United States Government/The Judicial Branch-Criticism/Should citizens being able to overrule the Supreme Court?

Supreme Court decisions are often controversial; therefore giving citizens the right to approve or reject Supreme Court decisions would increase political participation. Court decisions often involve the most fundamental moral and political issues and citizens care enough to vote on them.

  • In 1902, Oregon introduced the initiative process which helped to raise voter turnout while it declined elsewhere. Due in part to this element of direct democracy, Oregon consistently has better than average turnout. Giving Americans a similar right could increase national turnout.

  • I disagree, this would not increase political participation. In the 2002 election in Oregon, which was dominated by ballot measures, only 42 percent turned out, contrasted with 60 percent in the 2000 Presidential election. Court cases would be similar to ballot measures in that they would only address one issue.

  • Further, there are deeper reasons why people don’t vote. There are still social and cultural barriers to voting by poor and minority citizens. Also, the cynicism of many voters wouldn’t be changed by this proposal.

  • The Constitution should be amended so citizens can approve or reject Supreme Court decisions. Currently, the Court has nearly unlimited power; far-reaching policy is often made by five unelected justices. This resembles more of a tyrannical aristocracy than a democracy. A vote would be the people’s opinion, rather than the political elite’s.

  • I disagree. First, the sheer impracticality to such as system is mind-boggling. How would we determine which case should be voted on? 5-4 rulings only? Or would we set up a nationwide initiative process? Perhaps we should only vote on a decision if 100,000 people march on Washington. Even the wording of a measure would ignite controversy. For example, most Americans are in favor of allowing two consenting adults to engage in sexual practices in the privacy of their own home. However, change ‘adults’ to ‘men’ and the results would be, in my opinion, quite different.

  • Further, This proposed system would dangerously upset our system of checks and balances and endanger minorities. The judicial branch is designed to be the final stop for most everything, and with a few exceptions, it has been. Changing this would effectively destroy the idea of Judicial Review as created in Marbury v. Madison.

  • The judiciary is the branch furthest from the turbulent emotions of the majority, and thus is the only one that can effectively protect the minority. Federalist ten expressed the Framers fears of rule by the majority; they were largely antimajoritarian; they knew that a government dominated by the majority would be no better to the minority than a monarchy. The Justices base their decisions on precedent and Constitutional history and wrestle with the complexity of the issue. Voters, on the other hand, would vote with their hearts, not with their minds.

  • Finally, court decisions already can be overturned through the Amendment process. This has occurred on several occasions; most notably in Scott v. Sanford and Oregon v. Mitchell. These two cases resulted in the 13th and the 26th Amendments, respectively.

  • A voting plan wouldn’t threaten basic rights. On the contrary, it would expand them by allowing citizens an opportunity to protect themselves from unjust laws. The entire population would become a jury. The sixth Amendment specifically grants the right to trial by jury; this would simply create the ultimate jury. Furthermore, the Supreme Court deals with upholding or rejecting existing laws, so technically rejecting a ruling could only delay the development of new rights not threaten established ones.

  • I disagree. This plan would definitely threaten basic rights. The US is a republic rather than a democracy to protect against overpowering majority rule. James Madison famously wrote, “Democracies…have in general been as short in their lives as they are violent in their deaths.” Decisions as important as Supreme Court cases should not be left up to the rash masses. There are many cases that would support my opinion.

  • For example, Romers v Evans, would likely have been rejected, thus allowing states to prohibit cities from enforcing ordinances protecting homosexuals, and permiting the violation of Evans rights.

  • Another example would be the Brown v Board of Education, which would likely have been overturned allowing for “separate but equal” to exist, which would inherently violate Linda Brown’s rights.