All this hubub about the Supreme Court and the Constitution has had at least one good effect: just plenty of people are getting their first good look at our fundamental law. Most of us have been content to leave such tiresome matters to the lawyers; laws are such beastly technical things. But the amateurs are having their innings now, and ordinary folks are discussing the nature of our government on every corner. Such discussions finally reached the bosom of my home; so the only thing to do was to look up the Constitution itself to prove a point. Shocking as it may seem, we looked high and low for a copy of it, and narry a dictionary, encyclopedia, reference book or school book supplied our need. A kind neighbor finally dug up one.
In the light of present national concern it will pay anyone to refresh their knowledge of the contents of this historic document.
Many times recently I have been confronted with the challenge to indicate a phrase in the Constitution which grants the Supreme Court the right to question the validity of a Congressional enactment. Well, I am not a lawyer; so what I might say can probably be shot full of technical holes by a clever lawyer. But I do think I can understand plain English, and am perfectly willing to accept the following statements:
Article VI, Section 2--”This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof .... Shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby ....“
Article III, Section 1--”The judicial power (of the Supreme Court) shall extend to all cases, in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, etc.”
So I ask: how in the name of common sense can the Supreme Court, which is sworn to uphold the Constitution, avoid passing judgement on the constitutionality of an act of Congress, when a citizen pleads injury on the basis of alleged violation of the Constitution by said act? It is too bad that this function is not more specific. It has cropped up spasmodically ever since John Marshall started the thing with a logical presumption. Any other conception under our form of government, which insures an independent judiciary, is foolish; and the question never arises unless some popular harranguer is disgruntled over a decision of the court.
The present agitation, which packs the Supreme Court with new life, obviously biased in favor of New Deal legislation, is simply an ingeniously clever political expediency. Mind you, I am making no statement as to the desirability of the social reforms contemplated; that is aside from the point. The point is--The Court can only pass judgement on the laws as they stand, and the Constitution comes first. The President has blandly stated that the Court has assumed legislative powers, but he made absolutely no attempt to prove it. He simply wants his way, and he is going to have it, by hook or crook. Again, may I remind you, that his way may be the best, but his methods of securing his way are those of a dictator and not democratic. When the NRA was declared unconstitutional some two years ago, the logical and sportsmanlike way to have handled that situation was to have submitted an amendment to the people from whom he derives his powers--at that time.
But an election was in the offing, and that wouldn’t be good politics. Do blind justice and good politics mix?
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