News / USA

    US Supreme Court Opens Session With New Lineup

    U.S. Supreme Court
    U.S. Supreme Court

    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

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Forced Anal Testing Case to Appear Before Kenya Court

    Men challenge use of anal examinations to ‘prove homosexuality’; practice accomplishes nothing except to humiliate those subjected to them, according to Human Rights Watch

    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.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora