The Supreme Court in the U.S. and Its Importance

Subject: Law
Pages: 2
Words: 488
Reading time:
2 min

The Supreme Court is the highest judicial authority in the United States. In fact, Article III of the U.S. Constitution states that “the judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.” While the Constitution establishes a Supreme Court, it does little to describe what the Court will look like or what it will do. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court has developed over time to become a key player in the U.S. policy process and the upholding of American civil rights (Calhoun 2004, 3).

During the earlier times, however, the Supreme Court did gain wide acceptance because of some glitches in judgments. For example, the Espionage Act of 1917 was supported by most judges and juries expansively. In 1917, the Espionage Act was approved by Congress and signed by President Woodrow Wilson. The measure dealt primarily with espionage problems, but some parts were aimed expressly at dissent and opposition to the war. This law provided that it was a crime to willfully give a false report with the intent to interfere with the war effort. It was a crime to cause or attempt to cause insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty in the armed forces. It also was a crime to willfully obstruct the recruiting or enlistment service of the United States. Punishment was a fine of not more than $10,000 or a jail term of not more than 20 years. The law also provided that material violating the law could not be mailed. Also, the bill warranted the president the power to censor the publication of material that he deemed would give an advantage to the enemy (Rabban 1997, 145).

Thus, the Supreme Court ignored the constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech that were limited during this era. In Buck v. Bell (1927), the Supreme Court supported a state law that legalized an inhuman form of compulsory sterilization of “mental defectives.” This means that mentally retarded persons should not be allowed to give birth or father their children. In dismissing the claim, this imposition wrongly discriminated against retarded people and thereby denied them equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes appeared to invoke “minimal scrutiny” (as it was later termed), holding that the legislature might reasonably find retardation both inheritable and socially harmful.

Although the Supreme Court has had mistakes in the past, all of these are corrected at present. Many amendments have already been instigated because of the lessons learned in cases like the Espionage Act of 1917 and Buck v. Bell (1927). Mistakes can always happen again because American jurisprudence is always changing through time. Rest assured that all the changes in the Supreme Court should provide a voice and a forum to those who are socially marginalized, such as the poor and the disabled people.