In our class discussion last week we lightly discussed the significance of the Supreme Court, the necessity for the court, and whether we need more than one justice. Although, the Supreme Court is mentioned in Article III of the Constitution it can be difficult to understand why these justices are bestowed with a great deal of power and how the justices are not really accountable to anyone. Their opinion and decisions cannot be overturned by anyone, and the chance of a justice being removed from their seat for making certain rulings are marginal. They are a group of nine people who are assured their power and seat, does that not frighten you?
Furthermore, the topic of whether nine justices were truly necessary came about because a justice’s decision and opinion on a ruling can vary and stray away from their highly publicized politic standpoint. Obviously it would be a bit of a giveaway if a justice always held a strict or liberal political standpoint when voting in a case, but it can also make it a bit challenging to know their overall standpoint with ideas such as textualism or interpretation because it can all become a blur when their rulings stray from the norm. Let me clarify this, for example, after reading the first portion of Scalia’s essay we discussed how Scalia strayed from his textualist ways when he used the case of Smith vs. United States and the interpretation of the word “use” (Scalia 23). Scalia surprised us and took an interpretive approach one that caused us to believe that he was contradicting himself.
Scalia contradicting himself may not be the big issue here, but the idea that a justice can so easily stray from their very public political approach that poses a bigger question. Do we need nine justices when one justice is capable of changing their opinion, therefore, making an array of decisions?
In a New York Times article it is stated by Laurence Tribe, a Harvard Law school professor and a pre-eminent authority on the Constitution, as well as Joshua Matz, the clerk for Justice Anthony Kennedy sum up the court to have a “messy complexity”. Tribe and Matz also make the point that with shifts occurring in the legal landscape “…the court is torn about its role, the effects of its decisions remain obscure or the justice’s goals seem unclear or contradictory” (Shesol). Sure making decisions in major cases are not easy and there are many interpretations and ideals that justices’ must deal with, but how are we ever sure that the role and actions of these justices are accurate?