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The Greyhound

The Greyhound

The Supreme Court is as misunderstood as it is vitally important

The judiciary branch of the government is both overlooked and misunderstood. While knowledge of the decisions made by the Supreme Court has become more mainstream over the past decade, there is an astonishing lack of understanding of how an entire branch of government operates and how its actions and decisions influence modern America. An increase in simple education into the judiciary branch would be quite beneficial to the modern U.S. population.

Article III of the Constitution defines the responsibilities, powers and privileges of the Supreme Court and the judiciary branch in general. The Supreme Court was initially meant to be little more than the designated superior court of the government and was expected to have little power or relevance in the development of the country. But the Court’s fourth Chief Justice John Marshall wouldn’t be so easily shunned.

Utilizing the famous Marbury v. Madison case, Marshall set the precedent of judicial teview, granting the courts their own power to review actions taken by other government branches and determining whether they adhere to the rules and regulations of the Constitution, effectively setting the judiciary branch as a third and equal branch of government.

Unfortunately, for many, education on the actions of the Supreme Court usually ends here. While the institutionalization of judicial review is arguably the most important piece of American judicial history to date, it is not by any means the only part necessary to understand the system’s functioning. As the actions and decisions of the Supreme Court in particular continue to be more frequently discussed and reported, there is a disappointing lack of comprehension of the process, reasoning or significance of the opinions on each case released.

The Supreme Court is not subject to the dynamic of partisanship present in Congress. While it is true that there are cases in which a decision can be drawn along party lines, the justices of the Supreme Court are in fact, not at war with each other. Many of them have partisan beliefs, but the justices have an understanding and respect for the law and the Constitution as the foundation for their resolutions to the cases. They are educated and qualified judges, not partisan representatives beholden to the president who nominated them or the Senate who confirmed them.

Many people claim to understand government and form opinions about policy, but too few can name a majority of the justices on the Supreme Court. Too few even realize how the Supreme Court goes about deciding a case, or how a significant case can effect law in policy, or the fact that, contrary to popular belief, the Supreme Court is arguably the most transparent high branch of government due to the fact that all oral arguments are recorded and are available for public access.

The Supreme Court has power almost equal to that of the two other branches, but not enough citizens understand it. If education or even interest in the judiciary branch, and the Supreme Court in particular, were higher among those not attending law school, it is likely we would have a much more informed population with exponentially more capability of having substantive and productive discussion about the nation’s issues and potential solutions for them.

We cannot discuss changes to the system, or working resolutions through the system if one-third of it isn’t on anyone’s radar. The judicial branch and the Supreme Court exercise a significant oversight on the actions of our government, what their duty is and how they process their decisions, should be more common knowledge if we are to move forward with a country of responsible citizens.

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The Supreme Court is as misunderstood as it is vitally important