The United States Constitution defines the laws of the land as the Constitution itself and those laws or legal documents that are constitutionally passed through legislature. The role of upholding these laws and interpreting them in cases are assigned to the judicial branch. Our judicial system is to be one that follows common law, so ultimately laws do come from courts. Although the Supreme Court essentially has final say, the Constitution does not grant it the power of forming laws by a majority vote out of nine justices. These laws formed by court decisions should be based on the text of the Constitution and legislative laws and in times of ambiguity original intent of these legal texts should be used. The impact of these decisions has on society should not be from a new law formed but should be from having more clarity on application of the Constitution to laws.
Although there is much debate as to what should govern justices of the Supreme Court in their decisions, we cannot ignore that the Constitution clearly defines that it is the role of the justices to interpret the law and only that. Making the laws that are not covered in the Constitution are left to the federal and state legislatures. It is beyond my belief that anyone can argue that they believe the framers of the Constitution entrusted nine justices of the Supreme Court to make decisions that will affect all of the nation using their own moral philosophy.
After fighting so hard to gain our independence, I am sure that the original intent for the justices of the Supreme Court were to ensure that the basic natural rights that were so hard earned and clearly defined in the Constitution are to be the only jurisdiction of the individuals of the Supreme Court. By stating that something is constitutional or unconstitutional there will ultimately be effects that justices must take into consideration before their decisions. These effects must not conflict or go beyond the original intent of the Constitution.
Justice William Brennan argues that the death penalty ?is under all circumstances cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment.? Interpretations of words can lead to such reasoning but original intent is completely ignored in its application. Brennan argues this point despite the fact that the death penalty has been around since the founding of these amendments. Perhaps our values have progressed since the Constitution but through proper legislation, our laws have and will continue to progress along with the values of our nation. We do not need to result to judicial activism taken at the bench to guide our society on what may seem to be the right path.
These forms of judicial activism takes the words of the Constitution and other forms of law and gives new meaning to them with the blatant disregard for the original intent. Although it can be argued that original intent is hard to define, then it should be the practice of justices to use what is clearly seen as original intent, all else should not be decided by the justices of the Supreme Court.
Justices cannot base their decisions on what they believed to be the moral philosophies of the framers or what they believe were the very values that the Constitution was framed on. Great philosophical minds would not be able to agree on a set of moral values that they believe to be consistent with all the framers. Justices are limited to protecting the rights defined and deciding whether something is constitutional or unconstitutional. In deciding that a law is unconstitutional, the Supreme Court is stating that the law is violating things defined in the Constitution and that their interpretation is consistent with the original intent of the words or phrased used in the Constitution.
In the case Roe v. Wade, the justices erred in declaring that the abortion statutes of the state of Texas were unconstitutional. It based its decision on interpretations of the Ninth Amendment, through the Fourteenth Amendment. Though I believe that the right to having abortions is a right our society should continue to allow, I do not believe that the original intent of these amendments covered abortions.
Perhaps the justices of the court made its decision because it is a right they wanted to protect and knowing that their words will declare it a constitutional right. However, in doing so, they are overstepping their boundaries of interpretation in defining certain abortion laws as unconstitutional. Since it is not something clearly defined in the Constitution, simply saying that it is constitutional is what they should have done. In doing so, it does not advocate that the Supreme Court condones outlawing abortions.
Promoting rights such as abortions should be left to the majority to decide. We live in a democracy, with rights protected and through laws and legislation we are also subjected to limits in rights. It is not to say that we shouldn?t have the rights that are banned by law and not constitutionally protected. Although such a positivistic stance on how to interpret the law is sometimes criticized for being outmoded by the aging of the Constitution, justices should not feel that they have an enlightened understanding of society?s changing values and disregard plain reading of the text. If in the future our society does come to the conclusion that abortions are immoral and ?ought? to be outlawed, legislation cannot be passed without another decision or interpretation of the Supreme Court.
Enlightened understanding of what laws ?ought? to be can be left to philosophers and advocacy groups to promote laws to be formed through the voting process. If it is a right that these justices can clearly see as a natural right, then it should be assumed that people will vote to keep that right and vote to void any laws that deny that right if it is not protected by the Constitution. If it fails the vote, let the truth be that it is not a natural right that we all agree upon. Wielding the power of the bench to ensure rights the court believes in can hurt the democratic values that we all have.
The common man is not trained to understand the philosophical meanings that each word can contain. Although justices are able to do so through mastery of the English language and experience in manipulating words, it would be unjustified to expect that anything but the plain meaning of the law be respected by all men. Through their understanding of the plain meaning of legal documents, citizens of the United States know what laws will be upheld and how to participate in forming new laws. Conjuring up anything explicitly stated in the text and using it without original intent, can only discourage voters from feeling as though they understand the law and have had a part in forming it.
Natural rights and laws are only legitimate if we all collectively agree on them. The Constitution already guarantees certain unalienable rights, all other rights I will relinquish the right to have it governed and limited for the sake of democracy. The Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights assures me that our nation is grounded by the natural law theory and perhaps it may be seen as a na?ve trust but I do trust that our country will not pass a law that will abridge any right of mine that would seem apparently immoral. The structure that the Constitution has outlined for us does not allow such things to happen.
If our system of government and lawmaking has helped us progress so significantly in values, I can only believe that we will continue to fix injustices as we have in the past. We have moved beyond slavery and segregation. If justices are to interpret the Constitution to keep up with the times we will lose a very important aspect of our society. The Constitution gives us something that we all feel is real and constant. Being conservative on issues involving the bench does not mean that we are forwarding conservative legislations. The framers only wanted certain things to remain the same through all times.
Can Den Haag, Ernest. ?Not Above the Law.? National Review. National Review Inc., Oct. 7, 1991.Hadley, Arkes. ?Lincoln, Nietzsche, and the Constitution.? First Things. April 200.Scalia, Antonin. ?For Lawyers Only: ?A Matter of Interpretation: Federal Courts and the law.?? The Law and Politics Book Review. Denton, Texas.1997.Roe v. Wade, Supreme Court of the United States, 410 U.S. 959; 93 S. Ct. 1409; 1973 U.S. LEXIS 3282; 35 L. Ed. 2d 694, Feb. 26, 1973.Sikkenga, Jeffrey. ?Lest we Forget: Clarence Thomas and the Meaning of the Constitution.? On Principle. Ashland University, Dec. 1998.Troy, Daniel E. ?The Court?s Mr. Right.? National Review. August 9, 1999.