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Published: Fri, 02 Feb 2018
The Judicial Branch of Government
The Federalist Papers is an agreement on free government for harmony and security; it provides reasons that support the new plan of government described in the U.S. Constitution, and a deep perception into the framer’s purpose in the Constitution. The document was written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, explaining in a series of 85 articles how the proposed system of government would work. Alexander Hamilton outlined the contents of the document, but in the end it was divided in two parts by Madison and Hamilton; the first part discussing the errors of the present government, as well as, the Articles of Confederation, and the second part discussing the new constitution’s different components, which are the legislature, executive, and judicial branches.The next few paragraphs will discuss the powers and the limits to those powers of the judicial branch of government and the changes to the branch.
According to Hamilton in The Federalist Papers in essay no. 78, the judicial branch of government is without a doubt the weakest branch. The judicial branch doesn’t have the power to act only to judge and only the executive branch has the choice to carry the judgments or decisions out. In the Constitution, the “judicial power” is given to the Supreme Court and to any lower courts that Congress creates, which deals with the legislative branch of government, however, the Constitution does not define “the judicial power”. But it includes the power to hear appeals, hold trials, and review government conduct with accordance to the Constitution. The Supreme Court’s primary check on the other branches of government is “judicial review,” which is the ability of the court to examine the laws and actions underlying cases presented under its appellate jurisdiction to make sure they abide by the Constitution. The Constitution proposes that judges who are subject to “good behavior” can hold their office for life. Permanency in the office prevents the president and Congress from invading the judicial power by and it excuses judges from political tensions. The judicial branch does little harm to political rights. Once in a while, a court may wrongfully treat an individual, but they can never threaten the individual’s independence. There are certain restrictions on Congress imposed by the Constitution designed to protect every individual’s liberties, but if the courts are independent and have the power to declare laws that are in violation to the Constitution void, then those protections will have no effect. People will assume that the judicial branch will be powerful than the legislative branch when it comes to mind that judicial review gives the Supreme Court the power to declare laws unconstitutional. Hamilton takes this argument into consideration and states the fact that the fundamental law is only the Constitution. Arguing that the Constitution is not above the laws suggests that “the representatives of the people are superior to the people” and that the Constitution is lower than the government it gave life to. The courts are the ones who settle a dispute between the legislative branch and the people; the courts are to interpret the laws and keep the legislative branch from exceeding their powers. The courts must place the Constitution above the laws passed by Congress, as well as place the intentions of the people before the intentions of their representatives. It doesn’t matter which branch is superior to the other, but one must simply acknowledge that the people can exceed both. It is pointless to argue that the court’s decisions might interfere with the powers of the legislative branch. So then people argue that passing laws and formulating policies should be the function of Congress and not the courts. This may be correct, but interpreting the laws and judging them are the courts two special functions. It is necessary for the independence of the courts go against the destructive actions of conflicts in order to protect the rights of individuals. For there to be stability, changes must be orderly and constitutional for the fact that even though the people have the right to alter or destroy their government if it comes in conflict with their happiness it will not be enough protection. A government at the kindness of groups constantly planning its failure would be a shameful situation. The only way that citizens can feel that their rights are secure would be knowing that the judicial branch protects them against the people, both inside and outside the government, who work against their interests. Also, Hamilton cites another important reason for judges to hold their office for life. In a free government there are destined to be many laws that can be confusing and conflicting. So it can take a long time to fully comprehend the meaning of these laws and a short term of office would restrain competent and truthful men from looking for a position in the courts; they would be unwilling to give up very good law practices to take on a temporary judicial appointment. Once good behavior is adapted, life tenure can be an excellent device for guaranteeing judicial independence and protection of everyone’s individual rights. Moving on to Hamilton’s next essay no. 79 of The Federalist Papers, he claims that besides continuing in office for life “nothing can contribute to independence of the judges than a fixed provision of support.” He argues that by removing the temptation, power over a man’s life would add up to “power over his will” once again strengthen the judicial power. The judiciary cannot rely on the legislature for rewards because that will tear down the disconnection between the two branches. The Constitution establishes that judges of the United States “shall at stated times receive for their services a compensation which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.” If at times the amount of money can be increased by the legislature, but cannot be decreased, then they wouldn’t have the power to control a judge and the separation of powers will firmly remain as it is. In the judicial system there is another vital point which is the “want of removing a judge.” Hamilton believes that harm is done more to liberty when trying to separate incapability and capability than when trying to easily remove judges. Another ridiculous consideration is age because no one can say when someone is not able to help and learn the laws of the land when it’s a difficult, life-long task. In the short essay no. 79, while noting the strengths of the judiciary, most of the processes under the Constitution are indirect and not as definite as Hamilton laid it out in the essay. Judicial review can change the Constitution to a new form in the amending process. Although the Federalist doesn’t make an exact statement on the functions of the judges, such functions can be completed from other interpretation. In The Federalist Paper, Hamilton’s essay no. 80 starts in explaining the powers of the judiciary so the following is a list of powers in which the federal courts have jurisdiction:
Federal courts should have the power to overrule state laws violating the Constitution.
Federal courts should have the authority to enforce equality in the interpretation of national laws.
Federal courts should have the right in all cases involving citizens of other nations.
To assure domestic order and tranquility, federal courts should have power in conflicts between states, between a state and a citizen of another, and between citizens of different states.
National judiciary has authority in maritime cases, for it often involves the foreigner’s rights, rights secured to them by treaties which were part of the supreme law of the land.
If a case doesn’t fall into any category of the list, the federal judiciary cannot hear it and Congress cannot expand judicial power by adding cases to the list because the only way to change it is by the constitutional amendment.
Afar from the powers and limits to the powers of the judicial branch, it also had its changes. Since 1787, changes had been made to the judiciary system, as well as the Constitution that has been modified many times. There were many changes in the judicial system some dealing with the amendments of the Constitution. The first was in April 1789, when the First Congress under the Constitution met and members of the Federalist Party had total control of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Under the Constitution, the Federalists wanted to build a powerful national government, but the Anti-Federalists wanted the state governments to be stronger than the national governments. The First Congress passed the “An Act to Establish the Federal Courts of the United States,” which then became known as the Judiciary Act of 1789. It constructed a federal judiciary with trial courts and appellate courts to serve under the Supreme Court. Then the Judiciary Act of 1789 created district courts and circuit courts as two diferrent types of trial courts. There were thirteen district courts and each court had one judge and it had the power to hold trials in cases involving minor federal crimes and admiralty cases, which involved the use of navigable waters. The eleven states that formally approved the Constitution by then were grouped in to three circuits, which are the eastern, middle, and southern. One circuit court was created for each circuit, which has two Supreme Court judges and one district court judge holding trials in civil cases between citizens of different states, large civil cases filed by the United States, and major crime cases. Another change was 1787, when state delagates began debating on whether to ratify the Constitution, so the Anti-Federalists wanted the Constitution to have a bill of rights. If the Anti-Federalists chose to approve the Constitution, then the Federalist would seek a bill of rights. During the First Congress in 1789, James Madison outlined twelve proposed amendments, in which the House of Representatives and the Senate voted to forward them to the states for consideration. By the end of 1791, the eleven states approved ten of the amendments, which then became the Bill of Rights, making them part of the Constitution. The next few changes were the Constitutional Amendments, like when police enforcement went to houses or other places searching and taking evidence of crimes and arresting any criminal suspect. So, the Fourth Amendment required federal law enforcement agents to get warrants from a judge before they go into people’s houses and making arrests. The Fifth Amendment prevented people from being charged for a capital crime unless a grand jury finds good reasons nor can they be tried twice for the same crime or be forced to be a witness to him- or herself. Also, the amendment prevented the government from taking away a person’s life, liberty, or property without due process of law, which means the affected person has a fair chance to oppose the action. The Sixth Amendment expanded the rights of defendents in criminal trials and required the trials to be “public and speedy. Also, the criminal defendants would have the right to know the charges against them, the right to question the witnesses against them, the right to force favorable witnesses to testify for them, and the right to be assisted by an attorney. The Seventh Amendment changed the Constitution of 1787 because it didn’t contain specific provisions for civil trials, so it preserves the common law right to jury trials in cases involving more than $20. Also, this amendment prevented federal courts from altering a jury’s factual findings in civil cases, if it’s allowed under the common law. The Eight Amendment stated that criminal defendents shouldn’t be required to pay excessive bail, nor be imposed by excessive fines, and should not be inflicted by cruel and unusual punishment. According to the Supreme Court, punishments are not cruel and unusual when society approves of them, such as the death penalty. The Eleventh Amendment was proposed by Congress in 1794 before becoming part of the Constitution in 1798. This was proposed after the Supreme Court issued a decision in the Chisholm v. Georgia case in 1793, in which two citizens of South Carolina sued the state of Georgia for property that was taken by Georgia officials. So, the officials refused to appear in the Court and sent a letter saying that the Supreme Court had no right in hearing a case filed against a state by a citizen of another state. In the end, the Court found in favor of the South Carolina citizens and rejecting Georgia’s argument that the Court had no power to hear the case. By the end of February 1865, twenty-seven states approved the Thirteenth Amendment that Congress proposed on making slavery illegal in the U.S. After that slavery didn’t end it just made the Southern states bring about the Black Codes, which gave African Americans a little more freedom than the slaves did, but they were still treated differently than the white Americans. To put an end to the codes, the Fourteenth Amendment was proposed in June 1866 by Congress and then it became part of the Constitution two years later. This amendment stated that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States are citizens” of the country. After that, the Southern states still treated African Americans unfairly in preventing them from voting in elections making the Fifteenth Amendment become part of the Constitution on March 1870, which stated that any State cannot deny the right of citizens of the U.S. to vote because of their “race, color, or previous servitude.” As of the year 2005, the federal judiciary has ninety-four districts with each district having one district court. These courts handle criminal and civil law trials under the nation’s law, as well as handle civil cases involving diversity jurisdiction. During the twentieth century, Congress created federal courts that dealt with special cases, such as taxes and international trade cases, and they cut down on mandatory appeals and increased discretionary appeals to the Supreme Court. To appeal to the Supreme Court from a court of appeals, one would have to file a petition for a writ of certiorari asking the Court to review the case, then at least nine justices would vote to grant certiorari for the case to be appealed. Only 100 out of 8,000 petitions that the Court receives each year are selected. Nowadays, citizens can vote to change things on elections days, like allowing them to select judges and their term limits making judges keep in mind the what the people want.
In summary, the Federalist Papers was written to keep peace and security for the citizens of the United States and aided the new plan that U.S. Constitution had for the government, as well as keeping in mind the purpose of our Founding Fathers in the Constitution. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay wrote the document explaining in 85 essays the Articles of Confederation, discussing the errors of the now government, and discussing the new Constitution’s legislature, executive, and judicial branch. In the document, the judicial branch was known to be the weakest branch, but it still had its powers along with limits and it also had its changes.
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