The Court System

The Court System

Question A

The Supreme Court is often called the “least democratic” branch of the government because the process of selection and ousting of the federal judges is different from the other branches of government. It is the President who has the powers to appoint the judges including the judges of the Supreme Court. The second reason why the Supreme Court is viewed as the least democratic is that; once the judges are appointed, they serve into those positions until they retire or at times till death. The Supreme Court judges too are not held accountable directly to any action they do. Therefore, because people don’t vote in the federal judges and do not limit or influence the period they take in office; we can claim that it is the “least democratic” branch of government.

Some of the undemocratic elements of the nation’s highest court are contained in the constitution that it uses. These undemocratic elements include the Electorate College; proportionality is devoid in the electorate college because of the addition of the two extra seats. These electors are also chosen instead of being elected. The system that advocates for a winner take all and the safe seats also ruin the democracy in courts (MSSD, 2015 p. 344).  The other undemocratic element is Representation in the Senate; the Supreme Court has allowed each state to be represented by two Senators regardless of the state’s size, this is unfair to the large states. Judicial Power is another undemocratic issue; judges are allowed to rule as per the constitutionality of the decrees and laws. Ruling for their lifetime and the barriers put on the removal of the governors also make the Supreme Court unconstitutional. Voting rights; while the constitution was being drafted voting rights of minorities and women was not well taken care of till very late. The other element is Slavery; until after the civil war of America, the constitution of the Supreme Court allowed slavery due to the compromise of the three-fifths rules. Limitations of the Congressional Power which limited the power of the Congress over income tax till validation by the sixteenth amendment makes the last element that shows the undemocratic nature of the Supreme Court.

Question B

The structure of the Federal Court System of the US is made up of three main levels. The lower level is the District Courts, which are the trial courts, followed by the Circuit Courts; making the first appeal level and finally the Supreme Court; which is the final appeal level of the US federal system (MSSD, 2015 p. 354). The US has 1 Supreme Court serving the whole country, 13 Circuit Courts and 94 District Courts.

The differences between the Circuit Courts “Appellate Courts” and the Supreme Court are;

The appellate courts hear the appeal from the district courts whereas the Supreme court is vested the power to make appeal decisions on all the cases brought in state court or federal court but concerns federal law.

In the circuit courts parties file appeals to be heard by the court whereas in the Supreme Court parties only file “writ of certiorari” asking for a hearing.

Members of the Circuit court are referred to as judges, and the number ranges from six in the first circuit to a total of 29 judges in the ninth circuit while the members of the Supreme Court are referred to as Justices, made of nine associate justices and one chief justice.

The Circuit courts divide the country into different regions in hearing cases while there is no division of the country in Supreme Court, it decides on the appeals of all the cases from all the regions of the country.

The similarities between the circuit courts and the Supreme courts are;

The similarity of the Circuit Courts and the Supreme Court is that both the two court judges are appointed by the president and approved by Senate and serves for a life term.

Question C

Some major issues the US Supreme Court grappled with in the early 19th century include the free exercise of religion in America. The free religion exercise law was incorporated in the constitution in the 19th century. This was after the case of Cantwell vs. Connecticut. This came when Newton Cantwell a renowned Christian from the Jehovah Witness Sect. and his two sons started walking door to door in Connecticut to change people. Another vital ruling on free religion was made in 1963 when there was a disagreement between the workers belonging to Seventh Day Adventist who observed their Sabbath on Saturday and the other American Christians who observed it on Sunday. Due to the tussle between the workers and the employers the court ruled that those who fellowshipped on Saturday were to be given freedom to attend church (The Supreme Court 1., Video) The Baker’s Hour Caps was another landmark ruling in the state, when the courts granted the bakers workers the required time to work and not to be overworked. Yellow Dog Contract that forbids workers to join unions was another case that was passed by the US courts. Speeches against Draft make the grapples too, this presented danger but the court upheld its conviction in this case.

Judicial Review is the capability of a court of law to evaluate and make a decision if an administrative regulation, treaty or statute contradicts the existing law provisions, the ultimate US constitution, and the state constitution.

The Supreme Court began exercising the power of judicial review with the legal battle that William Marbury started when he was appointed the justice of the peace. After Marbury was elected by President Adam to be the justice of peace, the new president Thomas Jefferson through his secretary James Madison prevented William from assuming the office. Marbury’s battled judicial review to make him assume the office, making the Supreme Court to decide a landmark case in the USA between Marbury and Madison. The Supreme Court confirmed the judicial review legal principle. This judicial review granted the Supreme Court ability and capacity to limit the power of the Congress by declaring legislation made by Jefferson unconstitutional. Therefore the constitution gave a verdict that the decision of barring Marbury from assuming the justice of peace office for Washington County was illegal.

The case between Fletcher v, Peck handled by the Supreme Court was about land grants awarding territory case passed by Georgia State legislature. Over the following year, the Supreme Court declared the verdict unconstitutional, and John Peck acquired back his original land. This verdict marked the beginning of judicial reviews. Scott v Sandford was about owning slaves in their territories. The court declared that the legislation of the Congress that denied slaves ownership in the territories was unconstitutional.


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