Using the Cherokee Cases example, explain why the judiciary cannot enforce court decisions.

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mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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The court decisions involving the Cherokee tribes are a good example of why the judiciary cannot enforce court decisions.  The Cherokee had signed a treaty with the federal government in 1790 that recognized the tribe as a separate nation with separate laws. As our country began to expand, people viewed the Native Americans, including the Cherokee, as an obstacle to progress and expansion.  In contradiction to the treaty, they wanted to move these tribes to lands west of the Mississippi River.  These lands were considered wastelands and very unsuitable for living. 

The State of Georgia refused to recognize the treaty the Cherokee had with the federal government.  Georgia wanted to move the Cherokee to the lands west of the Mississippi River. The Cherokee sued in court. The Supreme Court ruled that Georgia couldn’t force the Cherokee to move since the treaty was valid. However, President Jackson refused to enforce the Supreme Court’s decision, and the Cherokee were forced to move. Jackson was known to have said that the Supreme Court should enforce its own decision because he wasn’t going to do so.  Of course, the Supreme Court was not in a position to do this, as this was not part of their role.

This case is a good example of how the courts aren’t able to enforce their decisions.  The enforcement part falls to another branch of government, specifically the executive branch.

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