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Supreme Court Essay

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  • December 14, 2012
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AP Government

For over 60 years, the Supreme Court has been making crucial decisions in controversial cases. There are many factors that affect the court’s and the judge’s opinion. Public opinion is the voice of the people. Can courts diverge too far from public opinion? The Supreme Court cannot derive too far from public opinion on many controversial cases but can certainly where appropriate.

Controversial cases such as abortion, homosexuality, and death penalty receive a great influence from the public opinion and thus it is hard for the Supreme Court to diverge from. Looking at Gregg v Georgia(1976), a highly controversial case had a public opinion for the death penalty at 72%. Looking at the case historically, the courts have always attempted to avoid capital punishment. The idea of it being “cruel” and “unusual” really favored it being unconstitutional, but the high public opinion approval of capital punishment that had just given the edge.

Can the Supreme Court stray away too far from the public opinion? We can certainly say yes. U.S Term Limits v. Thorton(1995), was a case where Supreme Court ruled that states cannot impose qualifications for prospective members of the U.S. Congress stricter than those specified in the Constitution. The public opinion favored Thorton as high as 77%. The Supreme Court found it appropriate, because it violated a principle which consisted of right to choose representatives belonged to the people and not the states. After carefully examining the case, the Supreme Court went against the public opinion.

The relationship between the Supreme Court and public opinion is very unique. When one of the most recent controversial cases Lawrence v Texas(2003) occurred, the public opinion played a role bigger than ever. The 50% “maybe” answer from public opinion to struck down the sodomy law in Texas, made it even more controversial. The issue of “morality” is where it regarded the public opinion, but the...