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Chapter 15 Essay and Discussion

The Federal Courts

In chapter 15 of We The People (Ginsberg, et.al.), we discuss the court system. Courts were originally held by king and queens. They would listen to disputes and decide upon a resolution. The framers of the constitution created the court’s system with only six supreme courts judges, but that number grew to nine by 1869 (Ginsberg, et.al.). The Supreme Court is the third branch of the government. But they differ from the other two branches in that they do not rely on votes but are appointed. Many Americans believe this allows the courts to remain apolitical (Ginsberg, et.al.). The Supreme Court makes decisions that may affect every American. Although the Supreme Court does not rule against Congress often, “in two centuries the Supreme Court has concluded that fewer than 160 acts of Congress directly violated the constitution. These cases are often highly controversial” Ginsberg, et.al.). The Supreme court hears disputes and applies relevant laws and principles.

We the people use the example, ” in its 2012 decision upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, the court agreed with many legal scholars who had argued that Congress had no power under the constitution’s commerce clause to order Americans to purchase health insurance” however, the courts ruled that the law’s requirement of Americans to purchase health insurance was actually a tax (Ginsberg, et.al.). They ruled that Congress was within its constitutional rights to levy taxes. Rulings are often made by applying precedents of the law, meaning they decide based on past decisions made by the court.

Early in the nineteenth century, there were six judges appointed to the supreme court, and later there were seven. Today there are nine supreme court judges, mostly appointed by Republican presidents. Since the 1980’s the Supreme Court has had a majority of conservative judges. According to We The People, the Supreme Court has ruled over many important cases in favor of conservatives by 5-4 (Ginsberg, et.al.). In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was angry about the courts ruling of the “New Deal Program” (Ginsberg, et.al.). He asked Congress to increase the number of judges in the Supreme Court. But the courts worried about Roosevelt’s “court-packing plan”, and began ruling in a “more favorable view over his policies” (Ginsberg, et.al.). The judge appointed by the president can sway the courts ruling in favor of the political party.

When Justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016, Obama appointed Judge Merrick Garland (Ginsberg, et.al.). Garland was considered a more liberal judge changing the ratio of conservative to liberal judges. Republicans argued that the new Supreme Court judge should be chosen by Obama’s predecessor, in the hopes a Republican President would choose the new judge (Ginsberg, et.al.). This left the courts without sufficient judges. As a result, many cases were left at a draw in many important decisions. Presidents Trump’s nominated judge held the conservative ratio in the courts of 5-4. Although many believe that the courts are apolitical, I would say they are not; because they are appointed by politicians with similar views.


We The People (Ginsberg, et.al.) 2017.


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