Does The Supreme Court Abuse Its Power?
There have been many complaints and theories of how the Supreme Court has a tendency to act as a "supra-legislature" (Woll 153). It is proposed that the Supreme Court takes the
power to make laws and set policies which rightfully belongs to the Congress and state legislatures. They state that Justices exceed their authorized powers of judicial review
and read their own opinions and views into the Constitution and are in fact "politicians in robes" (Woll 533, Sheldon xi).
Alexander Hamilton's definiton of the Supreme Court's power of judicial review was argued in Federalist No. 78.
He states that the main purpose of this power is a check ont he legislature where the Supreme Court is an "excellent barrier to the encroachments and oppressions of therepresentative body ... to secure a steady, upright, and impartial administration of the laws." He also gives the Supreme Court the power to rule on state laws by judging them against the Constitution: "But the act of an original and superior authority takes precedence over that of a derivative and subordinate one, and so judges must adhere to the Constitution before a statute" (Wolfe 74-75). Hamilton sets the power definition of the Court with those lines.
Many feel that the fears of the Court taking power from the legislative and executive branches are unfounded on the basis that the Court is too weak to do so. Hamilton argued that since that it was dependent upon the executive for the enforcement of its decisions and had to be wary of the legislative check of impeachment, there could not be any "series of deliberate usurpations" of power (Wolfe 76).
They are also limited in that they cannot initiate laws, only judge cases that are brought before them (Woll 515). Another executive check is the President's power to select the appointees to fill in vacant slots for Justice positions. All these checks on the judicial branch lead to a policy of what is known as judicial self-restraint --where the Court never hands down a decision so controversial that the other two branches seek to reduce the Court's power (Woll 515). On the opposite side, Wolfe and many others feel that this power grabbing has occured:
"This expansion was possible partly because 'seeds'
of a more expansive judicial power were sown in
early American history; ... partly because it was
carried out by a federal judiciary that was on the
whole, characterized by considerable personal and
professional integrity; and partly because such a
change happened to fit nicely the political agenda
of influential groups during the period" (Wolfe 116
It is true that the Court cannot enforce its decision but must leave this to the executive and legislative branches. For example, when the decision to...