The Power of Judicial Review: Safeguarding Constitutional Rights

November 27th, 2023

The power of judicial review is a crucial aspect of the United States’ constitutional system of government. It is primarily exercised by the Supreme Court, which serves as the highest court in the land and plays several important roles in safeguarding constitutional rights .

Role of the Supreme Court
The Supreme Court’s role in the constitutional system of government is multifaceted. Here are some key aspects:

Court of Last Resort: The Supreme Court serves as the court of last resort for those seeking justice. It is the final authority in interpreting and applying the law .

Ensuring Limits of Power: The Court’s power of judicial review ensures that each branch of government recognizes the limits of its own power. This helps maintain a system of checks and balances .

Protecting Civil Rights and Liberties: The Supreme Court protects civil rights and liberties by striking down laws that violate the Constitution. This includes safeguarding fundamental values such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and due process of law .

Limiting Democratic Government: The Court sets appropriate limits on democratic government by ensuring that popular majorities cannot pass laws that harm or take undue advantage of unpopular minorities. It prevents the changing views of a majority from undermining the fundamental values shared by all Americans .

Origin and Anticipation of Judicial Review
Although the power of judicial review is not explicitly provided in the Constitution, it had been anticipated even before the adoption of the document. State courts had already overturned legislative acts that conflicted with state constitutions prior to 1789. Many of the Founding Fathers, such as Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, expected the Supreme Court to assume the role of judicial review in regard to the Constitution. They emphasized the importance of judicial review in the Federalist Papers, which advocated for the adoption of the Constitution .

Impact and Cases
The Supreme Court’s exercise of judicial review has had a significant impact on American law and society. By applying the Constitution’s broad provisions to new and complex situations, the Court ensures the continued relevance of a “living Constitution.” This allows for the protection of individual rights and the maintenance of a just legal system .

Throughout history, the Supreme Court has made landmark decisions that have shaped the interpretation of the Constitution and protected constitutional rights. One such example is the case of Marbury v. Madison in 1803, where Chief Justice John Marshall established the principle of judicial review. This case solidified the Court’s authority to invalidate federal and state laws that are contrary to the Constitution .

Another notable case is Roe v. Wade in 1973, where the Court recognized a woman’s constitutional right to have an abortion. This decision has been highly influential in shaping the ongoing debate on reproductive rights in the United States .