Ap Government And Politics

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AP Government and Politics
The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court plays a complex role in our system of government and as a result, is perhaps the most misunderstood branch. Its’ justices hold a great deal of power and yet must rely on Congress and the President to enforce their decisions. This paradoxical conundrum is only one of the factors that set the Court apart. Its unique nature invites confusion into not only its purpose but where it fits in with the other two branches. The Supreme Court acts as a voice of reason in government, not immune to popular opinion but not liable to fall victim to its wishes either. Due to the Constitutional provision that grants life terms for justices, as well as their appointment by the President and confirmation by the Senate, they are insulated from public opinion and mustn’t base their every action on a desire for approval since they do not require it for elections to retain their position. Some may argue that these characteristics of the Court cause it to be undemocratic in nature. Another insulation device is their ability to debate and make decisions on cases in private away from public scrutiny. These features of the Court all serve to heighten its prestige, which elevates the Supreme Court above the other two branches of the national government in the minds of many Americans. Due to this elevated status, decisions of the Court are typically held in high esteem by the public which encourages the President to enforce their rulings. Although the Court appears to hold a great deal of power, it has no ability of its own to enforce its decisions: for that it must rely on Congress and the President. Throughout history, this has played out both positively and negatively. The case Worcester v. Georgia in 1832 resulted in the ruling that the state of Georgia did not have the authority to forcibly remove Cherokee Native Americans from their lands. However, President Andrew Jackson disregarded this decision and, sympathetic to Georgia, assisted in the forced relocation of the Cherokee to what is present day Oklahoma in 1838, commonly known as the Trail of Tears. The Court had no power to ensure that the President would enforce their decision. However, at a later date in history, the results of a case also requiring the support of the President played out rather differently. In 1954 the case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka was heard by the Supreme Court. The ruling that separate wasn’t equal due to the negative psychological connotations the sentiment held for the colored races was not one wildly popular in many areas of the nation, particularly the south. In September of 1957, nine black students enrolled at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. The governor of that state ordered the National Guard to surround the school and prevent any African American student from entering. Several weeks after the start of the school year, with unsuccessful attendance so far, President Dwight Eisenhower sent federal troops to escort the students through a mob of protestors into the building. Not only was this a major defining moment of the civil rights movement, it demonstrates the necessity of the President’s willingness to enforce Supreme Court decisions. The need for the President’s support is not the only check the executive and legislative branches have on the judicial. The President is also responsible for nominating justices who must be confirmed by the Senate. Congress is able to impeach