Supreme Court of the United States

highest court in the United States
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The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is the highest federal court of the United States. Established pursuant to Article III of the United States Constitution in 1789, it has ultimate (and largely discretionary) appellate jurisdiction over all federal courts and over state court cases involving issues of federal law, plus original jurisdiction over a small range of cases. In the legal system of the United States, the Supreme Court is the final interpreter of federal constitutional law, although it may only act within the context of a case in which it has jurisdiction.

The U.S. Supreme Court Building

The Court consists of the Chief Justice of the United States and eight associate justices who are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Once appointed, justices have life tenure unless they resign, retire, take senior status, or are removed after impeachment (though no justice has ever been removed).

QuotesEdit

  • I had never before argued a Supreme Court case on my own. Since arguments in that court are thirty minutes in length per side, and since most of the time consumed in argument is taken up with responses to questions of the Court, Dean [Ringel] and I devoted most of our preparation to three overlapping issues, ones that have consumed my attention in every later Supreme Court argument as well. The first was jurisprudential in nature. What rule of law were we urging the Court to adopt? How would it apply in any future case? What would be its impact on First Amendment legal doctrine?
  • In my conception of it, the primary role of the Court is to decide cases. From the decision of cases, of course, some changes develop, but to try to create or substantially change civil or criminal procedure, for example, by judicial decision is the worst possible way to do it. The Supreme Court is simply not equipped to do that job properly.
  • The first opinion the Court ever filed has a dissenting opinion. Dissent is a tradition of this Court... When someone is writing for the Court, he hopes to get eight others to agree with him, so many of the majority opinions are rather stultified.
  • The Court's great power is its ability to educate, to provide moral leadership.
  • This Court is forever adding new stories to the temples of constitutional law, and the temples have a way of collapsing when one story too many is added.
  • Civil liberties had their origin and must find their ultimate guaranty in the faith of the people. If that faith should be lost, five or nine men in Washington could not long supply its want.
  • The court is the least abstract of institutions. It is nine men, nine very human men, participating in a process that can be impressive or disturbing, grave or funny. And contrary to the general impression, the process is more visible than most of what goes on in government.
    • Anthony Lewis, quoted in Congressional Quarterly's Guide to the U.S. Supreme Court (1979), p. viii.
  • For nearly 40 years, the Supreme Court has been evading the 14th Amendment's provision of "equal protection" of the law for all, in order to let government-imposed group preferences and quotas continue, under the name of "affirmative action." Equal rights under the law have been made to vanish by saying the magic word "diversity," whose sweeping benefits are simply assumed and proclaimed endlessly, rather than demonstrated.
  • All general business corporation statues appear to date from well after 1800.. The Framers thus took it as a given that corporations could be comprehensively regulated in the service of the public welfare. Unlike our colleagues, they had little trouble distinguishing corporations from human beings, and when they constitutionalized the right to free speech in the First Amendment, it was the free speech of individual Americans they had in mind.
    The fact that corporations are different from human beings might seem to need no elaboration, except that the majority opinion almost completely elides it….
    Unlike natural persons, corporations have ‘limited liability’ for their owners and managers, ‘perpetual life,’ separation of ownership and control, ‘and favorable treatment of the accumulation of assets….’ Unlike voters in U.S. elections, corporations may be foreign controlled.
    ...It might be added that corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires. Corporations help structure and facilitate the activities of human beings, to be sure, and their ‘personhood’ often serves as a useful legal fiction. But they are not themselves members of ‘We the People’ by whom and for whom our Constitution was established.
  • (TH: In Justice Stevens’ dissent in Citizens United, he pointed out that corporations in their modern form didn’t even exist when the Constitution was written in 1787 and got its first ten amendments in 1791, including the First which protects free speech)
  • In addition to this immediate drowning out of noncorporate voices, there may be deleterious effects that follow soon thereafter. Corporate ‘domination’ of electioneering can generate the impression that corporations dominate our democracy. When citizens turn on their televisions and radios before an election and hear only corporate electioneering, they may lose faith in their capacity, as citizens, to influence public policy. A Government captured by corporate interests, they may come to believe, will be neither responsive to their needs nor willing to give their views a fair hearing. The predictable result is cynicism and disenchantment: an increased perception that large spenders ‘call the tune’ and a reduced ‘willingness of voters to take part in democratic governance.’ To the extent that corporations are allowed to exert undue influence in electoral races, the speech of the eventual winners of those races may also be chilled.
    Politicians who fear that a certain corporation can make or break their reelection chances may be cowed into silence about that corporation.
    On a variety of levels, unregulated corporate electioneering might diminish the ability of citizens to ‘hold officials accountable to the people,’ and disserve the goal of a public debate that is ‘uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.’

Quotes about the selection of justicesEdit

2016Edit

  • Why would we cut off the national debate about this next justice? Why would we squelch the voice of the people? Why would we deny the voters a chance to weigh in on the make-up of the Supreme Court?
    • Tom Cotton, speech on the Senate floor (9 March 2016)
  • In an election year, we have a long tradition, that a lame-duck president doesn't get to jam a Supreme Court nominee through on the very end.
    • Ted Cruz, speaking on Meet the Press (15 February 2016)
  • I want you to use my words against me. If there is a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say, "Lindsey Graham said let's let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination." And you could use my words against me and you'd be absolutely right.
    • Lindsey Graham, at a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee (10 March 2016)
  • When an election is under way the American people are about to weigh in on who's going to be the president. And that's the person, whoever it may be, who ought to be making this appointment.

2020Edit

  • We will move forward without delay and in deliberate fashion. We will process the president's nominee and I believe that we will confirm that nominee as well.
    • Tom Cotton, interview on Fox News Sunday (20 September 2020)
  • I believe the right thing to do is for the Senate to take up this nomination and to confirm the nominee before election day.
    • Ted Cruz, interview on This Week (20 September 2020)
  • I will support President @realDonaldTrump in any effort to move forward regarding the recent vacancy created by the passing of Justice Ginsburg.
  • The Senate has more than sufficient time to process a nomination. History and precedent make that perfectly clear.

Quotes about the Supreme CourtEdit

  • Conservatives on the Supreme Court have repeatedly gutted provisions of the 1974 amendments to the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), most famously in 2010 with their notorious Citizens United decision. With that stroke, over the loud objections of the four “liberals” on the Court, corporations were absolutely deemed as “persons” with full constitutional rights, and billionaires or corporations pouring massive amounts of money into campaign coffers was changed from “bribery and political corruption” to an exercise of the constitutionally-protected “right of free speech.”...
    Increasingly, because of the Supreme Court’s betrayal of American values, it’s become impossible for people... to rise from social worker to the United States Senate without big money behind them. Our media is absolutely unwilling to call this what even Andrew Jackson would have labeled it: political corruption. But that’s what it is and it’s eating away at our republic like a metastasized cancer... While the naked corruption of Sinema and Joe Manchin is a source of outrage for Democrats across America, what’s far more important is that it reveals how deep the rot of money in American politics has gone, thanks entirely to a corrupted Supreme Court.
  • In Justice Stevens’ dissent in Citizens United, he pointed out that corporations in their modern form didn’t even exist when the Constitution was written in 1787 and got its first ten amendments in 1791, including the First which protects free speech.... Noting that corporations “inescapably structure the life of every citizen,” Stevens continued: “It might be added that corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires. Corporations help structure and facilitate the activities of human beings, to be sure, and their ‘personhood’ often serves as a useful legal fiction. But they are not themselves members of ‘We the People’ by whom and for whom our Constitution was established.”
    Even worse than the short-term effect of a corporation’s dominating an election or a ballot initiative, Stevens said (as if he had a time machine to look at us now), was the fact that corporations corrupting politics would, inevitably, cause average working Americans — the 95 percent who make less than $100,000 a year — to conclude that their “democracy” is now rigged.
  • We want a Supreme Court which will do justice under the Constitution -- not over it. In our courts we want a government of laws and not of men.
    • Franklin D. Roosevelt (March 9, 1937), reported in Conrad Black, Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom‎ (2005), p. 411.
  • In the United States at the present day, the reverence which the Greeks gave to the oracles and the Middle Ages to the Pope is given to the Supreme Court. Those who have studied the working of the American Constitution know that the Supreme Court is part of the forces engaged in the protection of the plutocracy. But of the men who know this, some are on the side of the plutocracy, and therefore do nothing to weaken the traditional reverence for the Supreme court, while others are discredited in the eyes of the ordinary quiet citizens by being said to be subversive and Bolshevik.
  • And as I say to you, whenever you put a man on the Supreme Court, he ceases to be your friend, you can be sure of that.

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit