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Author Topic: Supreme Court not final word on law & cases...
Ben
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http://stoptheaclu.com/archives/2006/09/07/yes-glenn-it-really-is-in-the-constitution/

Came across this and thought it was interesting. Definitely not something I learned about in school. Of course, I didn't go into law, so maybe the lawyers and politicans out there know about it and are keeping it quiet. Or maybe it isn't as significant as it seems for some other reason? Anyone got any thoughts on this or can tell me otherwise? Seems to me this'd be a good way to cut down on the increasingly intrusive decisions that get made. Force the states to settle things down and try out stuff on small scales, instead of the whole country by Supreme Court fiat. I've quoted the main points below, with ellipses to edit out the blog-chat in a few places. The author is obviously more rightwing but I can imagine this issue being used against some things on the right, though nothing particularly come to mind other than the topics already mentioned in the blog.

quote:
Yes Glenn, it really is in the Constitution
by ArrMatey on 09-07-06 @ 11:24 am Filed under History, Supreme Court, Activist Judges

...Congress has the constitutional power and authority to restrict the subject matter that the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, may rule upon.
...
The Constitution defines the boundaries of what each branch of government has the power to do. Article III establishes the Supreme Court and spells out the rules for what it can and cannot do. There need not be any federal courts of any kind other than the Supreme Court itself. All of other federal courts exist at the will of Congress.

The Supreme Court, and whatever federal courts Congress establishes and allows to continue to exist, have original jurisdiction over certain things. Those are: all cases involving ambassadors, other public minsters and consuls, and cases in which a State is a party. In those types of cases, the federal courts have “original jurisdiction” which means that the courts have jurisdiction to begin a case. As clearly as I can state is that original jurisdiction is the authority to conduct a trial. That is completely separate from appellate jurisdiction — and it is in the courts’ exercise of appellate jurisdiction where case law is made and our society and culture changed at the whim of the robed ones.

The Constitution also spells out those matters over which the federal courts may have appellate jurisdiction. Those are more expansive and include any case arising under the Constitution or laws of the United States. So that covers a lot of ground, but that is not the end of the story.

Other than the original jurisdiction cases, Congress may deny the Supreme Court appellate jurisdiction over any other kind of case. Like ones regarding abortion and school prayer and all of those other issues that the Left uses the courts for shoving their morality down the nation’s throat.

Enough editorializing. Sorry about that. I’m trying to educate here.

Bottom line: Congress can tell the Supreme Court that it may not hear any issue outside of its original jurisdiction cases, and can abolish all other federal district and circuit courts at will.
...


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MattP
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Stoptheaclu is notoriously clueless on matters of law, constitutional and otherwise. Ed Brayton at http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/ has made a bit of a hobby out of tearing apart their flawed arguments.

Edited to add: I'm not saying they're necessarily wrong on this article, but their track record is not good.

[ September 11, 2006, 06:44 PM: Message edited by: MattP ]

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Tom Curtis
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I'm not an lawyer, but:

quote:
Article III. - The Judicial Branch Note
Section 1 - Judicial powers

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. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behavior, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services a Compensation which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.

Section 2 - Trial by Jury, Original Jurisdiction, Jury Trials

(The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority; to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls; to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction; to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party; to Controversies between two or more States; between a State and Citizens of another State; between Citizens of different States; between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects.) (This section in parentheses is modified by Amendment XI.)

In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.

The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed.

http://www.usconstitution.net/const.html#Article3

This is the relevant section of the constitution. I think (it is not clear) that the author of the article is arguing that because some cases do not start in the Supreme Court, and that the Congress establishes and regulates the courts in which the cases do start, the Congress could, by legislating that the courts it establishes cannot hear cases on a particular matter, thereby prevent the Supreme Court from hearing those matters on appeal.

So, for instance, if Congress did not want the Supreme Court hearing cases on marriage, it could pass a law prohibiting any lower federal court hearing cases on marriage. Supposedly because the Supreme Court does not have original jurisdiction on marriage, and because there are not lower court cases on marriage, cases on marriage will never enter the Supreme court.

This interprets the original jurisdictions Supreme Court specified by the Constitution as being a exclusive,ie, if it is not listed, the Supreme Court may not hear it as an original case. More sensibly, it should be interpreted as a prohibition on the cases listed from being heard originally in any other court than the Supreme court, with nothing being said to limit what the Supreme Court may hear originally. As such, Congress can pass laws to prevent a matter (other then those listed as in the Courts original jurisdiction) from being heard originally in the Supreme Court by requiring it be heard in a lower court first. But it cannot pass laws requiring that a matter not be heard by any court, and nor can it prevent a matter that has being heard in a lower court from being heard in appeal in the Supreme Court.

(I suspect that was as clear as mud.)

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MattP
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Made perfect sense, Tom. Thanks.
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Adam Lassek
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When it comes to the Constitution, I believe that it needs to stand by itself. When people have to go to authorities to understand what it means, that sets up a very dangerous situation. Just think about how much trouble the Christian church created when people had to depend on clerics to tell them what the Bible said.

Here's the passage in question: Article III, Section 2
quote:
The judicial power shall extend to all cases, in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority;--to all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls;--to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction;--to controversies to which the United States shall be a party;--to controversies between two or more states;--between a state and citizens of another state;--between citizens of different states;--between citizens of the same state claiming lands under grants of different states, and between a state, or the citizens thereof, and foreign states, citizens or subjects.

In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction. In all the other cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make.

The trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury; and such trial shall be held in the state where the said crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any state, the trial shall be at such place or places as the Congress may by law have directed.

While the article clearly has an agenda, the point he's making is supported by the text of the Constitution.

EDIT: ...And while I was writing my post, Tom beat me to it. [DOH]

[ September 11, 2006, 07:11 PM: Message edited by: Adam Lassek ]

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Adam Lassek
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quote:
Tom Curtis wrote:
it should be interpreted as a prohibition on the cases listed from being heard originally in any other court than the Supreme court, with nothing being said to limit what the Supreme Court may hear originally.

Just to clarify, you mean that the Supreme Court can hear cases with original jurisdiction with the exception of the cases where it is specified as having appellate jurisdiction, correct?
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Ben
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Interesting... so does this have potential to be used by Congress to rein in the Supreme Court as a balance and check of power? Or is this already accounted for? Or have all these lawyers been either overlooking or avoiding this all along? I'm aware a lot of websites have errors and such, which is why I came and got n+1 opinions here to check on it. If it's nothing new, at least I'm learning more about the framework of the Constitution & maybe a bit how politics work. Thanks, and I look forward to more comments.
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MattP
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I did some Googling on this and it appears that congress may have the power stated in the article but has been reluctant to use it, giving the Supreme Court discretion to determine which cases it would hear.
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Pete at Home
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While the article is consistent with Supreme Court rulings about its own constitutional power, the heading "Supreme Court not final word on law & cases" is misleading. If it *is* a case, then the Supreme Court has the final word.
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Tom Curtis
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quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Tom Curtis wrote:
it should be interpreted as a prohibition on the cases listed from being heard originally in any other court than the Supreme court, with nothing being said to limit what the Supreme Court may hear originally.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Just to clarify, you mean that the Supreme Court can hear cases with original jurisdiction with the exception of the cases where it is specified as having appellate jurisdiction, correct?

I mean that if Congress establishes a court having original jurisdiction in a case, then the Supreme court does not have original jurisdiction but does have appellate jurisdiction. If, however, Congress does not establish a court with appropriate original jurisdiction, then the Supreme Court will have original jurisdiction by default in view of the fact 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." and

"The Judicial power shall extend to all cases ...".

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Pete at Home
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That's a reasonable textual interpretation, TC, but the Supreme Court itself disagrees with your interpretation of its constitutional power. The Court has repeatedly held that Congress must give them authority by statute, up to (and not exceeding) the bounds set by the constitution. So unless we see somewhere that you have power to overrule the Supreme Court when it comes to determining the Court's original authority, we have to go with the Court's interpretation.

The statement "Congress has the constitutional power and authority to restrict the subject matter that the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, may rule upon" is effectively true but technically false. The truth is that Congress doesn't 'restrict' the subject matter that the courts rule on, but rather that Congress must statutorily enable the courts to have the power in the first place. Without the statutory say-so of Congress, the Court has said that it has no authority to hear any case.

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