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Is the US Supreme Court the most powerful branch in the Government?

The US Supreme Court is the highest court in the United States and therefore is also the most powerful. It was the only court to be created from the Constitution which was implemented in 1789 under the Judicial Act. “Article III, §1, of the Constitution provides that “[t]he 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.” The Supreme Court of the United States was created in accordance with this provision and by authority of the Judiciary Act of September 24, 1789 (1 Stat. 73). It was organized on February 2, 1790.”[1] The intentions of the court are to interpret the US constitution. As seen in the question there are other branches of government, the Supreme Court comes under the judicial section and the other 2 are the executive Branch which include most notably the President of the United States. The Third and last branch is the legislative branch that includes Congress.

In Article III, Section 2 of the constitution the power and responsibility of the Supreme Court are written and this is the wording; “The 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 their authority;–to all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls;–to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction;–to controversies to which the United States shall be a party;–to controversies between two or more States;–between a state and citizens of another state between citizens of different States;–between citizens of the same state claiming lands under grants of different states, and between a state, or the citizens thereof, and foreign states, citizens or subjects.” Also in the same article under section 3 another power is given to the Supreme Court and that is Original Jurisdiction. However, this power of Original Jurisdiction was then limited in Amendment XI (1798). This Amendment limits the power of federal courts to hear cases against state governments against the citizen of another state or foreign country.

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The Supreme Court was given power but how much power did the founding fathers really intend to give the court? “In Federalist 78, Hamilton argued “the judiciary is beyond comparison the weakest of the 3 branches…” [2] This view from Hamilton can be backed up purely from the size of the first three articles that make up the branches. The first two are vastly superior to the third. This can tell us that the founding fathers didn’t want the Supreme Court to be as powerful as the other branches. However, over the years the opposite has happened.

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As stated before, the US government is in three different branches; The Legislative, The Executive and the Judicial branch. These three branches were created so that not one of the branches of government became too powerful. It was a ‘checks and balances system. This meant that each branch was, in several ways, restricted by the other two. The ways in which these work for example can be seen by the following: It is said that the power is balanced due to the fact the members of the Supreme Court are appointed by the President and furthermore that Congress has to approve those appointments. When the constitution was written back in 1787 many people thought that the Judicial branch was the weakest part of the federal government. However, this view has changed over the years from the people and the majority believe that it is too powerful rather than the weakest.

The start of the U.S. Constitution is; ‘We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America’. The argument here is that ‘we the people don’t actually elect the judges that sit in the Supreme Court. They are only simply appointed but they are also appointed by the president that the people of the United States elect. It can be argued that it is undemocratic to not let the people pick and choose what the majority wish seeing as the Judges make massive decisions that affect the people. This is the view of Robert F. Bauer in The Washington Post “The power of Supreme Court justices today is epic in scale.

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The cases they hear involve the most difficult and contentious questions before the nation. An alphabetical list would begin with abortion and proceed through campaign finance, church-state relations, euthanasia, pornography, presidential selection and voting rights. And once appointed and confirmed, the members of the court who engage these momentous issues are able to do so for as long as they please.”[3] The last line in the quote tells us that the Judges can be in power for life. However, Article III, S1, of the Constitution states ‘The judges… shall hold their offices during good behaviour’. This has been argued as too much power for a person unelected, but then again the people of the United States vote for the Executive branch and the majority wins. Therefore it can be argued that the judges have a right to be there and possess the power they have due to the fact the people vote for the President for reasons known to them but most likely the presidents’ goals and propositions and thoughts. So the people should believe in the vote they gave.

A landmark case that gives the Supreme Court power is the case of Marbury v Madison (1803), also known as the ‘Midnight Judge Court Case’; this is a case establishing the principle of Judicial Review. Judicial review is the power of the court to review the actions of a group in terms of lawfulness or constitutionality. Judicial Review is not specified in the US Constitution. In the election in 1800 a Democratic-Republican, Thomas Jefferson was elected as the President of the United States. He beat former President, John Adams of the Federalist Party. John Adams then became a lame duck, in his time as a lame duck he started to give other federalist jobs as judges.

He did this to try and stop Thomas Jefferson from changing things too much as the Judges would serve for life and he did that through their passing of the Judiciary Act 1801. One of the appointments was William Marbury, it then became the job of Secretary of State, James Madison, to deliver his commission to Marbury. However, Jefferson gave explicit instructions to Madison to not give Marbury his commission. Marbury sued the Secretary of State Madison in order to get his commission. The Court came to a unanimous decision that Marbury was entitled to his commission. However, the court could not grant a writ of mandamus to Marbury.

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Chief Justice Marshall wrote the opinion in the case, “Marbury was entitled to the commission, the Supreme Court did not have the power to force Madison to deliver the commission. He reasoned that the Judiciary Act of 1789, the act written by Congress which authorized the Supreme Court t to issue such writs conflicted with the Constitution so the law was unconstitutional. He said that when ordinary laws conflict with the constitution, they must be struck down or made “null and void.” This is called judicial review.

In effect, he wrote that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land and the courts — especially the Supreme Court — are the ultimate “deciders” of what is constitutional.”[4] This was the first case that the Supreme Court that said they had the right to strike down a law if they believed that it was unconstitutional. They in theory gave themselves the power of Judicial Review and made the court more powerful and brought the power up to par with the Executive and Legislative branches of the government. It has been argued that the Supreme Court acts unconstitutionally itself when it exercises Judicial Review.

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Is the US Supreme Court the most powerful branch in the Government?. (2021, Apr 24). Retrieved December 8, 2022, from