Are Supreme Court decisions really the law of the land?

Posted on May 18, 2011

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The Myth

To determine the Constitutionality of any law,  previous Supreme Court decisions are the final and absolute yardstick all laws are measured against. These past decisions are called Supreme Court Precedence.

The Truth

The actual text of the Constitution is the final and absolute yardstick all laws are measured against. When the Supreme Court considers the constitutionality of any law it must measure the law against the original text of the constitution and its plain meaning when it was written.

The Facts

The Supreme Court cannot substitute rulings of past Supreme Courts for the actual Constitution. These decisions often conflict with the actual text and meaning of the constitution. Supreme Court justices are not infallible. They are subject to personal and political biases just as everyone else. Some have shown an extraordinary amount of political bias and a complete disregard, even intense dislike, for the original constitution.

Article 6 Clause 2 of the Constitution states what is considered the supreme law of the land. There is no mention Supreme Court precedents. This clause clearly states that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land and no laws whether federal or state can violate the constitution and be legally binding.  Rulings and precedents are not listed in this clause as being supreme law of the land so they are not meant to play any role in determining the constitutionality of any law. They are often nothing more than a collection of personal and political biases of previous Supreme Court justices.

The founding fathers strongly believed in preserving the historical context along with the actual text of the constitution when trying to determine the meaning of the Constitution. James Madison, Thomas Jefferson , and other founding fathers advocated for using transcripts from the Constitution convention, the Federalist Papers, and other of their publications to determine the meaning of the different provisions of the Constitution.

The founding fathers were strongly against judges inserting their own political and personal views when determining the constitutionality of any law. They considered this an impeachable offense for Supreme Court Justices. According to the Constitution, Supreme Court Justices only hold their office if they maintain good behavior. The founding fathers understood that when justices insert their own views into the judicial process they are not exhibiting good behavior and should be impeached. This is a principle of English Common law which the founders derived our entire legal system from.  However the framers did not specify this in the actual Constitution. They believed this was commonly understood.  They were wrong because no Justice has ever been impeached for this offense which is now rampant.

Thomas Jefferson and other founding fathers realized they did not include strong enough protection against an out of control Supreme Court in the Constitution.  Jefferson proposed an amendment that never went anywhere that would have restrained the Supreme Court. He feared an out of control Supreme Court could weaken all of the provisions that chained down the federal government, preventing it from concentrating all power in Washington DC. He knew this would lead to an out of control federal government that would be very destructive to our individual liberty and our nations prosperity

This use of Supreme Court precedents is a relatively new phenomenon dating back to its first use in 1895. It did not become widespread until after 1936., when FDR threatened to stack the Supreme Court. Before then the Supreme Court mainly stuck to the original intent and meaning while using the Federalist Papers and other similar publications as their guide. There were many instances where the Supreme Court inserted their own biases before 1936 but since then it has become widespread. By using precedence from after 1936 the Supreme Court has used these tainted decisions as justifications for more and more outrageous rulings.

The Proof

Here is a link to a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to William Jarvis on this subject

Jefferson to Jarvis 1820

Article 6 Clause 2 of the Constitution

This constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, any thing in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.

Federalist Paper 78 by Alexander Hamilton

How should we interpret the Constitution?

 The Constitution on which our Union resides shall be administered according to the safe and honest meaning contemplated by a plain understanding of the people of the United States at the time of adoption. A meaning to be found in those advocating, not those who opposed it.    Thomas Jefferson

On every question of construction let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, let us recollect the spirit manifested in the debates and trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed Thomas Jefferson

Why is important to preserve the original intent of the founding fathers?

Our peculiar security is in the possession of a written Constitution.  Let us not make it a blank piece of paper by construction.    Thomas Jefferson

What will happen if we disregard the original intent of our founding fathers?

 The explanations are preserved in the publications of the time. Do not separate text from historical background. If you do, you will have perverted and subverted the Constitution, which can only end in a distorted, bastardized form of illegitimate government.
James Madison

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