The Supreme Court The Supreme Court - Image of hands holding a gavel.
Check local listings
Home Timeline Games Supreme Court History:
Bonus Interview Footage

On the rule of law and the Court's authority as the final arbiter of constitutional law

Well it, it was Hamilton in the in the Federalist Papers who said the Court courts were the, the judiciary, the weakest branch. Over the centuries the Court has acquired such a degree of legitimacy that people are willing to accept the Courts' decisions as binding interpretations of the law and the Constitution. When Marshall said it in Marbury versus Madison, that it's emphatically the province and duty of the courts, the judicial department, to say what the law is it wasn't clear that that was going to be accepted by everyone. Over the centuries, by the hard work of many justices and the exposition of their reasoning and their opinions, the legitimacy of the Courts' decisions as binding interpretations of the Constitution that has become more accepted. The Court is always vulnerable and has been throughout its history. In the Cherokee Indian case Marshall issued his opinion, President Jackson, you know, Chief Justice Marshall has issued his opinion now let's see him enforce it. Abraham Lincoln's relationship with the Court that perhaps had more secessionist sympathies than, than Lincoln cabinet, was very delicate. You know FDR, whether or not he was prepared to follow the Supreme Court decision in some of the New Deal cases if they had come out the other way like in the Gold Clause cases was, was you know, debatable. So the legitimacy and the acceptance of what the Court does depends upon how people view the institution. And the security and stability of the Supreme Court of an institution depends in large part on the justices you know confining themselves to their appropriate sphere which is to act as a court of law in interpreting the Constitution. That I think is critically important. And I think justices, myself and others, should view ourselves as trustees of an extremely valuable institution that has built up over the centuries and has served the country very well in ensuring the rule law and has the ability to reach unpopular decisions that will nonetheless be followed. But the strength of those decisions and the legitimacy of what the Court does hinges upon justices adhering themselves to the rule of law just as they would have the other branches do so.

Back to Overview

watch video with:

QUICKTIME Small | Large
Help, it's not working!