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I'm often amused anytime the Supreme Court becomes the center of attention, because people carry such a false impression of the court, until they actually see it in action.  On both the left and right, there are cases which drive outsiders nuts.

People have this image of these somber apolitical figures sorting through the fine detail of the law.  Not only is that false, but it has been since the court's first formation.  They didn't even have a building when they started out.

The term "supreme" court in the constitution is about as defined as the difference between a taco and a taco supreme.  The supreme simply meant that they could overrule conflicts between state level courts.  Every power beyond that has been entirely fabricated by various justices.

We assume that the court can compel congress or the President, but the constitution doesn't really articulate that power.  Of course any challenge to that interpretation would end up in the supreme court, so the deck is kind of stacked.

Still, if the President and congress chose to ignore a supreme, there really wouldn't been an enforcement method to make the court's authority stick.

Right now in the federal court system there splits between different districts, and the supreme court has allowed these splits to exist for decades.  That basically means federal law varies by geography, but oh well.

Most here would probably say the supreme court's primary function in to determine the "constitutionality" of any given law.  Really?  How did they get that power?

They had that power because they didn't want to wade into a political fight between a justice of the peace and the secretary of state (Marbury v. Madison).  To avoid doing so, the court determined that it would be "unconstitutional" for them to take the case.

So the greatest federal power in our government was a result of six guys trying to avoid creating bad blood by taking sides in a personal dispute in their social circles.  Don't believe me, look it up for yourself.

From that point on the court had the power to interpret the constitution.  They could override federal law, a power which was never envisioned by the founders.  The founders thought congress passing a law and the president signing it was a pretty solid justification for a law.

The court has always made political decisions based on individual justices.  They have made rulings only to undo those rulings a few years later.  They have created in depth philosophical justifications based on three words in the constitution taken entirely out of context.  They have created precedent from unrelated legal disputes, and at other times chose to ignore precedent altogether.

The constitution would have the supreme court resolving differences between lower courts, so that federal law is consistent across the nation.  Instead nine justices pick and choose, which cases they will hear based on how interesting they feel a case is.

Forget any noble view you've been indoctrinated with.  They just seem better, because most of the time we forget that they exist.


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Comment Preferences

  •  Well it sucks less for us (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dr Teeth

    when we are in the majority:)

    Republican Family Values: Using the daughters from your first wife to convince everybody that your second wife is lying about your third wife.

    by jsfox on Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 02:55:25 PM PDT

    •  Since 1972 (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bush Bites

      Republicans have been single minded in their pursuit of the court appointments.  During that time, Democrats didn't think much of it.

      We assumed that the social issues were dead and buried.  If the court overturns ACA, we'll spend the next few decades fighting to change the make up of the court.

      Don't worry though.  Anytime the court says something, they usually change it later.

  •  Hartmann's been on fire about this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dr Teeth

    Marbury v Madison.


    and mentioned Larry Kramer, Dean Sanford Law School ...

    See ARTC 3 SEC 2.  US Constitution.

    Gotta short break, sorry for the hurried comment. The diary title caught my attention. Hotlisted for later.

    "What have you done for me, lately?" ~ Lady Liberty

    by ozsea1 on Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 03:35:52 PM PDT

  •  The Advocates for Attorneys' Concern (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dr Teeth

    will be here soon enough. Prepare yourself.

    "What have you done for me, lately?" ~ Lady Liberty

    by ozsea1 on Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 03:37:28 PM PDT

  •  Also, note what the word "court" really means.... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ozsea1, Dr Teeth

    the Court, the King's Court.  The ultimate aristocratic power that sits on top of our democracy, ready to take back control when democratic doings get out of control.

    So we go begging to them for permission.  Please, sirs, can we have some more?

  •  Depatmentalism based on oath of office (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dr Teeth

    Meant officials followed the Constitution as they saw it. Same with the people, in popular constitutionalism where Jackson would not follow unconstitutional decisions. Lincoln divised a test for determining which precedent deserves to be followed, and he didn't follow Dred Scott. As prof. Kramer reports judicial supremacism comes from a misinterpretation of the Warren Court's decisions as somehow standing alone and apart from political reality. Judicial supremacists now threaten our very democracy because if the Court says we aren't, as in CU, then that must be true. And even Congress which checks and balances the Court under the exceptions clause believes the Court rather than the Constitution itself. The framers did not design it for 5 unelected judges to crash the system. You expect these things in Iran, not the US.

  •  Isn't the truth that our constitution (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dr Teeth, Bush Bites

    is kind of lame as a governing document??? I've never thought much of it because it is anti-democratic (small states rules the large states) and it's a poorly drafted document in terms of who has power to do what (we still don't know what clauses like the commerce clause mean???). And what can you say about a document that treated African Americans as 3/5ths of a person when first adopted??

    •  I wouldn't say that (0+ / 0-)

      At the time it was written, it was by far the most democratic document in history.  It was a staggering tribute to the age enlightenment.

      That said, it was flawed in many ways.  Liberty itself was largely undefined, so you can't blame them for not throwing every cultural standard they were raised with.

    •  Agreed. But the Framers thought (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dr Teeth

      that each generation would write a substantially new one. What they missed was an article that said that each prior article would have to be ratified again every 30 years by a Constitutional Convention.

      Fructose is a liver poison. Stop eating it today.

      by Anne Elk on Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 05:20:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  You Have The 3/5ths Wrong... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dr Teeth

      The "Slave States" would have gladly counted slaves as "whole persons".  It was the Northern, Free States that didn't want the South to gain additional political power and didn't want slaves counted as "whole people".

  •  kangaroo court (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dr Teeth

    is a good description for the Supreme Court ever since they decided to permanently defame it with their blatantly partisan power play to let five people select the next president of the United States in 2000...and to heck with all of those lowly voters who thought they might be the ones to do so.

    And then these bozos were at it again when they decided to take their marching orders from the monied elites and give Republicans access to unlimited amounts of secret political money (in their Citizens United ruling/abomination/in-kind contribution to the Republican Party.)

    This American citizen has not been living under any delusions that these thugs who are given lifetime appointments are nothing less than some of the most corrupt political creatures in American history.

    •  Why Are You Singling Out Justices? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dr Teeth

      They have been no worse as a group than any other government officials, elected or appointed.  Corruption has been a part of our system since the beginning.  And because corruption is part of every governmental system ours has endured a long time because it has checks and balances to prevent one group from dominating the others.

      •  the impact of corrupt people who are given (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dr Teeth

        lifetime appointments, with virtually no recourse, is significantly larger, considering that they have the final say and, increasingly, have decided to impose their personal political viewpoints on the entire country...often for generations.

  •  Yep. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dr Teeth

    I'd add that the Constitution Worship on the left and right is equally pathetic.

    It was a compromise document by a bunch of landowning hacks  who couldn't even agree that slavery was wrong before they had to get back to the pub.

    If Obama doesn't deserve credit for getting Bin Laden because he didn't pull the trigger, Bin Laden doesn't deserve the blame for 9-11 because he didn't fly the planes.

    by Bush Bites on Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 06:40:37 PM PDT

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