News / USA

US Supreme Court Opens Session With New Lineup

U.S. Supreme Court
U.S. Supreme Court
Elizabeth Lee

The U.S. Supreme Court started a new session this week, marking the 75th anniversary of the high court in Washington. The court is made up of nine justices, each appointed by a president, then confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Legal experts say the high court has evolved over the years even as it continues to take up cases that present complex constitutional issues.

Located in the heart of Washington is the most powerful court of justice in the United States. In fact, Law Professor Jeffrey Rosen at The George Washington University points out, it is unique among the constitutional courts of the world.

"It has great power and the most important power is the ability to strike down laws passed by Congress and State Legislatures if the justices feel they violate the U.S. Constitution," said Professor Rosen.

First time in history

This year, for the first time in the history of the United States, three of the nine justices on the Supreme Court are women.

In the past five years, there have been four new justices appointed to the court.

Affect personal dynamics

Professor Rosen says that may affect the personal dynamics on the court, but probably not its recent trend toward becoming more conservative.

What's new, he says, is that the court may now be perceived as being partisan.

"This is the first time that all the liberals are democratic appointees and all the five conservatives are Republican appointees," Rosen added. "So there is a danger that the court will be perceived as political. I think the justices themselves would reject that claim. They would feel that despite their clear ideological and philosophical differences, no one would ever cast a vote purely for political reasons."

Decisions without political pressure

The Court is supposed to be insulated from partisanship. The Constitution gives Supreme Court justices lifetime appointments so they can make decisions without political pressure. But the Supreme Court has still at times been accused of playing politics. In 2000, there was no clear winner in the Presidential election between Al Gore and George W. Bush.  In a five to four vote, the court sided with Bush  –  a decision that put him in the White House.

"After the Bush Vs Gore decision public confidence in the court among democrats plummeted to something like 30 or 40 percent but it soared among Republicans to 70 or 80 percent," he said. "Nevertheless a year later the numbers were pretty well equal as they were before the decision."

The Supreme Court is constantly tested by high-profile cases. Many of the most contentious involve the free speech provisions of the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment.

Right to protest

One such case this year questions whether members of a church have a right to protest with offensive signs at a U.S. Marine's funeral.

Charles Haynes heads the Religious Freedom Education Project at the Newseum. He says "If we allow the government to decide what's offensive speech, and what isn't offensive then I think it limits the rights of all of us to express what we believe."

Legal experts also expect cases involving such social issues as health care reform and same-sex marriage to end up in the Supreme Court.

Judges' ideological beliefs

Jeff Rosen says the judges' ideological beliefs are most likely the dominant factor when they consider a case. But he says the Court still occupies a position of public confidence and legitimacy.

"Although its decision are often hotly debated, people criticize them intensely. There still is a feel that the court ultimately is deciding things based on philosophy rather than pure partisanship and that its decisions have to be obeyed even when you disagree with them"

Rosen says one reason the court is respected by Americans – even when they disagree with its decisions - is that when the justices rule on an issue, they also have to explain why.

You May Like

Will Cuba Follow the Southeast Asia Model?

Decision to restore ties between US and Cuba has some debating whether it will lead to an enhancement or regression of democracy on the Communist island nation More

Kenyan Designer Finds Her Niche in Fashion Industry

‘Made in China’ fabrics underlies her success More

Report: CIA, Israel's Mossad Killed Senior Hezbollah Commander

The Washington Post story says Imad Mughniyah was killed instantly by a bomb "triggered remotely" from Tel Aviv by Mossad agents More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Lateri
X
Deborah Block
January 31, 2015 12:12 AM
Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Later

Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid