The People’s Court
Judicial review has become a very important and historic concept of the discussion on judiciary power. This principle has started political storm and debates regarding courts roles and rules.
The court is bound to evaluate issues and as citizens, we entrust our whole faith to whatever decisions they will have to come up with, for as long as the Constitution will be upheld in all aspects. The court functions as a controlling body that interprets the constitutional language in legal issues. However, the Constitution is interpreted not only the set of guidelines, but from past legal issues that has been assessed. Thus, most of the time, the legal decisions to similar issue vary.
Interpreting the Judiciary Act (Section 13), there is a command issuing in the name of the sovereign authority from a superior court having jurisdiction, and is directed to some person, corporation within the jurisdiction of such superior court, requiring them to do some particular thing therein specified, which appertains to their office and duty, and which the superior court has previously determined, or at least supposes to be consonant to right and justice. This section also reveals that the writ of Mandamus is not a writ of right, but only granted at the discretion of the court to whom the purpose for it is made; and this discretion is not exercised in favor of the applicant, unless some just and useful purpose may be answered by the writ. This was introduced to prevent disorders from a failure of justice; therefore it ought to be used upon all occasions where the law has established no specific remedy, and where in justice and good government there ought to be one. The 13th section of the act of congress of Sept. 24, 1789, gives the Supreme Court power to issue writs of mandamus in cases warranted by the principles and usages of law, to any courts appointed or persons holding office, under the authority of the United States.
The issuing of a mandamus to courts, is the exercise of an appellate jurisdiction, and, therefore constitutionally vested in the Supreme Court; but a mandamus directed to a public officer, belongs to original jurisdiction, and by the constitution, the exercise of original jurisdiction by the Supreme Court is restricted to certain specified cases, which do not comprehend a mandamus. The latter clause of the above section, authorizing this writ to be issued by the Supreme Court to persons holding office under the authority of the United States, is, therefore, not warranted by the constitution and void. The circuit courts of the United States may also issue writs of mandamus, but their power in this particular is confined exclusively to those cases in which it may be necessary to the exercise of their jurisdiction.
It is the judiciary’s responsibility to interpret the laws, and not scrutinize the authority of the people behind the court. Ideologically, all the branches of the government— executive, legislative and judiciary— are of equal power; or, if not equal, each must be supposed to have superior capacity only for those things which peculiarly belong to it; and as legislation peculiarly involves the consideration of those limitations which are put on the law-making power, and the interpretation of the laws when made, involves only the construction of the laws themselves, it follows, that the construction of the Constitution, in this particular, belongs to the legislature, which ought, therefore, to be taken to have superior capacity to judge of the constitutionality of its own acts.
Chief Justice Marshall believes that the will of the people is expressed through the constitution. It is the people’s power now, as democracy is defined, in whom full and absolute sovereign power resides, to correct abuses in legislation, by instructing the representatives to revoke the horrible act. It might, perhaps, have been better to vest the power in the judiciary; as it might be expected, that its habits of deliberation, and the aid derived from the arguments of counsel, would more frequently lead to accurate conclusions. On the other hand, the judiciary is not perfect; and an error by it would admit of no remedy but a more distinct expression of the public will, through the extraordinary medium of a convention; yet, an error by the legislature admits of a remedy by an exertion of the same will, in the ordinary exercise of an approach better calculated to attain the end. It may be said, the people would probably not notice an error of their representatives. But they would as probably do so, as notice an error of the judiciary; and beside, it is a postulate in the theory of our government, and the very basis of the superstructure, that the people are wise, virtuous, and competent to manage their own affairs.
De Tocqueville, Alexis (1863). Democracy in America. Cambridge: Sever and Francis.