Documented Power

The importance of balance in politics has been a fundamental theme in social theory since Plato and Aristotle. The American Founders provided balance in the Constitution by separating the executive, legislatve and judicial powers at the federal level. The intention was to allow each branch of government to check the ambitous tendencies of the others so as to protect the liberties of the people. The authors of the Federalist thought that the Supreme Court--not wielding "sword or the purse" (Federalist No. 78)--would be the weakest and least threatening of the three branches.

Over the last four decades, however, we have seen the Supreme Court exert remarkable judicial power in cases pertaining to education, abortion and other important issues. Many hail modern Justices as great defenders of the people's rights. Others contend that the Supreme Court seems more intent on legislating a radical agenda than simply interpreting the text of the Constitution, the very source of its authority. If such latter claims are valid, then are we witnessing an imbalance of power that threatens our democratic form of government?

Feature Articles:

The Moral Incompetence of the Judiciary
Gregory C. Sisk
Should the Supreme Court provide the forum in which public policy issues are evaluated? The author expresses concern over the contempoary role which the Justices have assigned themselves.

God and Man At The Supreme Court: Rethinking Religion in Public Life
Kevin J. Hasson
The Supreme Court's attempt to privitize religion is re-examined. Can the the Court truly be neutral regarding religious issues?

The Courts: Order in the Classroom
Bruce C. Hafen and Jonathan O. Hafen
This article traces the Court's decisions that undermined educational authority. Later the Court reversed itself. What lesson was involved in this matter?

Roe: Twenty-Five Years Later
First Things
The editors of First Things consider the legacy of this most infamous Supreme Court decision.

The Eminent Tribunal
Francis Canavan
A comparison of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision with that of the infamous Dred Scott v. Sanford.

Putting the Federal Judiciary Back on the Constitutional Track
Edwin Meese III
The former U.S. Attorney General outlines the areas in which the Supreme Court has improperly exercised its judicial power. He also offers solutions on how the Court can be set back on the right path.

The Supreme Court 1997
First Things
Various authors look back over the Supreme Court decisions of 1997.

The End of Democracy?
First Things

This collection of articles criticizing the Supreme Court created serious controversy. Read the original essays and responses to them in this worthwhile exchange.

Related Historical Documents

We would love to get your feedback on this special focus. Please tell us what you think.

Go here to see our past Special Focus features.