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The Supreme Court The Supreme Court - Image of hands holding a gavel.
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Bonus Interview Footage
Glossary

On the importance of judicial independence

Transcript
The role of the Court under the Constitution is, as Chief Justice Marshall put it in Marbury versus Madison, to say what the law is. And if you have a Supreme Court whose decisions are not followed, then you have a Constitution that is no longer interpreted by the courts as law. It becomes simply a political document as it is in many other countries throughout history and around the world. And disputes about what the Constitution means will be resolved by political means. And a number of things follow from that. If by political means you talk, you mean elections, there's going to be a dispute of constitutional law that's going to be settled solely by elections then our Constitution's role in protecting the rights of minorities is forfeited. The Constitution will only afford such protection as the people are willing to confer, as the majority is willing to confer. Having the judiciary as the interpreter of the Constitution a judiciary that is protected from popular pressure and sentiment insures that minorities will have greater protection under our Constitution. Or if you have the Constitution solely as a political document, not as a legal document given final interpretation by the judiciary, then constitutional issues may be decided by means other than the elections as so often happens in other countries around the world where it's decided by force. So, the genius of the framers, as interpreted by Marshall in Marbury versus Madison in viewing the Constitution as law not simply as a political document, and understanding that from that flowed the fact that its meaning is going to be determine by courts, because it's the job of courts to tell you what the law is. That has very significant consequences ultimately insuring the protection of minorities under the Constitution, insuring that the rule of law is settled by judicial decision and not by elections which would eliminate the protection of minority, or not by force which would eliminate the rule of law.


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