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Supreme Court Criticisms

Federal versus State Power

Federal versus State Power

Throughout American history and with the inception of the
United States Constitution, there has been an ongoing debate about the struggle
between
Federal and
State
power. The United States Constitution was provide
d a
structure by which the United States
Government
operates, while establishing a connection between the
Federal Government
and the states.

The U.S. Constitution had the purpose of filling in the
gaps of all unenumerated powers of the states in order to build a
Federal
framework of government. In the late 18th
Century,
when the U.S. Constitution was still being proposed and developed, its
proponents, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton
,
maintained to critics that the Constitution had no intention of overpowering or
infringing upon the power of
State governments. Even so, other writers of
the Constitution did indeed have the intention of expanding the power of a
Federal Government
and felt that it was necessary. Today, it is not uncommon for disputes between
Federal and
State laws
to take place within
Federal court and State
supreme court.

Commerce Clause

The Commerce Clause is an enumerated power in
Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution stating that
Congress has the power “To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and
among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes”. The Commerce Clause
has extended its reach to Foreign affairs, Interstate Commerce, and Indian
Commerce and has been shown by interpreters as being an attempt to make the
United States a free trade zone.

Dispute still exists today about the range of powers that
the Commerce Clause grants to Congress. According to interpreters, James
Madison wrote the Commerce Clause to empower the new Federal Government to only
stop certain states from taxing foreign goods, while another
State did
not tax such goods, in addition to preventing the taxation of goods between the
states within the U.S. It has proven to be a central piece in the debate of
Federal
versus
State
power.

In the case of Cherokee
Nation v. Georgia, which was held in Federal court, was a case that argued the
rights of the Cherokee Indian tribe living within the State of Georgia
independently. The Cherokees accused the State of Georgia of enacting a series
of laws which stripped them of their rights in an effort to drive the tribe out
of the State.

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected
the arguments of the Cherokees, stating that as an independent sovereignty, the
Federal court had no jurisdiction over the tribe and the laws enacted by
Georgia remained. This showed, through the Federal court, that Indian tribes
within the United States were considered to be foreign nations, as mentioned in
the Commerce Clause.

Another case, United States v. Lopez, attempted to
spread the reach of the Commerce Clause to a criminal statute, which prohibits
the possession of guns near schools. Alfonso Lopez, a twelfth grade student,
was accused of possessing a gun in an Antonio, Texas high school. Congress was
accused of extending the power it had using the Commerce Clause to regulate
local economic activity in ways that the States had no power to do.

After he was convicted, he
appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, claiming that Congress did not
have the power to legislate using the Commerce Clause. The Court agreed and
reversed his conviction. This decision once again limited the powers of
Congress under the Commerce Clause.

Further Criticisms of the U.S. Supreme Court

According to constitutional scholar, Kevin
Gutzman, the Court has misused the Fourteenth Amendment to help limit the power
of states and State supreme court power. Justice Brandeis believed that states
and State supreme courts should be able to operate without direct interference
from Federal court and states should operate as “laboratories of democracy”
.

Does The SC Review Enough Cases

Does The SC Review Enough Cases

The U.S. Supreme Court, the highest judicial body in the United States, was designed and structured to not only be the leader of Federal judiciary proceedings, but to be the third tier of power, overseeing the legislative and executive branches of government. Its job is to hear cases that have been appealed up to the Supreme Court or cases that challenge the interpretation of Federal law.
The Supreme Court is made up of one Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices, whom have a life tenure and serve until death, resignation, retirement, or impeachment. When potential Court cases are reviewed by the Justices of the Supreme Court, if any four of the nine Justices want to hear a case, the case will be formally heard in the Court. Recently, however, the Court has come under much criticism for hearing progressively fewer cases, specifically since the 1980s.
Reasons for the Shrinking Supreme Court Agenda

Since the inception of the U.S. Supreme Court, the number of cases heard by the Supreme Court rose consistently every year until the 1980s, when it heard approximately 150 cases a year. As of 2009, the number of cases heard by Supreme Court Justices every year has dropped to about half as many. In fact, the 75-80 cases that are heard by the Court are taken from a list of as many as 8,000 proposed cases.
As concern over the dwindling Supreme Court case docket reached public attention, Yale Law School held a conference to determine the reasoning behind it. Although the exact reasoning was not determined without any doubt, there were several theories that were created to explain it. Some theories accused the current Justices for choosing fewer cases to make a court decision, while others believe that the Supreme Court clerks are to blame. Other theories and reasoning behind the shrinking list is that the Justice Department has begun to make fewer appeals and even Congress was blamed for not making legislation “vague” enough to be left up to Court interpretation.
One of the most convincing arguments, however, came from a researcher at University of Minnesota Law School, who claimed that the five replacement Justices that took over in 1986 clearly voted to hear cases far less often than the Justices that preceded them. As the 1980s came to a close, data suggests that the drop off in the number of Supreme Court cases is undeniably staggering, leading many to believe that the new Justices are to blame.
The biggest difference was between Justice Byron R. White and his replacement, Justice Ruth Bader. White voted to hear an average of 216 cases per year, a considerably larger number than Bader, who only voted to hear 63 cases in 1993. Additionally, Justice Clarence Thomas only voted to hear 72 cases, as opposed to his predecessor, Justice Thurgood Marshall’s 125 cases. Justice David H. Souter voted to hear 83 cases, while his predecessor, Justice William J. Brennan Jr. voted to hear 129. Interestingly enough, even the justices who remained active after the personnel change in 1986 voted to see a fewer amount of cases, though the drop off in numbers was not quite as steep as the new Justices.
Throughout the 1990s, the trend continued and reached a new low in the decade to follow, as only 70 cases were heard total in 2007. It should also be noted, however, that between the years of 1989 and 1991, the number of Justices other than the Chief Justice that made the Supreme Court decisions pool grew from six to eight members. This may have also been a contributing factor to the smaller number of cases that received a court decision, according to Kenneth W. Starr, who was a former appeals court judge.
Another possible contributing factor often theorized is the number of petitions filed by the Solicitor General, the representative of the Federal Government within the Supreme Court, has shrunken from 29 to about 16 in the four terms before the previous term.
Approval and Criticism of the Declining Supreme Court Decisions

Many scholars today believe that the Supreme Court is not working at its fullest capacity and should be more proactive in discussions which are held at a lower court level. They feel that it is their responsibility to hear a case and reach a decision to help interpret the law of the United States. There are, however, many respected opinions that support the decline in Supreme Court decisions.
Many people believe in the importance that of a Court decision should only be made if truly necessary, otherwise the other branches of government or the lower courts will perform an adequate enough job in enforcing such decisions as needed. Trusting the Supreme Court in deciding which cases to hear is just as important as trusting the decisions they make in the cases that they do hear.

What Are Secret Proceedings

What Are Secret Proceedings

The Federal Supreme Court has had a long history of keeping its inner workings and proceedings in secret from the media and the general public. The media has struggled to cover the Supreme Courts, as records which are released of the cases come in the form of occasional public events and brief printed releases, not revealing the pending cases and processes that take place behind closed doors.
The extreme secrecy of the Federal Supreme Court has been considered to be a serious problem, hurting the general public who know little about the Court justices that have such an abundance of power over their liberties. In the later years of the 2000s, however, the view of the Federal Supreme Court has changed quite drastically. Current justices have taken a more open approach, writing books, becoming more open to journalists and even appearing on television.
It is quite apparent that the closed doors and secrecy of the Supreme Courts are beginning to change. In fact, many reporters believe that the Supreme Court has become an open institution with the only secret meetings occurring during private Justice conferences.
Justice Antonin Scalia
Justice Antonin Scalia of the Federal Supreme Court is a prime example of the Court’s shift from secrecy and lack of public openness to a slightly more open system of communication. A social conservative, Scalia was one of the Justices of the Supreme Court which voted to cease the Florida recount during the 2000 election, a decision which led to the victory of George W. Bush.
Justice Scalia, who was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan, has been notorious for shunning the media and ignoring their requests for information while citing his First Amendment right to keep quiet when it comes to media attention. He has ignored reporters in the past who have approached him and even had his security team erase tapes recording one of his speeches.
In 2008, however, Scalia has begun a more open policy toward the media, due to encouragement and pressure from his children and because of the release of his book. He has spoken to the BBC in London and even hosted a question and answer session with a local high school, which was also broadcasted live on television.
Even so, Scalia continues to criticize media coverage and has expressed his arguments against broadcasting court proceedings on television. His reasoning was his concern that a broadcast network would only air certain clips of the proceedings, instead of what really happened in the Supreme Courts, deeming this practice a “mis-education of the American people.”
C-SPAN

C-SPAN (Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network) is an American cable television network, which was created to air governmental meetings and public affair gatherings. Owned by the National Cable Satellite Corporation, C-SPAN does not accept funding from outside advertisers or funding from governmental agencies.
C-SPAN airs non-stop political programming for cable subscribers. It has aired such proceedings from the Senate and the United States House of Representatives on its three main channels, but as of yet, has not aired any footage of the proceedings of the Supreme Court.
C-SPAN has made several requests over the years to the United States Supreme Court to allow camera access inside during deliberations, though each request has been denied. C-SPAN, however, has been given access to certain audio tapes of key trials that have taken place behind the closed doors of the Federal Supreme Court for airing on the network. In addition, C-SPAN has also been given permission to air individual Supreme Court Justices’ speech engagements.
There has, however, been a growing concern over permission to air certain audio tapes recording during Supreme Court deliberation and the Supreme Court’s diminishing transparency to C-SPAN. From 2000 until 2010, the court has granted access to a total of 21 audio tapes to be aired, while 25 of the requests were denied. In 2009, seven out of the nine which were requested were also denied.
So far, as of 2010, every request for audio recordings has been denied. This has so far been an inverse trend to the media’s claim that the Supreme Courts have begun opening the doors to the public and increasing access to certain information. Reaction to C-SPAN’s failed efforts were mostly negative, with blame largely aimed at the Justices of the Federal Supreme Court and their use of secrecy as a shield to prevent their decisions from being scrutinized.

A Quick Guide to Supreme Court Criticisms

A Quick Guide to Supreme Court Criticisms

The highest judicial body within the United States, the
Supreme Court of the United States
, consists of one Chief Justice and eight
Associate Justices. The
Justices are nominated by the President and
the Senate votes them into office to serve for a lifetime tenure, until the
justice retires, resigns, is impeached, or dies.

Initially, the Supreme Court heard very few cases, with
the first Supreme Court case heard being the case of West v. Barnes, which
found that a writ of error is required to be issued within ten days by the
Clerk of the Supreme Court. When John Marshall took the seat of Chief Justice,
however, the power of the Supreme Court began to grow.

The Marshall Court which lasted from 1801 to 1835. Martin v.
Hunter’s Lessee gave the Court the power to correct the interpretations of the
U.S. Constitution which have been established by State governments. The Supreme
Court was then entrusted with not only the power to interpret the law, but to
strike down any laws which it deemed unconstitutional.

With the responsibility to make
important decisions also came a great deal of
 criticism.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of
certain rights, “shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by
the people.” It is designed to negate any further expansion of
governmental power on account of the enumerated rights mentioned in prior Amendments
of the Constitution.
 

Further protection for individual rights was given
in the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which was added after the
end of the U.S. Civil War as one of the Reconstruction Amendments in 1868. The
Fourteenth Amendment covers a lot of ground in its five total sections.

Section
1 stated that all persons born within the United States are citizens of the
United States and citizens of the State in which they reside. Other provisions
in the Amendment include rights for voting, restrictions on governmental jobs
of members of Congress, the voiding of all debts relating to slavery, and that
Congress had the power to enforce all of the above provisions.

The provisions clearly outlined in the Ninth and
Fourteenth Amendment have been interpreted in controversial ways by the United
States Supreme Court. 

Too Much Power

Too Much Power

The criticisms that the United States Supreme Court has received over the years are largely related to judicial activism. Martin v. Hunter's Lessee helped to extend the Court's reach of power even further, giving the Court authority over State supreme courts in all matters related to Federal law. The Court continued to operate in an entrusted state, helping to develop and define Federal law in a rational manner.
 
 
The Chrysler Chapter 11 Bankruptcy
 
 
U.S. Supreme Court opinions received a lot of criticism in 2009, when America's third largest automaker faced bankruptcy and a possible liquidation during the automotive industry crisis of 2008 and 2009. As the world's economies took a downfall, one of the hardest hit industries was the American automotive industry, largely due in part to the energy crisis that weakened the economy between 2003 and 2008. 
 
 
A focus on low-fuel economy sport utility vehicles in the early part of the decade proved to be a devastatingly regretful decision, as their popularity dwindled when customers began to instead purchase automobiles which produced better gas mileage. Although all automakers were hurt during the economic crisis, Chrysler was one of the most affected, and it became the first American automaker to face bankruptcy since 1933.
 
 
When Chrysler failed to reach a restructuring plan on their own before the April 30, 2009 deadline, a bankruptcy judge approved a Government restructuring plan and a sale of Chrysler, a rare intervention on private enterprise by the Federal Government. The plan was to allow the assets of the company to be sold to an Italian automaker, Fiat, with the U.S. Government and Canadian government having a minority stake on the company.
 
 
The sale and restructuring plan was blocked by Indiana pension plan bondholders, appealing it to the U.S. Appeals Court for the Second Circuit. The sale was allowed, but followed by further appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in an emergency statement put a hold on the sale. The next day, however, on June 9, 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the sale and procedure for the New Chrysler organization restructuring to continue. It was found later in a written document that the Indiana bondholders did not "carry the burden" of proving that the Supreme Court should block the sale.
 
 
The decision of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a controversial moment in the U.S. Supreme Court history, which attempted to reverse the decision, at least temporarily. Though many critics believe that the actions by Ginsburg and the initial Supreme Court opinions were unnecessary and expanded beyond the rightful reach of the Supreme Court, others believe that it allowed for further meticulous deliberation, which ultimately led to the final decision of allowing the sale to move forward. This extra review allowed the Supreme Court to keep the other branches in check, especially in a rare situation in which the Federal Government unconventionally stepped into private sector territory to save a failing company.