Essay On Judicial Activism

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Proponents of judicial review pointed to Chief Justice John Marshall’s decision in Marbury as a source supporting the view that the Supreme Court has the final say on what the Constitution means.

Since then, as the powers of the national government have expanded and as more and more state laws became subject to federal review (as a result of the Fourteenth Amendment and the incorporation of the protections of the Bill of Rights against the states), the Supreme Court has had frequent opportunities to exercise its power of judicial review. Does Marshall’s ruling support the argument that the Supreme Court alone—and not other branches of the national government—have the final say on what the Constitution means?

The power of judicial review was used sparingly for the next several decades.

Beginning in the early 20th Century, however, the Court began striking down federal laws more often than ever before.

Laws are created by the legislature, executed by the executive and applied by the judiciary.

It is like the father creating the rules of the house, the mother creating suitable environment for its execution and the children applying the rules in their lives.

The judiciary resolves such inter-state disputes and comes up with an amicable resolution to put an end to such conflicts before they take on political colors.

The water dispute arising every year between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu regarding the sharing of Cauvery waters is a good example in this regard.

The whole point of a written Constitution, Marshall asserted, was to ensure that government stayed within its prescribed limits: “The powers of the Legislature are defined and limited; and [so] that those limits may not be mistaken or forgotten, the Constitution is written.” In cases where a law conflicted with the Constitution, Marshall wrote, then “the very essence of judicial duty” was to follow the Constitution.

Marshall also asserted that the courts had the responsibility to understand and articulate what the Constitution means: “It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.” The decision concluded “a law repugnant to the Constitution is void, and courts, as well as other departments, are bound by that instrument.” The Supreme Court did not declare another act of Congress unconstitutional until it struck down the Missouri Compromise in (1857).


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