Autonomy of the Law the Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

The Appeal Court reversed the decision declaring that 922(q) is invalid as it interfered in state matters. The Federal government did not have the right to interfere in matters such as possession of firearms in or near a school. The significance of the case is that it once again highlighted the limits of the power of the federal government. Chief Justice Rehnquist declared that the congress had the power to regulate the channels of commerce, the instrumentalities of commerce and actions that affected interstate commerce. The Lopez case was therefore considered outside the federal jurisdiction.

Heart of Atlanta (Motel) v. The United States'

This case related to the application of commerce powers and also involved racial discrimination. This case involved commerce clause and Civil Rights Act. The Court ruled that Congress had the power to regulate a business that served interstate travelers. It also declared that racial discrimination disrupts commercial intercourse and has a real and substantial relation to the national interest.

Discussions and Conclusions

Establishment of the boundaries of the three arms of the United States government has involved both political and power struggle between the three arms. This has helped the three functions establish their boundaries. The three functions have to work together. In Worcester v. Georgia case, when Chief Justice Marshall passed a verdict that went against President Andrew Jackson's wishes, Jackson reportedly said, "Well, John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it." This statement shows that the courts do not have the power to enforce a ruling; the other arms of the government have to perform that function [CRF, 1998].

This realization of changing of political and economic climate made the courts recognize that their judgments should reflect the changing circumstances. Cushman analysis of the change of an Internalist approach appears to carry more logical explanations of this evolving attitude. There is no doubt that Roosevelt's 'pack the courts' plan had a major effect on this change in attitude. Externalist view that this caused a constitutional revolution and the courts were intimidated by the plan appears to be unsubstantiated by the decisions made even before 'the plan' was conceived. As George Bush said on the occasion of Law Day 2003, "United States constitutional system of separation of powers places careful limits on the powers of judges and separates the responsibilities of making laws and interpreting laws between the Legislative and Judicial branches." The courts recognize this separation of power and are doing a remarkable job of guarding their autonomy and gaining the respect of the people, not only in United States but worldwide.


CRF; Constitutional Rights Foundation, Bill of Rights in Action, Sept 1998, [Online] retrieved from Internet on 6 July 2006.

Cushman, B., Rethinking the New Deal Court: The Structure of a Constitutional Revolution, Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of Publication: New York. Publication Year: 1998.

Hilbank, T., A New Antidote for Nine Old Men, Review of Cushman's Rethinking of the New Deal Court, Institute for Law & Society, New York University.1999

Lane, C., High Court Rejects Detainee Tribunals, Washington Post, June 30, 2006

White, G. Edward, AHR Forum: Constitutional Change and the New Deal: The Internalist/Externalist Debate. The American Historical Review 110.4 (2005): 67 pars. 6 Jul. 2006.

Wikipedia Encyclopedia, Commerce Clause, [Online] retrieved from Internet on 6 July 2006.

In the last hours of his administration, President John Adams had appointed William Marbury as a justice of the peace in the District of Columbia. Unfortunately, Marbury did not receive the appointment papers before 1

Adams left office. The new president, Thomas Jefferson, ordered Secretary of State James Madison not to deliver the appointment to Marbury. Marbury sued to get his appointment, citing the Judiciary Act of 1789. This law had given the Supreme Court the power to order judges and government officials to act.

In his majority opinion in the case, Marshall agreed that Marbury had a right to the appointment. He ruled, however, that the Supreme Court did not have the power to order Madison to deliver the appointment and make it official. The section of the Judiciary Act in question, he determined, gave the Supreme Court a power that it did not have under the Constitution. Since the Constitution was the supreme law of the land, Marshall reasoned, any statute that violated it could not stand and it was the duty of the Supreme Court to overturn the statute. In giving up the power in the Judiciary Act, Marshall carved out for the court a much greater one -- the power of judicial review.

In his accompanying message, Roosevelt offered a disingenuous rationale for his proposal, one that was to come back to haunt him. "The personnel of the Federal judiciary," the president contended, "is insufficient to meet the business before them." Roosevelt pointed out that in the preceding year, the Court had denied petitions for certiorari in 695 of the 803 cases presented for review by non-governmental litigants. "Can it be said," Roosevelt queried, "that full justice is achieved when a court is forced by the sheer necessity of keeping up with its business to decline, without even an explanation, to hear 87% of the cases presented to it by private litigants?" The reason for this failure to achieve full justice, the president opined, was the advanced age of the justices. "The modern tasks of judges call for the use of full energies. Modern complexities call also for a constant infusion of new blood in the courts.... A lowered mental or physical vigor leads men to avoid an examination of complicated and changed conditions. Little by little, new facts become blurred through old glasses fitted, as it were, for the needs of another generation; older men, assuming that the scene is the same as it was in the past, cease to explore or inquire into the present or the future."[Cushman, 1998]

In seeking to understand the Court's behavior in the 1930s, I find the externalist explanation more cogent than the internalist, not because I think that justices are always political agents who write elaborate opinions as glosses for their preconceptions, but because in this particular instance -- a highly unusual instance, one called nothing less than a revolution -- external influences are more congruent with the evidence

In Nebbia v. New York case, Nebbia was a store owner who violated the Milk Control Law adopted in 1933. The case investigated if the law of setting a minimum price violated the due process clause of 14th Amendment. The Court held that since the price controls were not "arbitrary, discriminatory, or demonstrably irrelevant" to the policy adopted by the legislature to promote the general welfare, it was consistent with the Constitution. There was nothing "peculiarly sacrosanct" about prices which insulates them from government regulation. (Reference: Nebbia v. New York, (

The plaintiff, an owner of a Motel in Georgia, which is easily accessible to the two main interstate highways solicited its patronage from within Georgia as well as nationally, where 75% of it registered guests originate. Prior to the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the motel had a policy of refusing service to African-Americans, and intended to continue that practice. The issue in the case was that if the refusal of motel patrons who are African-American is in violation…

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