may be defined as one entity being the sole supplier of a particular product or
service, thus leaving no room for others to partake in such business
enterprises. This lack of competition, then, leaves little choice for
consumers, which places constraints of the economy as a whole. Due to the
advent of monopolies, “competition laws” have been instituted, which
are also known as “antitrust laws”. They are set forth so as to
ensure that competition be existent within every market of the economy and place
regulations on monopolies.
The Sherman Antitrust Act was one of the first Federal
statutes to place limitations upon monopolies. Its main purpose was to prevent
companies from garnering power as monopolies. It is employed to protect the
consumers as opposed to the companies, as such practices involving monopolies
are deemed “failures of the market”. This Act required that the Government
be responsible for policing the activity of trusts, companies, and
organizations of the like if they are deemed in violation of the statute.
The basis by
which antitrust law is composed comprises of 3 important aspects. These include
the following: prohibition of practices that may impose limitations upon
“free trading” as well as overall market competition, barring companies
from behavior that may lead to market domination or other
“anti-competitive” customs, and the overseeing of “mergers and
acquisitions,” which entails the dealings between firms of business.
of a Supreme Court case with this in mind was that of Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey
v. United States. This was a case in which the Court ruled that Standard
Oil had actually been guilty of imposing a monopoly upon the entire petroleum
industry. In order to provide a solution to such a monopoly, Standard Oil was
ordered to divide itself into various firms in order to ensure increased
Another significant Supreme Court case was that of
the United States v. Microsoft. This encompassed a number of previous civil
suits filed against the technological juggernaut. The claims set forth in this
case accused Microsoft of monopolizing the region of personal computer sales
due its dealings with “operating system as well as web browser sales”.
The main issue was the legality for which Microsoft may combine its Internet Explorer
browser with its Windows operating system. This was asserted as the reasoning
behind Microsoft’s monopoly over this market as consumers had access to a
browser upon purchase of the Microsoft’s Windows operating system.
In a final
settlement, Microsoft was ordered to share their software interfaces with other
companies for a period of at least 5 years in order to ensure fairness. They
did not, however, need to change any of their bundles, which caused the
commotion to begin with. This settlement led to the advent of other competitive
computer companies, which would allow consumers choices suitable for their
specific technological as well as financial needs.
The definition of obscenity,
for instance, has been thrown into question as to the extent to which it can
rule out the exercise of First Amendment rights. Legal commentators have
observed that the general direction of the Supreme Court has been toward
granting the primacy of the right to freedom of speech.
Justice Brandeis observed on
the case, however, that “fear of serious injury alone cannot justify
suppression of free speech”, but that such an action can only be performed
if there exists a “reasonable” basis on which to conclude that the
speech will lead to actual violence. He thus distinguished between
“advocacy and incitement”. Though Brandeis agreed with the Court’s
finding in regards to the specific case, his opinion established an argument by
which the unpopular exercising of the freedom of speech could later be extended.
. The defendants in this case were a pair of siblings in high
school and junior high who were prevented by school policy from wearing black
armbands to express their opposition to the Vietnam War. This policy had not
existed before the students made their plans in 1965, but was created shortly
before the planned protest, possibly in anticipation of it, to mandate the
suspension of any student wearing an armband. When the Tinkers chose to go
ahead with their protest, they were accordingly suspended by the
administration. An appeal was lodged on their behalf by the Iowa Civil
Liberties Union, which claimed a First Amendment violation, and by 1968 the
case had reached the Supreme Court.
Court majority decided in favor of the Tinkers’ claim that their First Amendment
rights to freedom of speech had been violated, finding that the school
administration did not sufficiently establish that overall discipline would be
compromised by the Tinkers’ exercise of freedom of speech. Later Court cases
established limits to the freedoms granted to students.
Supreme Court decision of the case of Employment Division v. Smith addressed
the application of the right to freedom of religion, as guaranteed under the , to otherwise illegal acts. The opinion of the Supreme Court was
that states had the power but not the obligation to allow criminal acts in
order to honor the principle of religious freedom. In this way, the Supreme
Court allowed the State to deny unemployment benefits to the person making the
appeal and struck down the opinion of the Oregon Supreme Court that this action
violated the Constitutional right to freedom of religion.
The complainant, Alfred Smith, had been employed
by the State of Oregon as a drug rehabilitation counselor. His superiors
dismissed him upon learning that he had used a controlled substance, peyote, in
the course of a ceremony performed in the religion he practiced. The State then
withheld unemployment benefits to Smith on the grounds that his own misconduct
had cost him his position.
Court of Appeals found against this decision on the grounds that the peyote
usage was protected under religious freedom and found support in this decision
from the State Supreme Court. Oregon thus submitted an appeal to the U.S.
Supreme Court to argue that the right to freedom of religion did not apply to
either the initial dismissal of Joseph Smith or the later denial of benefits to
him. The case then turned to the broader question of the constitutionality of
Oregon’s laws on drug usage.
The Supreme Court found that the Oregon law used
to make the decision against Alfred Smith did not violate the First Amendment’s
guarantee of freedom of religion in that it was generally aimed at the usage of
such substances by citizens and did not specifically address the religious
purposes to which they might be put. The law in this way could not be said to be
aimed at Alfred Smith’s religious freedom to practice his faith in a general
sense, but rather to a specific way in which he decided to practice it. In this
way, the majority opinion of the Supreme Court held that it could be reasonably
sure that the Oregon law was not covertly aimed at giving the State the ability
to violate the freedom of religion. It was instead, according to the Court’s
opinion, a “neutral law of general applicability”.
The Court has upheld this principle in regards to
claimed violations of religious freedom in a number of cases extending beyond
the subject matter of narcotics. In a well-known example of the limits which
may be placed on the freedom of religion, the practice of polygamy among
Mormons, as was once common, has been strictly forbidden. In the case of
Employment Division v. Smith, the Court thus advised the complainant to seek
the passage of laws allowing for the consumption of peyote for religious
purposes, noting that such laws had already been passed elsewhere, while
upholding the ability of the State to enforce the laws in their present state.
of international law can impinge on cases taken on and decisions made by the
U.S. Supreme Court both in reference to legal controversies which span
international borders and to the use of other law codes as sources for guidance
and instruction. The relevance of international laws is generally accepted by
professionals in and observers of the American field of law when it is in
regard to the former category, but the practice has caused more controversy in
the latter such cases.
American political and legal arguments contend that the sovereign authority of
the country as a whole is imperiled by a reliance on foreign codes of law for
any kind of authority. Despite this argument, the field of international law
has in the past derived much of use from American Constitutional law, and with
the expansion of comprehensive and functioning legal systems across the world,
it is not unlikely that the Supreme Court will continue to deal with the proper
relationship of international laws to the American judicial system.
Early Supreme Court rulings on the issue of
international law often involved issues and disputes arising between the ships
of different countries engaged in sea commerce. In cases of this kind and
similar legal controversies, the Supreme Court would openly examine
international laws and mention such codes as authorities in its opinion. A
specific instance of international law occurring in the early period of the
Supreme Court is a case involving questions over property included in the
Louisiana Purchase from France and also held at a previous point by Spain.
To this end,
the Justices studied French and Spanish real estate statutes before rendering a
decision for the American litigant. Similar questions arose much later in
reference to inter-North American commerce conducted as part of NAFTA and the
recovery of property lost in Europe during World War II.
A more controversial appearance of international
laws in Supreme Court theory has been the citation of other countries’ law
statutes in regard to the rights of Americans, which in turn have prompted
complaints of American courts compromising American sovereignty. The
international law controversy began toward the end of the 20th Century, when
Justices began looking to legal codes for practices and rules that they
considered more humane and fair than those currently observed in the United
States. Legal and political commentators would sometimes notice this trend, to
their chagrin or endorsement, when they saw the Justices’ own citation of
foreign and international law in the opinions they rendered.
of the use of international law by the Supreme Court came to new prominence
when Justice Anthony Kennedy cited precedents from general European laws and
English courts in the Lawrence v. Texas case disallowing the legal prohibition
of same-sex intercourse. Kennedy would later cite international law to similar
ends, and to similarly much-noted, often reviled effect, in appealing to the
United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child against the practice of
One of the
basic rights of the United States Supreme Court, and a primary foundation for
the power which it exercises over the American legal system and the country as
a whole, is the doctrine of judicial review. This power consists of the ability
of the Supreme Court to decide upon “review” that a piece of
legislation or some other form of Government action is not permitted under the
Constitution and can, therefore, be judged “unconstitutional”. The
Supreme Court established this privilege early in its existence and was
empowered as a significant institution in the American Government primarily by
Marbury thus sued Madison to
compel him to deliver the commission, drawing on the Judiciary Act of 1789to make his case and
submitting his case directly to the Supreme Court. The Court thus held original
jurisdiction over the matter, a relatively infrequent occurrence in that the
Supreme Court more regularly holds appellate jurisdiction over the proceedings
of lower courts.
The decision of the Supreme Court found against
Marbury’s case while upholding the validity of his complaint and suggesting, in
the opinion delivered by John Marshall, that Marbury find some other means for
remedying it. The judicial review which Marshall had conducted of the portions
of the Judiciary Act cited by Marbury demonstrated to the Court, however, that
the Congressional legislation had attempted to give the Supreme Court powers
which it did not hold under the Constitution, such as would have allowed it to
enact Marbury’s request.
derived the principle of judicial review from the fact that the American legal
system as a whole is based on the written authority of the Constitution and
that any action by the Government which runs up against that authority cannot
be allowed. In light of the status of the Supreme Court as the ultimate arbiter
in the land, it could therefore effectively exercise the power of striking down
laws by ruling them “unconstitutional”. Marshall’s argument has been
accepted as the foundation for the principle of judicial review.
case of McCulloch v. Maryland addressed the scope of powers held by the Federal
Government and expanded them in provoking the creation of the doctrine of
implied powers granted under the Constitution. The Supreme Court thus placed
limits of states to act against programs undertaken by the Federal Government.
To provide justification for this decision, the Court appealed to Clause 18,
Section 8 of Article Iof the Constitution, as it is
considered to represent the “Necessary and Proper Clause.” This
section grants Congress the ability to pass legislation which it finds
“necessary and proper” for the task of exercising the other rights expressly
given by the Constitution.
Under the heading of the
legislation, the Second Bank’s president, James McCulloch, had been prosecuted
after he refused to pay the required fee. On appeal, the State made the
argument that the Constitution does not mention banks and that the Second Bank
of the United States thus lacked Constitutional protection.
Court’s opinion, referring to the political concept of the social contract to
establish the binding power of the Federal Government as provided by the Constitution.
Marshall then observed that the Constitution could not specifically address all
of the specific ways in which the Government would fulfill the duties to which
it was generally obligated, but rather implied the functions which the Government
might take on to meet its responsibilities.
The opinion referred
to the Necessary and Proper Clause as the place in which the implied powers
concept is explicitly addressed and that this stipulation was classed with
other Congressional powers, rather than their limitations. As expressed in
Marshall’s opinion, the implied powers doctrine thereby established the broadly-defined
ability of Congress to use powers which it was not barred from exercising
rather than those which it was explicitly given the right to use.
not place the existence of implied powers as an absolute limitation on other
rights, but specified that an implied power might be limited by the finding
that a right already granted to states or individual citizens conflicted with
it. The outcome of McCulloch v. Maryland nevertheless placed new and
wide-reaching limitations on the power of states and signaled the beginning of
a newly broadened understanding of Federal power, particularly over individual
State governments and laws.