February 22, 2007

The Judiciary Branch and its Future

By Victoria Rodriguez, Andrew Williams, Justin Grant, Jeanette Lindsay, and Nadia Chit-Montiel

The United States constitution provides protection for its citizens of the United States. As college students we must realize that almost every decision the Supreme Court makes affects us whether or not it is today or in the future. Using Social Security as an example, our generation’s children may suffer because of the lack of stability within the Social Security System. With two new Supreme Court justices sworn into the supreme court in the past three years the Supreme Court is rapidly changing.

As college students we should understand that the Supreme Court interprets the constitution which is the law of the land and whoever interprets the Constitution controls the law. The nine members on the Supreme Court are the some of the most powerful people in the United States and the World as well. Many articles can be found regarding the rivalries amongst the judges and certain agendas that the judges sometimes push because of a falling out with another judge. Although it is human nature to have arguments and disagreement as an American citizen, and we must have the utmost respect for the Supreme Court, we can not help but be fearful of the amount of power they have.

Another example of a very big issue regarding the Judiciary system is whether or not it should protect foreigners and/or allow them of the same "rights" American citizens hold. Guantanamo prisoners have lost their right to appear in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, and federal judges. There are about 395 detainees being held at the Guantanamo Bay military base in Cuba, with the first prisoner arriving more than five years ago following the attacks of September 11, 2001. Following the current situation of Guantanamo Bay detainees, the U.S. Appeals Court has decided to uphold with President George W. Bush’s reasoning behind the methods used to coerce those prisoners.

Barring detainees from the U.S. court system was a key provision in the Military Commissions Act, which Bush pushed through Congress last year to set up a system to prosecute terrorism suspects. The detainees appealed stating that foreigners held in the U.S. normally have the right to contest detention. However, the Justice department states that the United States’ Constitution does not protect foreign enemy combatants. The United States federal appeals court, on Tuesday, February 20, 2007, ruled to uphold a key provision in President Bush's anti-terrorism law. This ruling has become increasingly discerning considering what most of us know occurred within the Guantanamo Bay prison system. The ruling will most likely be appealed to the Supreme Court, which last year struck down the Bush administration's original plan for trying detainees before military commissions.

Considering that the law allows the government to indefinitely detain foreigners who have been declared as "enemy combatants" and authorizes the CIA to use aggressive but undefined interrogation tactics, civil libertarians and leading Democrats decried the law as unconstitutional and a violation of American values. The Supreme Court must now face the question as to whether or not these "American values" are valid across borders and cultures and should be permitted to determine who are our "enemy combatants." The question is one that seems to be growing in the back of everyone’s mind as our world becomes less personal on a daily basis. The Supreme Court must now decide whether it is the Supreme Court of America ensuring American’s civil liberties or if it is also a median that can be used on a global scale to provide the same liberties when foreigners are on US territory.

Another largely discussed topic within the Judiciary Branch, which concerns all Americans alike, is the relatively new Patriot Act. Respectively so, this act was implemented under the Bush administration in order to expand the FBI’s investigative powers. Many concerns have been raised over the fact that the act basically steps on and reverses many previous acts and provisions which were meant to protect the privacy rights of Americans. According to EPIC.org, EPIC standing for the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the Patriot Act includes, but is not limited to, amendments to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, the Immigration and Nationality Act , the Bank Secrecy Act, the Right to Financial Privacy Act , and the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The courts influence on this act is stilted for many reasons.

While the Courts technically can make decisions which would weaken the Patriot Act in following suits, it is known that if the Judiciary branch were to go against acts created by the very people that gave them their positions it would create great havoc throughout the Government. In times like these most Government officials support the fact that a strong and seemingly stable government is increasingly important. Also, many of the FBI’s uses of the Patriot Act are difficult to track and produce strong factual evidence about. It is very difficult to argue against an Act which basically turns the courts up-side-down by giving such weight to the intentions of the FBI. What the Patriot Act does is give the FBI the ability to act on hunches and less than worthy tips from various sources. As long as the FBI can say that they’re intentions were for the good of the nation, they are protected by the act whether or not the disruption they placed in the lives’ of victims (suspects) caused can be fixed.

There definitely is hope for our Government and for our Judiciary system. Even though many of the decisions that courts make can be viewed as week, this hope can be seen in the occasions where the Supreme Court steps up big by demanding the government to produce overwhelming evidence towards their cases before approving of their actions or disproving of them. Also, hope can be seen in the fact that many of the organizations out there, like EPIC, which are fighting for our rights, are being heard. The times we are in right now are very sensitive and complicated. It is hard to decipher when our government is doing what is best for us and when it is not. There will be many decisions made which may seem erroneous to us but as a matter of truth, we do not have all the facts that the government has. We have to leave our safety in the hands of our Government and our Judiciary system.


Politiko said...

Good analytical points with examples. All the issues you mention are very important for our country. Thanks for bringing attention to this important branch of our government. Most people don't realize that the courts, and especially the Supreme Court, make life-altering decisions.

In this session the Supreme Court will have to decide what to do with the detainees at GITMO and other people who have been denied due process by this administration.

Some good changes have come via the courts but with this conservative bend I fear that we're going backwards.

junior said...

I think many parts of the PATRIOT ACT (what a name!!) are unconstitutional so the high court should strike them down, but it is up to the Congress to change or repeal this bunch of laws that weaken our civil liberties and have done little if anything to put away real terrorists.