court, when determining which cases are required to be brought before them for consideration, take into account the essence revolving around which matters lie on the concept of essentiality and reasonability.
This refers to the fact that each year, when approximately 5,000 to 7,000 civil and criminal cases are presented to the Supreme Court of the United States from various state and federal jurisdictions, the said body of authority has the power to put before them such cases.
Not only this, but the idea that the Supreme Court holds “original jurisdiction” in a very limited number of cases that originate from disputes between states or between a state and the federal government also serves to be of utmost importance when putting across the said discretion of the court.
To emphasize further, when the Supreme Court delivers a verdict on a constitutional issue besieged in a case, that decision not only carries immense weight but the fact that its rulings can only be modified through infrequently employed means such as a constitutional amendment or a subsequent ruling by the Supreme Court serves as a point that must be pinpointed.
Running parallelly on a different line of thought is the essence that when the said court interprets a statute, the very idea that props up is the existence of an opportunity where a new legislative action can be taken in response.
To be taken into account is the idea that Chief Justice Marshall had ensured to put forth the essence of the formidable task that the Supreme Court encounters in upholding a free government.
He remarked by saying verbatim, “We must never forget that it is a constitution we are expounding, intended to endure for ages to come, and consequently, to be adapted to the various crises of human affairs.“
2. The Impact of the Supreme Court Pronouncements on the Legal System
The decisions made by the Supreme Court have not only consistently immersed it in contentious discussions but ensured that its verdicts wield significant influence, making the aforementioned court a body of significance.
Reeling back in history, during the initial years, the said court, despite strong resistance from the states, in addition to playing a pivotal role in shaping the structure of our federal system, also aided in the contribution revolving around establishing the supremacy of the national government.
Not only the aforementioned but the fact the Court exerted a notable impact on the economy by aiding the development of a unified United States economic marketplace and fostering opportunities for private sector growth has yielded great and required outcomes.
While the Supreme Court’s substantial influence on federalism and the economy has died down post the 1930s, the impact it had on civil rights, which had already been evident in matters like slavery and the weakening of reconstruction civil rights laws, had surfaced again with prominence during the 1950s, which particularly revolved around issues like school desegregation.
Coupled with the aforesaid, the fact that the Supreme Court’s influence encompasses not only how federal and state agencies along with lower courts implement its rulings but also how these entities might impede, sidestep, misconstrue, or weaken them is a concept that deems to be highlighted.
Diving deeper into the aforementioned idea, from a group of people who interpret as well as explain the court’s decisions, the set of individuals who are bestowed with the responsibility for carrying them out to those people for whom the rulings are intended, and the broader populace, the said influence extends to the reactions of various categories of individuals residing in the United States.
Impact and Compliance –
Often referred to as “the least dangerous branch,” the Supreme Court lacks the direct means to enforce its verdicts. It is yet granted the power to necessitate cooperation from those to whom its rulings are directed, as well as from external bodies like legislatures, executive agencies, and other courts.
The contemporary perspective acknowledges the Supreme Court’s role as a political participant. However, deeming it necessary to put forth the fact that it makes it imperative to discard the earlier assumption that Supreme Court decisions are intrinsically self-executing serves to be of importance.
To deal with the aforesaid, one must realize that the true legal significance of these decisions only emerges after all relevant parties have voiced their perspectives.
On the same lines, impact and compliance are interconnected but not synonymous.
Elaborating on the aforementioned, the term ‘compliance’ refers to the process by which individuals acknowledge and adhere to a decision even before its effects are fully realized.
For compliance to occur, individuals must be aware of the decision and be obligated to take specific actions or refrain from certain actions.
Not only this, but the fact that the aforementioned term involves individuals deliberately adjusting their conduct to align with the mandates of the decision, essentially following what the ruling stipulates due to the ruling itself, serves to be of great importance.
On separate lines, the word ‘impact’ considers a range of actions that are neither overtly resistant nor overly obedient. From attempting at circumvention combined with technical adherence to endeavouring to anticipate the Court’s decisions, referred to as “anticipatory compliance”, the aforementioned term takes the said into its umbrella.
Not only that, but the idea that the scope of impact also encompasses both immediate and long-term ramifications of a decision is an aspect that must appear.
Taking, as an illustration, is the fact that it covers phenomena such as the widespread resistance to school desegregation rulings as well as the potential role of these rulings in motivating “white flight” to suburban areas.
Coupled with the above line of thought, it is essential to acknowledge that there will also be situations where there is no observable response, the outcome of which will be a lack of discernible impact.
3. Supreme Court and The President
Running on a separate line of thought, the Supreme Court has primarily exhibited support and reinforcement toward the President.
Diving deeper into the aforesaid concept, the above-said body of judicial power has shown the least inclination to overturn presidential actions during times of war, when the President’s resistance to Court decisions might be more pronounced.
It is crucial to pinpoint the fact that while the said court has placed some limitations on the President’s authority to remove specific government officials, it has generally upheld delegations of power to the President and the executive branch since the era of the New Deal.
With the aforementioned idea lies another concept that revolves around the aspect which highlights the fact that the Court has tended to accord deference to regulatory commissions, particularly post World War II.
Not only as aforestated but in situations like the impoundment of appropriated funds, the Supreme Court has emphasized that the President must adhere to the interpretation of the law as provided by the courts rather than determining independently whether they should be bound by it.
Consider the case of the Steel Mill Seizure, where the Supreme Court of the United States had categorically insisted that the President follow a course of action stipulated by Congress.
4. The Supreme Court and Congress
The Supreme Court, a superior branch of power, has exerted significant influence over the internal workings of Congress, which impacts several areas comprising the authority to exclude members, legislative investigations, and the power to hold individuals in contempt.
Towards the aforesaid action, the responses of Congress to the Supreme Court’s decisions have taken various forms. On one side, when the said body of power engages in the interpretation of statutes or, on rarer occasions, invalidates the statutes on the grounds of vagueness, Congress responds by either rewording or re-enacting the laws to reaffirm its original “legislative intent.” Such a behaviour essentially creates an ongoing dialogue between the court and Congress.
On the other end, about the same action of the Supreme Court, meaning their judgements, Congress has also displayed discontent through proposals aimed at curtailing the said court’s appellate jurisdiction in specific categories of cases which take under its umbrella matters related to internal security, abortions, and school prayer.
However, these efforts above have been less frequent and notably less successful than attempts to amend statutes.
On the same lines of thought, the actions revolving around overturning the Supreme Court’s conclusions have led to the introduction of numerous proposals that led to the amendment of the United States Constitution.
Yet, most of these proposals fail to progress, meaning that only a few selected and specific cases that stand inclusive of the eleventh amendment, Civil War amendments, sixteenth amendment, and twenty-sixth amendment have successfully navigated the path of submission followed by the ratification of the same.
5. The Public’s View on Supreme Court Judgements
Refraining from speaking about the Supreme Court judgements’ effect on the public would be a dire mistake, so highlighting the same becomes the need of the hour.
Beginning with, it becomes essential to mention that the influence of the said body of power’s pronouncements reaches far beyond the other branches of the national government.
On the same lines, contentious rulings by the Supreme Court of the United States have profoundly impacted public sentiment, which has led to diverse reactions in editorial responses that take under its umbrella a wide spectrum of decisions.
Such aforesaid pronouncements have not only triggered shifts in the public’s perceptions, trust, or confidence in the said body of judicial authority, much like changes observed in opinions about the presidency and Congress, but the fact that public assessments of the Supreme Court have tended to be somewhat more favourable is an aspect of importance.
Not only the aforementioned, but the fact these public assessments have been curated in a way to witness rapid changes, mirroring shifts in public sentiment towards other governmental entities is essential to pinpoint.
However, parallel to the said line of thought is the idea that alterations in the Supreme Court’s legal doctrines on contentious issues, inclusive of those related to criminal procedure, often don’t immediately translate into corresponding changes in public opinion.
Thus, it can be stated that shifts in the legal stance of the branch of power in response to evolving social attitudes may not be immediately reflected in altered public opinion ratings.
To add onto the aforesaid core concept lies the essence of the power of the general public. Not only do they possess limited awareness about the workings of the Supreme Court, but their power is so strong that even many contentious decisions, if they fail to register in the collective consciousness of the public, are considered controversial.
What makes the concept even more lucrative lies in the ideology revolving around the public’s awareness of the modus operandi of the courts. This refers to the fact that the more knowledge individuals have about the Supreme Court, the more likely they are to disapprove of its actions.
Running parallel in the essence of the matter, the number of people expressing negative opinions about specific cases is greater than those who hold an overall negative view of the Supreme Court.
To add to the aforementioned further, negative sentiments are often held more intensely by those who do have them. Yet, most individuals typically don’t go beyond writing protest letters, meaning that they refrain from engaging in demonstrations to depict their sentiments or any kind of overt protest.
On the same lines of thought as aforestated, tied to reactions, negative perceptions of the Supreme Court are typically triggered by a few specific decisions that manage to capture the attention of certain portions of the public.
It can be said that the noteworthy decisions that evoke strong reactions shift with significant velocity. Take as an illustration that in the 1960s, the focus shifted from issues like civil rights and school prayer to concerns revolving around selected criminal procedures.
It comes under the ambit of basic understanding that for rulings put forth by the Supreme Court to be followed by the public or to carry any substantial influence, they need to be effectively communicated to those responsible for implementation and compliance.
However, assuming that such communication always occurs smoothly would be a mistake. The aforementioned idea refers to the essence that the process of relaying a pronouncement can have multiple tiers, meaning that each introduces the potential for distortion before it finally reaches its intended recipients.
On the one hand, it is said that the lawyers have convenient access to the Supreme Court’s published opinions, but on the other, many others that stand inclusive of police officers or school administrators are not authorized to directly receive these opinions or have easy access to them.
This brought to existence, as a result, the idea that they must rely on alternative measures when it comes to disseminating information about the aforesaid judicial branch’s rulings that pinpoint to the mass media, except for a handful of newspapers, which typically offer only limited details.
Coupled with the same thought, even specialized media outlets, such as trade publications, irregularly cover relevant decisions to the groups they cater to. For most newspapers, radio stations, and television channels, information about Supreme Court judgements is often obtained through wire services.
As an outcome, decisions highlighted by wire services are used to receive disproportionately greater public attention nationwide, while other rulings might receive little to no coverage.
6. The Landmark Judgments by the Supreme Court
The issue in the case of Tinker v. Des Moines revolved around whether the First Amendment prevents public school officials from prohibiting students from wearing black armbands as a form of anti-war political protest.
The Supreme Court, in the said case, agreed with the aforementioned statement. An explanation of the same lies in the court’s conclusion that students retain their constitutional right to freedom of speech even within the school premises.
It also determined that the school could only restrict students’ speech if it caused a genuine disruption to the educational environment.
Thus, it was put forth as no evidence of disruption was presented. The school’s prohibition violated the First Amendment’s freedom of speech.
5.2. Roe v. Wade -1973
Roe v. Wade was a case which involved the point of whether the United States Constitution forbade laws that impose significant limitations or deny women’s access to abortion.
Again, the Supreme Court held a positive view of the issue. The aforementioned apex body of the country determined that such laws violate the United States Constitution’s right to privacy.
On the same lines, the said court also pinpointed that, based on the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause, the states can only impose restrictions on abortions later in pregnancy to safeguard the woman’s life or the fetus’s well-being.
Understanding if it’s constitutionally mandated that any person facing a felony charge and being unable to afford legal representation must be provided with free legal counsel was the core concept of the case Gideon v. Wainwright.
Coming up with a unanimous decision was the view of the Supreme Court. The Court not only established that the Sixth Amendment’s right to legal assistance pertains to criminal trials conducted at the state level but also highlighted that legal representation in criminal court is an essential need rather than a mere luxury.
From the Constitution of the United States bringing to the existence the need for an apex court to understanding the workings of the same, the Supreme Court has served to be one of the most crucial bodies of authority that has not only given landmark pronouncements for the betterment of the citizens of the United States but also reviewed several judgments granted by the lower court to grant justice based on relevancy of the same.