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Reigning Supreme


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Regarding concern for the Supreme Court’s decision allowing corporate political contributions, the more fundamental issue has to do with the Court’s power to review acts of Congress in the first place (see “Town Dandy,” Jan. 28). This is a power which is not set forth in the U.S. Constitution and only came into being as a result of the actions of the first chief justice, John Marshall, in the case of Marbury v. Madison in 1803. (This case itself arose from the early political conflict between the right-leaning Federalists, represented by Marshall, and the populist oriented Democratic-Republicans, represented by then-President Thomas Jefferson.)

The assumption historically has been that Supreme Court justices, being appointed for life, are immune from the pressures of politics and thereby render decisions based purely on the integrity of legal precedent. Anyone who believes this proposition need only look at history for examples where political orientation of the justices has clearly determined the Court’s decisions (viz, the pre-Civil War Dred Scott decision, Bush v. Gore in 2000, and now Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission). Over the course of history, depending on orientation of the majority on the Court, we have seen decisions supporting the political left as well as the right.

The appropriate action to deal with this ongoing problem, now demonstrated yet again in Citizens United, would be by constitutional amendment to remove the power of the Supreme Court to pass on the constitutionality of acts of Congress. The real objection to the power of judicial review is that by its exercise unelected judges are allowed to stand in a position superior to and to pass judgment on actions of popularly elected officials of our government — the Congress and President. It is a power without which Great Britain has successfully maintained its democracy for much longer than we have in the U.S., and which is expressly forbidden to the courts in the constitution of the Netherlands.

Robert Breslin, Trinidad


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