The Judicial arm of the government is represented by various courts of law across the United States. The Supreme Court is the principal among these courts in accordance with Article III of the US constitution. The Supreme Court consists of eight Justices and one Chief Justice (Les Benedict, 2007).
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The tenure of Supreme Court Justices lasts a lifetime as outlined in the country’s constitution. This means that the occupancy of the Supreme Court rarely changes. For instance, in the course of the last two centuries, the Supreme Court has only had seventeen Chief Justices.
The importance of the Supreme Court to the country has been cemented through the various powers bestowed upon the court by Article III of the constitution.
Article III begins by stating that the Supreme Court’s “judicial power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority, to all Cases affecting Ambassadors…. to controversies to which the United States shall be a Party” (Brilmayer, 2009).
The powers bestowed upon the Supreme Court are unlike any powers that have been bestowed upon any other entity in the United States. For instance, all constitutional disputes in the US can only be resolved by the Supreme Court. Neither the executive nor the Congress or the Senate has been accorded with such powers by the constitution.
Also, any decisions made by the other two arms of the government can be reversed by the Supreme Court. Article III of the constitution also grants the Supreme Court with the power to settle ‘extra ordinary’ disputes.
For example, the Supreme Court can settle disputes between a state versus another state, a state versus citizens of another state, and a group of states versus another state. All these kinds of disputes could be deemed extra ordinary even by federal courts. The power to appoint Justices of the Supreme Court falls jointly upon the president and the Senate.
Throughout the United State’s history, the Supreme Court has delivered several momentous rulings on various topics. Some of these rulings have sparked lively debates among US citizens and even around the world. Moreover, these momentous rulings have often touched on controversial topics such as abortion, religion, and civil rights.
An example of an old debate that was affected by a Supreme Court Ruling is the debate surrounding the Louisiana Purchase. In the matter of America Insurance Company v. Canter, “the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government had the right to acquire new territories under the treaty-making clause of the constitution” (Warren, 2003).
This ruling was made in 1828, approximately twenty-five years after the Louisiana Purchase had been concluded. The public reacted sharply to this ruling because the debate surrounding the Louisiana Purchase had reached fever pitch.
The Louisiana Purchase was initiated and concluded by President Thomas Jefferson. In this massive transaction, the federal government had overseen the purchase of over eight hundred thousand square miles of land. When this transaction was complete, the United States’ territory doubled in size.
The debate surrounding the Louisiana Purchase centered on the fact that no segment of the constitution gave the federal government the right to expand geographical territory. This could have made the Louisiana Purchase unconstitutional. The constitutionality of this new US territory was tested in America Insurance Company v. Canter.
In this case, David Canter a libellant was appealing against a decision by a Florida court that challenged the federal government’s authority in seeking new territories. The Supreme Court ruled in his favor arguing that the Federal Government had the authority to acquire new territories. The Supreme Court Justices cited Article IV of the US constitution in their ruling (Warren, 2003).
The argument of the Supreme Court was that some laws such as the maritime laws had existed even before the enactment of the constitution. Therefore, the territories clause of the Constitution granted Congress the rights to ‘acquire and govern’ territories.
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This ruling put an end to a debate that had been on going for over two decades. Thomas Jefferson himself had doubted the constitutionality of his actions (Les Benedict, 2007). However, the Supreme Court ruling on the matter concerning the legitimacy of Louisiana Purchase put all doubts to rest. The interesting thing about this ruling is that the issue had started as an insurance dispute that soon degenerated into a constitutional dispute.
In my opinion, the Supreme Court Ruling was valid because it cited appropriate and satisfactory legislations. The Louisiana Purchase had been challenged and defended through various legislations, but the Supreme Court Justices made the right interpretations. The ruling was also practical because of its reference to maritime laws. The Supreme Court should continue with its role as the national dispute resolver.
Anytime a matter of national importance is not agreed upon by the necessary arms of the government; it is upon the Supreme Court to chart the way forward. The court is also the defender of the ordinary citizens against erroneous decisions by lower courts. The only rubric that should be used in Supreme Court decisions is the constitution. Public euphoria, partisan politics, and past rulings should not feature in Supreme Court rulings.
Brilmayer, L. (2009). The jurisprudence of Article III: perspectives on the “case or controversy” requirement. Harvard Law Review, 8(2), 297-321.
Les Benedict, M. (2007). The blessings of liberty: a concise history of the Constitution of the United States. New York, NY: Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic.
Warren, C. (2003). The progressiveness of the United States Supreme Court. Columbia Law Review, 13(4), 294-313.