What are the pros and cons of the Supreme Court's power of judicial review?

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

The major pro regarding the Supreme Court’s power of judicial review is that it acts as a check on the elected branches of government.  Our Constitution set up a system of government with separation of powers and checks and balances.  The reason for this was that the Framers feared that a government with concentrated and unchecked power would be more likely to take away the rights of its citizens.  The power of judicial review is one of these checks and balances.  It helps, we can argue, prevent the elected branches of government from overstepping their bounds and taking away our rights.

There are at least two major cons.  First, we can say that the Supreme Court’s power may make us complacent.  It may make us think our rights are protected by the Court when in fact it is usually efforts on the part of the people (like the Civil Rights Movement) that protect our rights.  Second, we can say that the power of judicial review reduces our democratic control over our government.  If, for example, we want to pass laws against abortion and the Court strikes those laws down, we can say that the Court is taking away our right to have the sorts of laws that we want.

Thus, there are clearly both good and bad sides to the Court’s power of judicial review. 

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

Posted on

There are advantages and disadvantages to the Supreme Court’s power of judicial review. The main advantage of judicial review is that it serves a check on the power of Congress. The Founding Fathers wanted to be sure that no person or part of government would become too powerful. They also wanted each branch to be able to control the other branches. Congress must consider how the Supreme Court may view the laws that it passes. This serves as a method to prevent Congress from abusing its power.

A disadvantage of judicial review is that the Supreme Court can abuse its powers by going too far when it declares laws as unconstitutional. It is possible for judges to use their own personal views when determining the legality of a law. Since the decision of the Supreme Court is final, there is no recourse if a judge or several judges were to use their own personal views when making a decision in deciding if a law is constitutional. There may be a significant gap between the letter of the law and the interpretation of the law.

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