2.10 The Court in Action

6 min readfebruary 1, 2023


Samantha Howey

Riya Patel

Riya Patel

AP US Government 👩🏾‍⚖️

240 resources
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The Supreme Court's role as the final arbiter of the Constitution and federal law sometimes puts it in the position of making decisions that are controversial or unpopular. When this happens, other branches of government, as well as the general public, may question the legitimacy of the Court's decisions and take steps to challenge or limit its influence. However, it's important to note that the Supreme Court's decisions are based on its interpretation of the Constitution and the law, rather than on public opinion or the views of other branches of government.

Key Questions

  • What is the jurisdiction of the court?
  • Who are the parties involved in the case?
  • What is the issue at hand?
  • What evidence is presented during the proceedings?
  • What legal principles or laws apply to the case?
  • What is the role of the judge and jury, if applicable?
  • What is the outcome of the case and why was it decided in that way?
  • What is the impact of the court's decision on the parties involved and society as a whole?
  • What is the appeals process, if any?
  • How does the court ensure fairness and impartiality throughout the proceedings?

Key Terms

  • Jurisdiction - The authority of the Supreme Court to hear and make decisions on certain legal cases.
  • Oral Arguments - The opportunity for both sides of a case to present their arguments and answer questions from the justices in an open session.
  • Briefs - Written arguments submitted by both sides of a case before oral arguments, outlining their positions and evidence.
  • Precedent - A previous court decision that provides guidance for future decisions on similar legal issues.
  • Majority Opinion - The decision reached by a majority of the justices in a case.
  • Dissenting Opinion - A written disagreement with the majority opinion by one or more justices who believe the decision was incorrect.
  • Concurring Opinion - A written agreement with the majority opinion by a justice who agrees with the outcome, but for different reasons.
  • Writ of Certiorari - A formal request by one party to have a case heard by the Supreme Court.
  • Writ of Habeas Corpus - A legal order that requires the government to produce a prisoner and show cause for their detention.
  • Amicus Curiae Briefs - Briefs filed by individuals or organizations who are not parties to a case but have a strong interest in the outcome and wish to offer their expertise and perspective.


The life tenure of Supreme Court justices provides them with the independence to make decisions based on their interpretation of the Constitution and the law, without needing to worry about the public's opinions or losing their positions. This was intentionally designed by the framers of the Constitution to insulate the Court from political pressures and ensure its impartiality. However, as you mentioned, sometimes the Court's decisions are so controversial or unpopular that other branches of government may take or threaten to take measures to curb its influence.
An example of a Supreme Court justice with a long tenure is Justice Stephen Breyer, who has served on the Court since 1994 and retired in 2022. Another example is the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who served on the Court for 27 years, from 1993 until her death in 2020.


Court-curbing measures are ways to limit the power and influence of the Supreme Court. These measures can include:
  • Presidential appointments, where the President can appoint new justices who share their interpretation of the Constitution, potentially changing the ideological composition of the Court.
  • Legislative action, where Congress has the power to determine the Supreme Court's appellate jurisdiction and pass acts that prevent the Supreme Court from hearing appeals in certain types of cases.
  • Refusal to implement decisions, where the other branches of government may refuse to follow or enforce the Supreme Court's decisions.
It's important to note that these court-curbing measures are rarely taken and can be controversial. The independence and impartiality of the Supreme Court is a cornerstone of the U.S. system of government, and any efforts to limit its power or influence are met with significant resistance from those who support the separation of powers and the rule of law.
An example of court-curbing is the congressional response to the Supreme Court's decision in the landmark case of Marbury v. Madison (1803), in which the Court established the principle of judicial review. In response to this decision, Congress considered proposals to limit the Court's power, such as reducing its jurisdiction or limiting its authority to review certain types of cases.
Another example is the debate over court-packing, a proposal to add more justices to the Supreme Court in order to change its ideological balance. This idea has been discussed and proposed by various political leaders in response to perceived imbalances in the Court or frustration with its decisions. However, no such plan has been successful in modern times.

Enforcement of Rulings

The Supreme Court's rulings are considered the law of the land and are expected to be followed and enforced by the President. However, the President has discretion to enforce the decision, and in rare cases, may choose not to enforce a ruling if they disagree with it. In such cases, the enforcement of the ruling may be influenced by other branches of government or by public opinion. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of all branches of government to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law.
An example of enforcement of rulings is the implementation of the Brown v. Board of Education decision (1954), in which the Supreme Court declared segregation in public schools to be unconstitutional. The decision was enforced through the actions of federal and state governments, including the use of federal troops to enforce desegregation in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Another example is the enforcement of the ruling in Roe v. Wade (1973), in which the Supreme Court declared that the constitutional right to privacy protected a woman's right to have an abortion. Despite ongoing legal and political challenges to this ruling, it has been enforced by federal and state governments and remains the law of the land.


The Supreme Court is expected to be impartial and independent, and its justices are sworn to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law, regardless of personal political views. However, some legal scholars argue that the justices are not immune to outside influences, and may take into consideration public opinion and the perception of impartiality when making decisions. This is why the justices are often careful not to appear partisan in their rulings, and to maintain the court's legitimacy and credibility with the public. Nevertheless, there is ongoing debate and discussion about the role of partisanship in the Supreme Court and its impact on the impartiality of its decisions.
An example of partisanship in the Supreme Court is the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Court in 2018. His nomination was highly controversial and was viewed by many as politically motivated, with Republicans pushing for his confirmation and Democrats opposing it. The confirmation hearings were marked by heated political debates, with many Democrats accusing Kavanaugh of being partisan and lacking the impartiality required for a Supreme Court justice.
Another example is the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett in 2020, which was also seen by many as politically motivated and marked by partisan battles. The confirmation occurred just before the presidential election and was seen by some as an effort by Republicans to solidify their conservative majority on the Court, leading to criticism from Democrats that the confirmation process was overly politicized.
🎥 Watch: AP GOPO - US Supreme Court

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