Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Federal Courts

                The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from Article III, Section 1:  “The judicial Power of the United States shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.”  This provision established the right for the people to have a system where their problems could be adjudicated.

                “It will be noted that the size of the Supreme Court is not indicated, and down through the years the number of Justices has gone up and down like a political yo-yo. The first Congress passed an act designating a Chief Justice and five Associate Justices as the `Supreme Court.’  In 1801 the number of Associate Justices was reduced to four.  In 1802 the number of Associates was boosted to six, then increased to eight in 1837.  In 1861 the Chief Justice and nine Associates were designated, but in 1866 the Associate Justices were reduced to six in number.  In 1869 the number was increased again to eight, where it remains today.

                In 1937 President Franklin D. Roosevelt attempted to increase the number of Justices to fifteen so that he could get a court which would be sympathetic to many of his New Deal programs.  This was rejected, but a bill was passed which allowed the Attorney General to appeal directly to the Supreme Court whenever the constitutionality of an act of Congress was involved.”  (See W. Cleon Skousen in The Making of America – the Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, 584.)

                “The Constitution’s first three Articles contain symmetrical introductory language.  Each provides that a basic type of governmental `power’ - `legislative’ (making laws), `executive’ administering the laws), and `judicial’ (expounding laws to decide particular cases) - `shall be vested’ in a corresponding institution:  `Congress,’ the `President,’ and `Courts,’ respectively.  As originally conceived, the Constitution embodied the sovereign will of `We the People,’ who delegated power to three independent yet coordinate branches of government.

                “This separation-of-powers structure incorporated two novel Federalist ideas.  First, `judicial Power’ became a distinct part of government, whereas in England it had been treated as an aspect of executive authority (although the English recognized adjudication as a discrete function).  Second, like Congress and the President, federal judges ultimately derived their power from `the people,’ even though they were unelected and given tenure and salary guarantees to ensure their impartiality and prestige.  This separate and independent judiciary consisted of a Supreme Court and any lower federal tribunals Congress chose to create.  The powers of federal courts can most usefully be divided into three components:  judicial review, justiciability, and equitable authority.

                “Since 1787, the central meaning of `judicial Power’ has remained remarkably consistent:  neutrally deciding a case by interpreting the law and applying it to the facts, then rendering a final and binding judgment….

                “Judicial review can be exercised only over cases that are `justiciable’ (i.e., presented in a form suitable for judicial resolution).  The Supreme Court has developed many justiciability doctrines, which reflect both Article III requirements and self-imposed prudential limitations.”  (See Robert J. Pushaw, Jr. in The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, pp. 231-232.)

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