Explain Judicial Review Using Two Case Examples

Topics: Supreme Court of the United States, Separation of powers, United States Constitution Pages: 6 (1743 words) Published: January 2, 2006
Explain Judicial Review using two case examples.
As soon as civilizations created constitutions, actions were being called unconstitutional by those who opposed them. In some instances, unconstitutional acts were the subject of revolution, regicide, or as happened in the American political system, the declaration of a Judiciary body. American judicial review can broadly be defined as the power of this such judicial branch of the government to determine whether or not the acts of all branches of the government and government official comply with the Constitution. It derives from the doctrine of "judicial supremacy", which in turn legitimises this definition by declaring that "both the letter and spirit of the Court's constitutional determinations bind all branches of government and government officials." (Siegel, Ely, McCloskey). Originating as far back as the late 1700's, this practice of judicial review, has allowed judges, thus, to maintain limited government and the rule of the people and to uphold the supremacy of the Constitution, by using the power allocated to them "to declare "null and void" any acts of the national government or of the states which they themselves deem contrary to the Constitution." (Irish and Prothro, 522). Thus, in effect the law becomes "what the judges say it is" (Irish and Prothro, 522).

Judicial Review as we know it today, (an act exercised by both the state and federal judiciary alike, and untimely the Supreme Court) has its roots firmly planted in the later half of the nineteenth century, several years indeed before the monumentally important and frequently cited case of Marbury Vs Madison of 1903. While the Founding Fathers (farmers and arbitraries alike) didn't explicitly spell out the power of judicial review in the Constitution, "they probably intended the judiciary to have such powers" (Irish and Prothro, 523). They weren't completely utopian in their views, however, and probably realised of their own volition that "to sacrifice constitutional government and compromise the rule of law in the hope of rectifying injustices is to strike a bargain with the devil." (Dr. Robert P. George). Instead, it was from Section 5, the later added separation clause to the Vermont Constitution, that the practice of judicial review was informally legitimised in 1786. This separation of powers was also known as the Judiciary Act. This Act itself however, has its origins even further back in the annals of American history. It was unquestionably influenced by the work of the Fist Council of Censors, who, as far back as 1785, detested the practice of so-called legislation for individuals. In retaliation they readily agreed (on numerous occasions) to hear the complaints of dissatisfied parties fresh from court and enact law to relieve them, even when (and often though) their decisions frequently attempted to undo what the court had previously done. Indeed, "some might think it took the Council of Censors to start the engine of judicial review." (Paul S. Gillies).

It was the aforementioned case of Marbury Vs. Madison, however, which formally legitimised judicial review in 1903. Chief Justice John Marshall (the presiding judge) famously asserted that, "… the theory of every such government must be that an act of the legislature repugnant to the Constitution is void." (Patrick 2001, 206). The thought behind such a statement was undoubtedly that, if the Constitution is understood to be the supreme law of the land, then it follows that when, given the power to do so, the Supreme court ought to favour the constitution when any conflict arises between ordinary law and the Constitution. The premise of Marshall's argument was based on an amalgam of three intertwining, yet paradoxically contradictory element of (dominant) Republican political culture; popular sovereignty, judicial independence and fundamental law. Popular sovereignty reflects a situation where people as authors of the Constitution allowed...

Bibliography: - Robert McCloskey, The American Supreme Court, University of Chicago Press,
1st ed., 1960
³ Irish and Prothro, The Politics of American Democracy, 5th ed., Prentice-Hill Inc.,
- Dr. Robert P. George, The Tyrant State: The First Things, Nov. 1996
³ Paul S
Vermont, (Presentation at 7th Annual Vt. Judicial History Seminar, St. Albans,
June 28, 2001 - http://vermont-archives.org/governance/Judicial/seminar.html
³ John J. Patrick, Teaching About Judicial Review (Presentation), 2003 - http://www.indiana.edu/~ssdc/judrevdig.htm
- John J
University Press, 2001
- Nelson 2000, 51-74
³ David McKay, American Politics and Society, 5th ed., Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 2001
³ Jerry Goldman, Ed
479 (1965) - http://www.oyez.org/oyez/resource/case/149/
³ Anon.:
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