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Law Day 2003 Winning Essays

6th Grade

    First Place—Leah Gillett
    Tapan Middle School, Ann Arbor (Washtenaw County)
    Teacher: Wendy Raynond

    Second Place—Benjiman Fahy
    Tapan Middle School, Ann Arbor (Washtenaw County)
    Teacher: Wendy Raynond

    Third Place—Johana Godfrey
    Tapan Middle School, Ann Arbor (Washtenaw County)
    Teacher: Wendy Raynond

7th Grade

    First Place—Andrew M. Marquardt
    Gagie School, Kalamazoo
    Teacher: Mr. Myers

    Second Place—Kristy Lynn Cuthbertson
    L' Anse Creuse Middle School North, Macomb County
    Teacher: Mr. Caltera

    Third Place—Elasha Elizabeth Wallace
    Cadillac Middle School, Detroit
    Teacher: Dierdre Wells

8th Grade

    First Place—Laurel Hunt
    Kinawa Middle School, Okemos (Ingham County)
    Teacher: Mrs. Melissa Usiak

    Second Place—Zachry Finta
    St. Lorenz Lutheran School, Frankenmuth (Saginaw County)
    Teacher: Linda Bresemann

    Third Place—Ben Lauer
    Kalamazoo Academy, Kalamazoo
    Teacher: Kristin Hovestadt


"Should" Questions

    1) Suppose that the Michigan legislature has passed a law requiring state employees to declare a belief in the existence of God as a qualification for holding a state job. Further suppose that a secular humanist has been denied a state job in Michigan due to his refusal to declare a belief in God. Suppose also that the man filed a law suit which reached the highest court in Michigan, and that the Michigan Supreme Court held the Michigan law to be valid and enforceable.

    Should a secular humanist, that has been denied a state job due to a refusal to declare a belief in the existence of God, appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States if the Supreme Court of Michigan has denied him relief?

    See Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488 (1961)

    See What is the Judicial Branch? ABA Teaching Unit

    2) Suppose that our elected officials in the United States Congress, in order to help authorities manage prison security, passed a law stating that federal prisoners cannot have visiting time with former inmates. Further suppose that a group of inmates filed suit claiming the restrictions infringe on their First Amendment right of association and violate the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

    Should appointed judges in the federal courts be able to overrule an act of Congress on constitutional grounds?

    See Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803)

    See Marbury v. Madison, the Supreme Court's First Great Case ABA Lesson Plan

    3) Suppose that the United States Congress wants to be the branch of government to decide whether an existing law is constitutional.

    Should Congress have the power of judicial review?

    See Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803)

    4) Suppose the state of Michigan currently use elections to select judges for the circuit courts, Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.

    Should Michigan switch to a judicial selection process based on merit?

    See Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, 122 S. Ct. 2528 (2002) (See particularly Part IV of Justice Scalia's majority opinion and the concurring opinion of Justice O'Connor)

    See Bill of Rights in Action Constitutional Rights Foundation Teaching Unit 1

    5) Suppose the Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct contains a clause that states that a candidate for a judicial office should not make pledges or promises of conduct in office other than the faithful and impartial performance of the duties of the office. Further suppose that a judicial candidate violates this law by publicly promising to give criminals the harshest sentences possible and to never reverse a rape or murder conviction.

    Should the law prohibiting judicial campaign pledges and promises be upheld as constitutional?

    See Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, 122 S. Ct. 2528 (2002) See particularly Part IV of Justice Scalia's majority opinion and the concurring opinion of Justice O'Connor

    See Bill of Rights in Action Constitutional Rights Foundation Teaching Unit 1

    6) Suppose that a U.S. District Judge has ruled that a Michigan school district has violated a student's free speech right by suspending him for posting death threats against other students on the internet. Suppose also that parents and taxpayers in that district are upset that the school district that acted promptly to prevent a potential incident like the tragedy at Columbine High must now pay $75,000 to the suspended student.

    Should upset taxpayers write to congressmen asking that a federal judge's salary be reduced because that judge has financially burdened their school district with his court ruling?

    See United States v. Will, 449 U.S. 200 (1980)

    See Bill of Rights in Action Constitutional Rights Foundation Teaching Unit 1 (See particularly the sections titled "The Third Branch of Government" and "Politics and the Judiciary")

    7) Suppose that some military veteran members of Congress are upset that the U.S. Supreme Court has held that a Texas law prohibiting the burning the American flag with intent to offend others is inconsistent with the First Amendment freedom of speech clause. Further suppose that these congressmen are concerned that a case involving an Iowa law that makes it illegal to publicly mutilate, deface or cast contempt upon the U.S. Flag may soon make its way to the Supreme Court.

    Should members of Congress attempt to prevent the Supreme Court from invalidating additional flag desecration laws by introducing a law that takes away the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to review flag desecration cases?

    See Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989)

    See Bill of Rights in Action Constitutional Rights Foundation Teaching Unit 1 (See particularly the sections titled "The Third Branch of Government" and "Politics and the Judiciary")

    8) Suppose the President is upset that the U.S. Supreme Court has held that burning the American Flag, if performed as a political statement, is an act protected by the First Amendment. Suppose also that the President is concerned that a new case involving flag mutilation may soon make its way to the Supreme Court. Further suppose there are no available openings on the Supreme Court bench for the President to be able to appoint new justices.

    Should the President propose to increase the number of Supreme Court justices so that he can appoint new justices that share his views on flag desecration laws?

    See Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989)

    See Bill of Rights in Action Constitutional Rights Foundation teaching Unit 1 (See particularly the section titled "Politics and the Judiciary")

    See Marbury v. Madison, the Supreme Court's First Great Case ABA Lesson Plan

    9) Suppose that a Michigan Supreme Court Justice, prior to coming to the court, wrote a book in which he expressed the opinion that giving racial preferences to minorities for university admissions would help attain diversity and a better academic environment, and that he has spoken in favor of affirmative action on many occasions.

    Should a Justice with an established record in favor of affirmative action disqualify himself from participating in a Michigan Supreme Court decision regarding the use of racial preferences in university admissions?

    See Laird v. Tatum, 409 U.S. 824 (1972)(memorandum opinion)

    See Bill of Rights in Action Constitutional Rights Foundation


First Place, Sixth Grade
by Leah Gillett

Tappan Middle School—Ann Arbor—teacher: Ms. Wendy Raymond

Should upset taxpayers write to congressmen asking that a federal judge's salary be reduced because that judge has financially burdened their school district with his court ruling?

    Independence of the Courts

    Suppose that a U.S. District Judge has ruled that a Michigan school district has violated a student's free speech rights by suspending him for posting death threats against other students on the internet. Suppose that taxpayers in that district believed that the school district had acted properly in suspending the student in order to prevent a potential incident like the tragedy at Columbine High School. Suppose that these taxpayers are now upset that the school must pay $75,000 to the suspended student. Also suppose that this group wants to write to their congresspersons and urge them to reduce that judge's salary by requiring him or her to pay the $75,000 back to the school district. In my opinion, it would be wrong for the taxpayer group to ask Congress to reduce the judge's salary.

    Requiring the judge to pay is wrong because Article III, Section I of the Constitution states that, "[t]he Judges, both of the Supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their office during good behavior, and shall, at stated times, receive for their services a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office." The judge made the ruling in this case based on what he believed the law required. He was, therefore, acting on good behavior in deciding that the school district violated the student's right of free speech. The judge should not be penalized.

    Our government is based on the idea of a balance of power between three equal branches of government—the executive branch, the legislative branch, and the judicial branch. The purpose of Article III, Section I is to make sure that the judicial branch is independent of the other two branches. If Congress were able to punish a judge because they disagreed with the outcome in a given case, the threat of that punishment could influence the judge's decisions. If Congress could make that threat, then our judiciary would not be truly independent

    The principles behind Article III, Section I are discussed in the case of Evans v. Gore, 253 U.S. 245(1920). In that case, the Supreme Court said that the purpose of this section of the Constitution is not to help the judges. Rather, it is "to promote the public weal by giving [the judges] that independence which makes for an impartial and courageous discharge of the judicial function." Id. at 249.

    The Separation of Powers, a core democratic value, also supports my opinion. The Separation of Powers means that "legislative, executive and judicial powers should be exercised by different institutions in order to maintain the limitations placed upon them." That applies to this situation because the taxpayers would be asking another branch of government to penalize the judge for his decision, thereby exercising a form of control over the judge.

    On the one hand, I believe that the taxpayers have the right to contact their congresspersons, because this, too, is free speech. However, the result they are urging—a reduction in a judge's salary—is not permitted by the Constitution and is not consistent with core democratic values.

Second Place, Sixth Grade
by Benjamin Joseph Leigh Fahy

Tappan Middle School—Ann Arbor—teacher: Ms. Wendy Raymond

State Law or Individual Right: Is There a Right to Not Declare Religious Belief?

    Should a secular humanist who has been denied a state job due to a refusal to declare a belief in the existence of God, appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States, if the Supreme Court of Michigan has denied him relief?

    A secular humanist has been denied a state job in Michigan due to his refusal to declare a belief in God. The Michigan Supreme Court held the Michigan law to be valid and enforceable. Should he go to the Supreme Court of the United States if the Michigan Supreme Court has denied him relief? Yes, because his rights are constitutionally protected.

    America is a diverse country. People come from different backgrounds, bringing different beliefs, both religious and cultural. The secular humanist in this case does not believe in God. If Michigan requires a belief in God to qualify for a state job, then the state is not taking into account the diversity of people who need jobs. The state should allow people who do not believe in God to have a fair and equal chance to apply for jobs.

    Core democratic values that are most relevant to this case are those of equality, freedom of religion and separation of church and state. The Declaration of Independence states, "that all men are created equal." This means that all people have the same rights to "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness" no matter what they believe. In the Bill of Rights, the First Amendment states that every person in the United States has freedom of religion. The Amendment clearly states that religion is no business of the government. This is the meaning of the separation of church and state; religious beliefs and government are two entirely separate things.

    The question of a person's right to not have to declare religious beliefs was decided by the Supreme Court in the case of Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488(1961). In that case, the appellant was denied a commission because he would not declare his belief in God, as required by the Maryland constitution. The appellant claimed that this violated his rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The Supreme Court agreed with him, stating that even if a state has its own laws, it still has to follow federal laws of the U.S. Constitution, spelled out in the Fourteenth Amendment, which states that all laws must be equally applied to all U.S. citizens, as must the rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. In his opinion Justice Black stated, "we repeat and again reaffirm that neither a State nor the Federal Government can constitutionally force a person 'to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion.'" Torcaso v. Watkins, supra at 495.

    In conclusion, it is clear that our Constitution guarantees a secular humanist—or anyone—cannot be denied his rights, including the equal right to state employment, because of his beliefs. This means religious beliefs, and the right to not have such beliefs at all. What is clear is that no one can be forced by any branch of the government to swear or make an oath about what he or she does or does not believe. Therefore, the secular humanist is right to appeal his case, and he should not be denied the right to hold a state job.

Third Place, Sixth Grade
by Johana Godfrey

Tappan Middle School—Ann Arbor—teacher: Ms. Wendy Raymond

To Disqualify or Not Disqualify, That is the Question

    Should a Justice with an established record in favor of affirmative actiondisqualify himself from participating in a Michigan Supreme Court decision regarding the use of racial preferences in university admissions?

    A Justice should not disqualify herself if she has an established record favoring affirmative action. A Justice will have formed opinions on important matters during her career before her appointment to the Court. She would have formed her ideas from her experience as an attorney or a judge in a lower court. There must be trust in the integrity and honesty of the Justices and in their ability to make fair decisions. They earn this trust by their behavior and actions throughout their careers. Without public trust in the integrity of judges, there would be no rule of law. These core democratic values—integrity, honesty, and rule of law—are vital to our nation, where disagreements or conflicts arc resolved by courts fairly and equally under law.

    The guiding statute for the disqualification of judges is 28 U.S.C. 455, which states that any justice "shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might be reasonably questioned." This statute does not say that a judge should disqualify herself if she has an established record or opinion about the legal issues in the case. In the past, Supreme Court Justices have written books about important issues in law early in their career and have not disqualified themselves from cases about those issues. See Laird v. Tatum, 409 U.S. 824,831-32(1972)(memorandum opinion). Justices come to the Supreme Court in middle age and it would be impossible for them to have no opinions about important matters of law. If only judges without opinions sat on cases, the person judging would be inexperienced and ill-suited for interpreting the law. Justice Rehnquist, in his memorandum opinion regarding the case of Laird v. Tatum wrote:

      "... neither the oath, the disqualification statute, nor the practice of the former Justices of this Court guarantee a litigant that each judge will start off from dead center in his willingness or ability to reconcile the opposing arguments of counsel with his understanding of the Constitution and the law." Id. at 838-39

    Justices should disqualify themselves, however, when they have a financial interest in a case before their court, if they are related to a party in the case, or if an attorney was once their partner.

    Everyday, we decide things fairly using prior knowledge and opinions. For example, a teacher who chooses the best essay from his class selects the one that is best written, and not that of a favorite student. A good teacher will judge by the work, rather than by personal opinions about the students. In the same way, we expect a judge to interpret the law fairly and impartially.

    A Justice who has expressed opinions about affirmative action should not disqualify herself from a Supreme Court case regarding this issue. Impartiality is not defined clearly by the guiding statute, so it is up to each Justice to interpret this matter on her own.


First Place, Seventh Grade
by Andrew Michael Marquardt

Gagie School—Kalamazoo—teacher: Mr. Joe Meyers

Should upset taxpayers write to congressmen asking that a federal judge's salary be reduced because that judge has financially burdened their school district with his court ruling?

    The judicial system should remain independent and not be affected by choices that affect the judge's pocketbooks. If a judge makes an unpopular decision that will cost taxpayers, the taxpayers should not and cannot lower that judge's salary.

    The United States courts are impartial. Their decisions are not influenced by anything except the law and precedent. If angry taxpayers could go to Congress and ask to have a judge's salary reduced, this could influence a judge to make decisions that will keep the taxpayers happy and his paycheck strong, making the courts no longer independent. Judges protecting their wallets instead of the people's rights may end up making disastrous decisions and the independent legal system we have worked so hard to achieve for over 225 years would fail.

    If unhappy with the judge's ruling, a person or group could always appeal to a higher court, and then possibly the federal Supreme Court. Lowering one judge's salary is pointless if the person or group could appeal up to the state supreme court and possibly win. Judges will make bad decisions; it is inevitable, but through their eyes their choice is the right choice. It is what upholds the law and the people's constitutional rights. This is the beauty of our independent courts: that they are independent, not influenced by political figures, popular opinion or money.

    If a judge's salary could be affected by taxpayers in that judge's jurisdiction, then he or she would most likely favor the taxpayers in the area if they came to court. Trials would not be fair and the judgment of our judges would no longer be trusted.

    Finally, stated in the U.S. Supreme Court case United States v. Will, 449 U.S. 200,218 (1980), judges salaries shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office under the Compensation Clause of the Constitution. This means that, by law, as long as a judge is in office his salary cannot be reduced.

    Upset taxpayers should not be able to and legally cannot go to Congress and have a judge's salary reduced because in their opinion the judge made a bad decision that will cost them money or alter where their tax money goes. We must keep our courts independent.

Second Place, Seventh Grade
by Kristy Lynn Cuthbertson

L'Anse Creuse Middle School North, Macomb—teacher: Mr. Vincent Calcatera

Should a Justice with an established record in favor of affirmative actiondisqualify himself from participating in a Michigan Supreme Court decision regarding the use of racial preferences in university admissions?

    I believe the Michigan Supreme Court Justice should not disqualify himself participating in the Michigan Supreme Court case because the justice has a right to his own opinion. I feel very strongly about this issue for several reasons.

    The Core Democratic Value that supports my position is Liberty. Liberty means that a person has the freedom to act, think, and believe as he or she wants. Liberty implies that the justice has the right to give his own opinion on the case. According to this Core Democratic Value I see no reason why the justice cannot participate in this case.

    From research I have learned that, "any justice or judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any case in which he has a substantial interest, has been of counsel, is or has been a material witness, or is so related ... to sit on the trial, appeal, or other proceeding therein." Laird v. Tatum, 409 U.S. 824,825(1972)(memorandum opinion)(quoting 28 U.S.C. 455). This means a justice must disqualify himself if he has a substantial interest in the case, is a witness in the case, has worked as an attorney on the case (before becoming a justice), or is related to the parties or the attorneys. The justice deciding this case is not doing any of the above. Therefore I believe that the justice has the right to participate in the case.

    Justice William Rehnquist once said in the 1972 Laird v. Tatum case:

      "... neither the oath, the disqualification statute, nor the practice of the former Justices of this Court guarantee a litigant that each judge will start off from dead center in his willingness or ability to reconcile the opposing arguments of counsel with his under standing of the Constitution and the law. That being the case, it is not a ground for disqualification that a judge has prior to his nomination expressed his then understanding of the meaning of some particular provision of the Constitution " Id. at 838-39.

    This quote clearly states that the justice has a right to express his opinion outside the court and still participate in the case.

    In social studies I learned that before becoming a justice he or she must promise to "administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich" that he "faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent" upon him agreeably to the Constitution and laws of the United States. 28 U.S.C. 453(2001). This oath that the justice must take must be followed. Therefore I feel that the judge will be fair.

    In conclusion I think that the justices should be allowed to take part in this case and not have to disqualify himself.

Third Place, Seventh Grade
by Elasha Elizabeth Wallace

Cadillac Middle School—Detroit—teacher: Ms. Dierdre Wells

Should a secular humanist that has been denied a state job due to a refusal to declare a belief in the existence of God appeal to the United States Supreme Court if the Supreme Court of Michigan has denied him relief?

    He should not only appeal; he should win on appeal because his constitutional rights have been violated.

    This country was founded on, among other things, the principle of religious freedom. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ..." The intention of our founding fathers was to relinquish control of religion to the people of the United States. The founding fathers wanted a new government that did not require, as did the English monarchy and colonial governments, religious oaths or the practice of a particular religion.

    The United States Supreme Court recognized that the government and the church should remain separate in order to protect individual rights. In Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488(1961), the court held that making Torcaso declare a belief in God before he could serve as notary public in the state of Maryland violated the First Amendment. The court quoted Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1, 59(1947) "We renew our conviction that we have staked the very existence of our country on the faith that complete separation between the state and religion is best for the state and best for religions.'" Torcaso v. Watkins, supra at 494.

    In another important case, West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624(1943), which overruled a very similar case decided just a few years earlier, Minersville School District v. Gobitis, 310 U.S. 586(1940), the United States Supreme Court ruled that Jehovah's Witnesses could not be forced, against their religious teaching, to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. The Court recognized their First Amendment rights and that, "no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion ... or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein." West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, supra at 642.

    America prides itself on being a "melting pot"- the home of people from many different countries, of many different nationalities, practicing many different religions, or none. That makes it all the more important that all citizens are free to believe as they choose. The secular humanist, like all American citizens, has the right to believe whatever, free from governmental coercion, provided his beliefs do not infringe upon the rights of others. The government cannot sanction one religion or set of beliefs and condemn others.

    The right to freely practice or not practice a religion is rooted in the concept of liberty, a core democratic value, and must be very carefully protected. Otherwise, as happened in our hypothetical, citizens could be deprived of many important rights or opportunities. There are few things as important as a person's belief system and the practice or non-practice of religion must be an individual choice, not mandated by the government.


First Place, Eighth Grade
by Laurel Hunt

Kinawa Middle School—Okemos—teacher: Mrs. Melissa Usiak

Independent Courts Protect Our Liberties

    Should a secular humanist, that has been denied a state job due to a refusal to declare a belief in the existence of God, appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States if the Supreme Court of Michigan has denied him relief?

    I believe that the secular humanist should appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States. The Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction in this case, since Section 2 of Article III of the Constitution specifies that the Supreme Court has jurisdiction in cases involving the Constitution. The Supreme Court established the power of judicial review of laws in Marbury v.Madison, 5 U.S. 137(1803).

    The Supreme Court case Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488(1961) sets a precedent for this case. Torcaso had been "appointed to the office of Notary Public" in Maryland, but he refused to declare a belief in God, and was denied his commission. He sued in a state court, seeking to be instated in his position, but the court ruled against him. The Maryland Court of Appeals upheld the lower courtÕs decision. The Supreme Court ruled, however, that the Maryland test for public office unconstitutionally truncated the appellant's freedom of religion.

    The secular humanist must secure his freedom of religion by appealing to the United States Supreme Court. Freedom of religion, one of the most vital core democratic values, is protected in the First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law . . . respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Further, the Fourteenth Amendment prevents states from abridging the privileges or immunities of citizens, such as freedom of religion. In Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1,15(1947), the Supreme Court decided, "Neither a state nor the Federal Government . . . can force . . . [a person] to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion." If Michigan's legislature had passed a law that required state officials to take a religious oath, it would violate the protections in the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Such an act would prohibit the free exercise of religion by those in the government, because it would confine them to practicing a religion, and further practicing one of the religions which professes faith in a God.

    A case such as Torcaso v. Watkins seems less likely to occur in Michigan than in Maryland. From my prior knowledge of history, I am aware that Maryland was established as a Catholic colony; but when the Protestants William and Mary were given the throne in England, Maryland converted to Protestantism. Catholics in Maryland, such as Charles Carroll, who was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, were forced to pay extra taxes and were not allowed to vote. Michigan, however, was one of the territories originally governed under the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which guaranteed freedom of religion for all residents of the territory.

    For the above-stated reasons, I am certain that the secular humanist should appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States, which will reaffirm the necessity of freedom of religion.

Second Place, Eighth Grade
by Zachry Finta

St. Lorenz Lutheran School—Frankenmuth—teacher: Mrs. Linda Bresemann

Suppose that our elected officials in our United States Congress, in order to help authorities manage prison security, passed a law stating that federal prisoners cannot have visiting time with former inmates. Further suppose that a group of inmates filed suit claiming the restrictions infringe on their First Amendment rights of association and violate the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Should appointed judges in the federal courts be able to overrule an act of Congress on constitutional grounds?

    I think that federal judges should be able to overrule an act of Congress if it is, in fact,unconstitutional. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Secondly, the job of the judicial branch of our government is to interpret the laws. This is an important check on both the legislative and the executive branches. Finally, Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137(1803) established judicial review as an important part of the federal courts' duties 200 years ago.

    Article VI of our Constitution clearly states that it is the supreme law of the land. It further says that all executive and judicial officers "shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution." It is important that we follow the Constitution with no exceptions, because that is what all our laws are based on—the foundation which must remain strong. If we are not very clear about exactly what it says, little by little, it will change and erode and not be preserved for future generations. In reference to the question asked, our Constitution, as supreme law of the land, grants specific rights to all individuals as citizens.

    Judges having the power to interpret and overrule laws that are not constitutional is a vital part of our system of checks and balances. If Congress is able to create and pass laws without being subject to judicial review as to their constitutionality, the balance of power would be uneven. The judicial branch must be an equal and independent branch of the federal government.

    Chief Justice John Marshall wrote the Supreme Court opinion on Marbury v. Madison in 1803. Even though they agreed that injustice had been done, they did not uphold the Congressional act that would have rectified the situation, because that would have been unconstitutional. In the same way in the situation described above, even though the law passed by Congress would have helped with prison security, it did infringe on the First Amendment rights of people living under that Constitution.

    The next big decision concerning Judicial Review was when Dred Scott was not given his freedom. Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393(1856). It didn't seem right or fair but the Supreme Court made its decision based on the Constitution. In the same way as the situation above, it was not the popular situation but the Supreme Court had to hold the Constitution as the supreme law of the land.

Third Place, Eighth Grade Category by Ben Lauer
Kalamazoo Academy—Kalamazoo—teacher: Ms. Kristin Hovestadt

Suppose that people have been burning the flag of the United States and although this is a freedom of expression that is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, the President feels this is wrong. The President knows of an upcoming case to the Supreme Court about flag burning and the President feels that in order for his opinion to prevail more Supreme Court justices need to be appointed.

Should the President ask Congress to increase the number of Supreme Court justices so he can appoint additional justices that share his views on flag desecration? I believe that the President should not be allowed to create new seats on the Supreme Court.

    Adding seats to the Supreme Court upsets the core democratic value of separation of powers, and goes against the fundamental beliefs of liberty and diversity. It upsets separation of powers by giving the Executive Branch power over the Judicial Branch. John Marshall stated at the Virginia Convention in 1830 that, "I have always thought, from my earliest youth till now that the greatest scourge an angry Heaven ever inflicted upon an ungrateful and sinning people, was an ignorant, a corrupt, or a dependent judiciary." Also in 1803 John Marshall told the people in the case of Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137(1803) that the judiciary must be independent from any influence of the executive branch. Adding justices that share the President's views would be giving undue influence on the judiciary. It would upset liberty because it may not allow the judicial branch to be independent. It also upsets diversity because it would blend the executive branch into the judicial branch.

    In 1937 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt tried to bend the Supreme Court to his will. He proposed "whenever a Judge or Justice of any Federal Court has reached the age of seventy and does not avail himself of the opportunity to retire on a pension, a new member shall be appointed by the President then in office, with the approval, as required by the Constitution, of the Senate of the United States." Congress found this proposal unacceptable and refused to pass it. If adding seats to the Supreme Court was not acceptable in 1937, it should not be acceptable in 2003.

    I believe that the President should not add new seats to the Supreme Court because that would be contradictory of our own core democratic values, go against the opinions of Congress on previous court packing, and upset our traditional balance of power among the three branches of government

     

 

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