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The American constitution has been very important in defining the relationship that exists between the three arms of government. The executive, judiciary, and the legislature are three independent units of the government. The constitution explains how these three arms of the government should relate to one another. The legislature is responsible for enacting laws. The executive implements the law while the judiciary is always called upon to interpret the law. Jefferson (1995) says that these three bodies should discharge their duties without any form of intimidation from other arms of government. In this particular case of New York Times versus the government, the court was called upon to undertake its constitutional right of interpreting the law. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the New York Times.
Analysis of the Case
It is important to understand the constitution of this country in its entirety before finally concluding whether or not the decision made by the courts was correct. Understanding the Constitution’s Articles II, III, and the First Amendment may shed more light on what could have lead the judiciary to make its decision. Article two of the American constitution defines the formation and powers executive, while Article 3 talks about the formation and powers of the judiciary. From these two articles of the constitution, it comes out clearly that the judiciary is bound by no laws to make decisions in favor of the executive. The judiciary is an independent arm that is responsible for the Americans. To this extent, it would be easy to say that the Supreme Court was justified to decide by favoring the New York Times because their interpretation of the law guided their decision. Moreover, the courts are responsible for the people of America and not to the executive. The decision of the courts could have been because the executive lied to the public, and there was every right to make the public aware of this fact. To the Supreme Court, the executive had no moral right to classify information that was misleading to the public. The supreme court must have felt that the executive- being answerable to the people of America- had a responsibility of coming out and telling the truth about this issue instead of misleading Americans (Whittington, 2006). In this light, the court’s decision could be considered right.
However, it is important to understand the constitution in its holistic form other than from one biased side. It is important to understand the letter and the spirit of the law in order to make sound decisions. The United States executive has a mandate from people to engage in wars whenever this may be considered necessary, especially when there is a feeling that these external forces threaten America’s interests. During such wars, it is important to consider some information classified to protect the nation. For instance, the United States is home to people from all over the world, including the people of Vietnam and their sympathizers. Some of these people are enemies of this country. According to Dorf (2009), releasing information to the public would make this information reach these enemies and they can use it against this country. The executive shall have failed when such a thing happens. Once information is considered classified, it should forever remain so even after the war.
The Supreme Court, therefore, made an error by allowing this information, which had previously been considered classified, to reach the public. This court acted in contempt of the executive and all the constitutional powers bestowed upon it.
Dorf, M. (2009). Constitutional law stories. New York: Foundation Press.
Jefferson, T. (1995). The republic of letters: The correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, 1776-1826. New York: Norton.
Whittington, K. (2006). How to read the constitution: Self-government and the jurisprudence of originalism. Washington: Heritage Foundation.