The Supreme Court as the Final Decision Maker
Write A brief explanation of the role of the Supreme Court in protecting individual rights. Then explain at least two strengths and two limitations of the Supreme Court as the “final decision maker” in individual rights cases. Be specific.
The Supreme Court is the highest court within the U.S. judicial system. Therefore it is given the task of being the final decision maker in court cases that appear before it. It has reached thousands of final decisions on landmark and controversial cases, which have impacted policy on a national level. Issues like abortion, assisted suicide, and capital punishment have all appeared before the Court. In many of these cases, a strong backlash has occurred from the public on the power of the Supreme Court as the final decision maker.
Arguably one of the most controversial Supreme Court cases in history, Roe v. Wade has made an impact on public opinion and policy. Norma McCorvey, aka Jane Roe, became pregnant and wished to terminate her pregnancy. She was unsuccessful in being able to obtain an abortion in Texas. Her case was brought to the U.S. District Court in Texas where Henry Wade, the Dallas Court District Attorney, represented the State of Texas.
The final Supreme Court decision in this case defined parameters related to when women could terminate a pregnancy as well as how states can regulate abortion. The decision gave specific regulations on what was allowed in relation to each trimester of a pregnancy as well as the use of medical judgment and maternal health as key factors in the regulation and procedure for termination. After the case was finalized, controversy erupted. Critics argued that the Supreme Court should protect the lives of the unborn, advocates applauded the Supreme Court for protecting a woman’s right to choose, and others felt that the Supreme Court should never have been involved in the issue in the first place as it should be determined state by state.
Due process refers to the government’s obligation to respect rights given to a person according to law. The Supreme Court has had many historical cases that deal with whether or not a person was denied due process. For instance, in the landmark case Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court argued that the right to privacy is protected by the Due Process Clause in the Constitution. The case focused on a Connecticut law that prohibited the use of contraceptives to prevent pregnancy. Estelle Griswold, the executive director of the Planned Parenthood League in Connecticut, and C. Lee Buxton, the Medical Director of the League, provided information and advice to married couples on preventing conception. As a result, they were found guilty as accessories and convicted and fined for their actions. In a 7–2 vote, the Supreme Court overturned their conviction, citing that the Connecticut law violated the right to marital privacy. This case is significant because it set precedence for future cases, such as Roe v. Wade, and allowed physicians and other medical professionals to provide birth control to the public.
Write abrief description of the case you selected. Then describe at least two federal, state, and/or local policies that were influenced by the case. Explain how and why. Be specific.