The Trump Administration, thanks to its travel ban targeting seven predominately Muslim countries, is already facing its first major legal challenge. If this reaction to one of Trump’s first Executive Orders is an indication of things to come, President Donald Trump is going to find himself at odds with the Judicial Branch more often than not. Recognizing Trump’s reaction to Federal Judge James L. Robart’s ruling, which suspended Trump’s ban, was to lash out against the Seattle Judge, as well as his racially-charged personal attacks on the Judge overseeing a Lawsuit against his defunct Trump University, there is a very real concern that President Trump may decide to circumvent the authority of the Judicial Branch. As such, it is necessary to remind ourselves why there is a need for a Judicial Branch and why its rulings must be respected.
In the beginning of the United States, America’s Forefathers struggled to create a balanced government. Their solution was to set limits on the Legislative Process and the power of the Executive Branch. The need for balanced government is why the Constitution places limits on what laws Legislators can enact. Although Congress can craft and adopt whatever bills its members agree to embrace and the President can sign into law any piece of legislation he likes, the Courts have the responsibility to review and reject any law that violates the tenets of the US Constitution. As judicial supremacy , i.e. the power to override the other two branches of government, was never explicitly guaranteed by the US Constitution, there is always a threat that the Executive Branch might disregard the decisions of the Courts.
Like the President’s power to set foreign policy and immigration policy, the power of the Judicial Branch to interpret the Constitution was born out of a practical need. Interpreting the Constitution, whether literally or indirectly, can be difficult as the Constitution does not dictate how the government is to be run; it dictates what it needs to run properly. The experience and expertise of Judges and Justices are needed to ensure the tenets of the Constitution are interpreted and applied in a consistent and accurate manner. It is odd that the Judicial Branch, as a completely apolitical, non-democratic institutions, exist as an equal branch of government. It is, however, the keystone to democracy. Without it, democracy could not override runaway Legislators and Presidents who violate individual freedoms and ignore a disenfranchised majority or minority.
Justice is the social institution that ensures an individual constrains his, or her, actions for the benefit of the whole by offering some guarantee his, or her, most pressing interests will be addressed by society. When society fails to adequately address the interests of individuals, it is the innate desire for justice that drives communities and individuals to demand offenders attempt to address their offending grievances and offer some sort of restitution for their actions. Justice is what we need to feel the rules of our society are worth following. It is when we feel violated and unheard or we lack choice that we feel the world is unjust. Justice is about accountability. The Law must be crafted to hold wrongdoers accountable for their misconduct and harmful negligence.
Law must be enforced in such a way that all individuals are held accountable for their misconduct in order to protect everyone. In addition, laws must be written and enforced in ways that they do not harm the community and protect those who abuse power. Ultimately, justice is a servant of the people. As such, the Law has no real authority, unless the People can and do respect laws and the overall criminal justice system. Most individuals will tolerate laws that they find unjust or offensive for the sake of peace and stability. Others will not. If the Law becomes too unjust, people will no longer feel compelled to respect the Law. This is why authority figures and powerful individuals must be held accountable. This is why authorities from the police involved in unjustifiable shootings to high-profile political figures must be held responsible for their wrongdoings and negligence, which is why the President and members of Congress must respect Court rulings.
The role of the Courts in democracy and the actions it needs to take require the powers it exercises. Part of the Courts' responsibilities is to ensure the legislative process does not violate the rights of those who do not hold a majority view. It also guarantees new legislation does not violate laws that supersede the new legislation while preventing agents of the government from applying laws in ways that violate an individual's rights. As the Constitution supersedes all other law, this puts Judges in a situation where they may have to invalid laws created by a majority of the Legislator as well as Executive Orders issued by a democratically-elected President. Limiting the power of the Courts, however, leaves room for an elected directorship that would eventually end democracy.
As the Courts exist to uphold the Constitution and protect minority views of all, the Courts cannot be influenced by political shifts. It requires lifelong professionals who have been trained to minimize their personal bias when applying the Law. Because law requires consistency, Judges are appointed for livelong terms. It is Legislators and Presidents, who handpick judges whose rulings tend to be oriented toward their own political stances, that undermine the integrity of the Courts and democracy. It is also these other two branches of government, when they choose not to adequately address issues, that force the Courts to act from time to time to overturn unconstitutional legislation. Consequently, elected official need to respect and uphold the authority of the Judicial Branch, even when the Courts rule against their Legislation and Executive Orders.
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