Monday, March 5, 2007

Triple Take

Triple Take

Instead of our traditional Double Take, in this issue we chose to do a Triple Take. The topic is whether any branch of our government is the most dangerous or has the greatest potential to destroy our democracy.


The Constitution entrusts the Supreme Court with an awesome responsibility to judge the constitutionality of laws. It is the highest court in the land and, consequently, the most powerful. This power, if abused, represents the greatest threat to our democracy, as the Supreme Court is the government's least democratic branch.

The executive branch (or the president) is chosen by the people in a general election. Every citizen (barring certain specific restrictions such as felons) takes part in a vote through the Electoral College, determining who will be the next president of the United States. The legislative branch (comprised of both Congress and the Senate) is composed of members also chosen by election. These elections are restricted one of 435 Congressional districts, or states, respectively. One important similarity in both these branches is specified terms. Both of these branches are beholden to the people. If they fail voters' expectations, it is likely they will not be re-elected.

The Judiciary branch is led by the Supreme Court. The judges that comprise the court are not elected by the people. This is the only branch with members who are not votedinto office. Instead, the President nominates someone who then has to be confirmed by the Senate. As you can see, at no point in this process are the people or citizens asked for their opinion.

The members on the Supreme Court have life tenure. With no re-election, renomination or reconfirmation to worry about, these judges can go essentially unchecked. All it would take is five so called "activist" judges to threaten are very system of government. It would also be almost impossible to dislodge these judges, given their life tenure. Once in place, this block of judges would be able to overturn democratically created laws by finding "inferences" in the constitution or citing some sort of Natural Law.

This is not to say that the current Supreme Court is a threat to our democracy, rather the Supreme Court poses a greater hypothetical threat to our democracy than any of the other branches can. If corruption occurs in the other branches, the officials in question will not stay in power; their term will end or they will be impeached. In contrast, Supreme Court judges have no term limit and it is almost impossible to dislodge them without their consent.

I say all this as an aspiring lawyer who may one day have to argue in front of the Supreme Court. Hopefully, they won't hold this article against me.

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