Supreme Court

Article III of the Constitution sets up the judicial branch of our government. Section 1 of Article III refers to the courts of the United States. It reads in part as follows: “The Judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one supreme court, and in such inferior courts as Congress may from time to time ordain and establish….The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behavior, and shall at stated times receive for their services a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.”
Section 2 outlines the jurisdiction of the courts and rules respecting trials. It says this about trials: “The trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury; and such trial shall be held in the state where the said crime was committed.”
The Supreme Court was established by Congress in 1789. A Federal District Court was also authorized in each of the thirteen original states. The original Supreme Court had five members including the Chief Justice. This number has been raised by later Congresses to nine justices.
Which modern President called the Supreme Court “the nine old men?” It was Franklin Roosevelt. Why did Roosevelt try to add more members to the court and thereby “pack “ the court? He was unhappy because the Court found some of the anti-depression laws that Roosevelt pushed through Congress to be unconstitutional. Roosevelt called on Congress to increase the number of justices from nine to fifteen. This would allow him to appoint six additional justices and obtain a majority on the Court. This recommendation brought forth a storm of disapproval, and Congress wisely made no move to carry out the President’s recommendation.
The more I read the Constitution, the more respect I have for this great document of human freedom. I am amazed at the wisdom of our Founding Fathers in the care they exercised to protect the rights of the people and the checks and balances they wrote into the Constitution to insure that no person or group of people could ever subvert the democratic processes and assume dictatorial powers.
For example, the Congress establishes the Supreme Court and inferior Federal courts, but the Constitution grants the justices and judges life terms that put them above the political arena. The President appoints the justices and Federal judges, but the Senate must approve each nomination. The House has the power to impeach any justice or Federal judge for high crimes or treason. If the House impeaches a Federal judge, the Senate then tries the case.
One of our local Federal judges, quite a few years ago, was charged with allowing large fees to one of his former law partners and then splitting the fees between them. He was impeached by the House of Representatives and tried and convicted by the Senate and removed from his lifetime position.
The Supreme Court can rule that a law passed by Congress is unconstitutional and nullify that law. The Supreme Court can also find acts of a President unconstitutional. This happened when Present Harry Truman seized the steel mils during a prolonged strike. The mill owners appealed to the courts and the Supreme Court ruled that Truman’s actions were unconstitutional and he had to release control of the steel industry. The Supreme Court also ruled against President Nixon and ordered him to turn over his office tapes to the special prosecutor investigating the Watergate break-in.
These are just some of the safeguards that our Founding Fathers wrote into this great document. How many of you have visited the Supreme Court Building in Washington? It is a beautiful white marble building just across the street from the Capitol. Carved across the front of this magnificent structure are these words: “Equality Under the Law.”
We know, of course, that equality and impartiality are not always possible. But I sincerely believe that the system of law and justice first outlined in the Constitution by the Founding Fathers and refined through the years, although not perfect, is still the finest legal code in the world. I like that motto: “Equality Under the Law.”

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