The Supreme Court of the United States and You

A new summer of political browbeating has arrived in the United States, and now is as good a time as any to sit back and ask, “what does it matter to me?” I am not apathetic towards politics, nor am I disengaged from the many issues which Americans and citizens of the world face on a daily basis. I want to ask, genuinely, how will the loud, histrionic production of public opinion surrounding Elena Kagan effect my life, or my wife’s, my family’s, or my neighbors’? In an everyday sense, we will be beset with headlines pertaining to this biographical fact or that once uttered personal opinion, and we will be asked to evaluate the potential impact of Ms Kagan on the world’s political stability.

But we tend to forget in this media shuffle that the Supreme Court — whatever we may say in a history or politics classroom — has been designed and run to have minimal impact on the everyday lives of American Citizens. The Constitution says the following about the establishment of a Supreme Court of the United States:

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 behaviour, and shall, at stated times, receive for their services, a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.

Federal jurisdiction, including the Supreme Court and all “inferior” courts, encompasses:

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 other words, the Federal Courts handle disputes that cannot be handled under any other setting. Due to the vastness of the contemporary United States, the majority of court cases falling under Federal jurisdiction are decided by the “inferior” courts. Only a select few reach the Supreme Court, and, usually if not always, these cases carry special significance for the applicability of law in all United States jurisdictions.

Its a highly impersonal institution, whose extension into the personal lives of citizens can and ought to be limited.


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