Episode 016 Show Notes
In our sixteenth episode, The guys discuss the Occupiers, Fast and Furious, UK health care, and the UN. They also discuss Article III. There is no Prep School lesson due to the immense amount of breaking news.
The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour, and shall, at stated times, receive for their services, a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.
The judicial power shall extend to all cases, in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority;--to all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls;--to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction;--to controversies to which the United States shall be a party;--to controversies between two or more states;--between a state and citizens of another state;--between citizens of different states;--between citizens of the same state claiming lands under grants of different states, and between a state, or the citizens thereof, and foreign states, citizens or subjects.
In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction. In all the other cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make.
The trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury; and such trial shall be held in the state where the said crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any state, the trial shall be at such place or places as the Congress may by law have directed.
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.
The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted.
- There is a lack of qualifications for Justices of the Supreme Court in the Constitution. Congressmen and Presidents have qualifications listed. Justices DO NOT!
- Thomas Jefferson was very fearful of the amount of power that the Supreme Court could take using “judicial review”.
- Jefferson suggested an amendment that would allow either Congress or state legislatures to veto the Supreme Court to keep things balanced.
- In 1961, NONE of the Justices had previous substantive judicial experience.
Marbury v Madison (5 U.S. 137) 1803 -- JUDICIAL REVIEW
On February 24, 1803, the Court rendered a unanimous (4–0) decision, that Marbury had the right to his commission but the court did not have the power to force Madison to deliver the commission. Chief Justice Marshall wrote the opinion of the court. Marshall presented the case as raising three distinct questions:
- Did Marbury have a right to the commission?
- Do the laws of the country give Marbury a legal remedy?
- Is asking the Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus the correct legal remedy?
(writ of mandamus = "issued by a superior court to compel a lower court or a government officer to perform mandatory or purely ministerial duties correctly.") a/k/a … a mandate
Marshall answered the first two questions in the affirmative. Finding that failure to deliver the commission was "violative of a vested legal right.” The final was answered negatively because the Supreme Court is an appellate court and therefore cannot originate the action.
Fletcher v Peck (10 U.S. 87) 1810
In Fletcher v. Peck (1810), the Supreme Court ruled that a grant to a private land company was a contract within the meaning of the Contract Clause of the Constitution, and once made could not be repealed. In addition to establishing a strict interpretation of the Contract Clause, the case marked the first time the Supreme Court struck down a state law on constitutional grounds.
The dispute in the case arose in 1795, when the Georgia legislature granted some 35 million acres of state land, involving vast tracts around the Yazoo River in what is now Alabama and Mississippi, to private speculators for the bargain price of 1.5 cents per acre. It was soon discovered that all but one of the legislators who voted for the grant had been bribed. In 1796, a new state legislature repealed the fraudulent grant; in 1800, John Peck purchased some land that was part of the 1795 grant, and in 1803, he sold 13,000 acres of it to Robert Fletcher for $3,000. When Fletcher discovered the sale of the land had been voided by state law, however, he brought suit against Peck for damages, claiming Peck had lied to him in promising he had good title to the land. A federal circuit court ruled for Peck, and Fletcher appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The question before the Court was whether the act of 1796 (repealing the act of 1795) was a violation of Article I, Section 10 of the Constitution -- in other words, whether, once the state of Georgia had finalized the original sale of the land, it could constitutionally repeal that sale, or whether the Constitution prohibited it from doing so.
The Supreme Court, in a 4-1 decision written by Chief Justice John Marshall, ruled that Georgia had violated the Contract Clause of the Constitution when it repealed the grants. The Court conceded that the fraud underlying the grants was "deplorable," but it rejected Fletcher's argument that Georgia had the "sovereign power," as the agent of the people, to repeal this act of public corruption. The Court reasoned that Peck was an innocent third party who had entered into two valid contracts: first when he paid for the land from the original grantee, and second when he sold the land to Fletcher. Peck thus fell outside the original fraud the Georgia legislature sought to undo in its repeal. As Marshall put it, "When a law is in its nature a contract, when absolute rights have vested under that contract, a repeal of the law cannot divest those rights." Fletcher's suit against Peck was dismissed, and Georgia's law repealing the grants was struck down.
Decision: Ruled in favor of Fletcher by finding that a legislature could repeal or amend its previous acts, but could not undo actions that legally occurred under the previous act.
Significance: The ruling marked the first time that a state law had been overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. The case was also the first affirming the Contract Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The solid legal standing of state land grants established by the Supreme Court reassured the public about purchasing lands as they became available as the United States expanded westward.