Judicial Review and the Power of the Courts us history/Napp Name: Do Now

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Judicial Review and the Power of the Courts

US History/Napp Name: __________________
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In Article III the framers of the Constitution established a federal judiciary (court system) as the third branch of government. Article III gives certain powers to a Supreme Court but leaves to Congress the responsibility of organizing the lower courts. The Supreme Court also has the authority to review cases appealed to it from lower courts. It may decide either to uphold the decision of the lower court or to overturn that decision. Congress has the power to determine the number of justices who shall sit on the Supreme Court. Today there are nine justices on the Supreme Court (one chief justice and eight associate justices). Cases are decided by majority vote. According to the Constitution, there is no fixed limit on a federal judge’s term of office. In effect, a federal judge may be in office for life or until she or he voluntarily retires. As a result of this rule, a federal judge feels no pressure to make decisions to win the favor of politicians or the popularity of voters.” ~ Adapted from U.S. History and Government


  1. What are the three branches of the U.S. federal government? ________________________________________________________________________

  2. Explain the system of checks and balances. [Previous Knowledge] ________________________________________________________________________

  3. What does Article III of the U.S. Constitution grant? ________________________________________________________________________

  4. What does the Supreme Court have the authority to do? ________________________________________________________________________

  5. What power does Congress have regarding the Supreme Court? ________________________________________________________________________

  6. How many justices serve on the Supreme Court? ________________________________________________________________________

  7. Why is there no fixed limit on a judge’s term of office? ________________________________________________________________________

8. Which constitutional principle best protects the public from abuse by one branch of government?

(1) equality

(2) federalism

(3) executive privilege

(4) checks and balances
9. The term supreme law of the land refers to which document?

(1) Fundamental Orders of Connecticut

(2) Constitution of the United States

(3) Articles of Confederation

(4) Declaration of Independence

10. To avoid having too much power concentrated in one branch of government, the framers of the Constitution established

(1) a bicameral national legislature

(2) division of power among different levels of government

(3) the system of two political parties

(4) the system of checks and balances
11. The Supreme Court has the power to

(1) control the federal budget

(2) vote to end a tie in the Senate

(3) approve presidential appointments

(4) interpret the Constitution

John Marshal served as chief justice of the United States from 1801 to 1835. He was remarkably successful in establishing the Supreme Court as an independent and influential force in the federal government. Three of Marshall’s most important decisions are summarized here.” ~ Adapted from U.S. History and Government

Marbury v. Madison (1803)
- Before leaving office, President John Adams appointed William Marbury as a federal court judge.
- Thomas Jefferson, the next president, ordered his secretary of state, James Madison, not to carry out the appointment.
- Marbury appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that a 1789 law granted the Supreme Court the power to force Madison to give Marbury his appointment.
- But the Supreme Court argued that the 1789 law of Congress was not authorized by the Constitution.
- Thus, the law was unconstitutional – null and void.
- The principle of judicial review was established.
- Judicial Review is the power of the Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of federal and state laws.

McCulloch v. Maryland (1819)
- At issue in this case was whether a state government (Maryland) could collect a tax from a bank that had been chartered by the U.S. government.
- Marshall argued that the states could not tax a federal agency because, according to the Constitution, the federal government was meant to be supreme.
- On another question, Marshall argued that Congress’s powers could be interpreted loosely to authorize the creation of a national bank.
- This case established the idea that a state law could be nullified (declared void) if it was found to be in conflict with a federal law.

Gibbons v. Ogden (1824)
- At issue in this case was whether a state (New York) could grant to one steamship company the exclusive right to operate an interstate waterway (the Hudson River).
- In his decision Marshall stated that trade is commerce, that commerce between states was controlled by the U.S. Congress.
- Therefore, New York’s law was invalid.
- The ruling clarified the concept of interstate commerce and increased the authority of the federal government to regulate businesses that operate in more than one state.

Taken as a whole, the many cases decided by Chief Justice Marshall increased the power of the national government in relation to that of the states. Also, by the repeated application of judicial review, Marshall greatly expanded the power and influence of the Supreme Court.” ~ U.S. History and Government

  1. What was Chief Justice John Marshall successful in establishing? ________________________________________________________________________

  2. What three Supreme Court cases established the Supreme Court as an influential force in the federal government? ________________________________________________________________________

  3. What had President John Adams appointed William Marbury? ________________________________________________________________________

  4. What did the next President, Thomas Jefferson, order his secretary of state to do? ________________________________________________________________________

  5. What did Marbury do when denied his appointment? ________________________________________________________________________

  6. What did the Supreme Court rule? ________________________________________________________________________

  7. Define judicial review. ________________________________________________________________________

  8. What did Maryland want to do regarding a Federal Bank in the state? ________________________________________________________________________

  9. What did the Supreme Court rule regarding Maryland’s action? ________________________________________________________________________

  10. What did Marshall also argue about the power of Congress regarding banks? ________________________________________________________________________

  11. According to the Supreme Court, when could state law be nullified? ________________________________________________________________________

  12. What had New York granted one steamship company? ________________________________________________________________________

  13. What did Marshall conclude regarding interstate commerce? ________________________________________________________________________

  14. What did the Supreme Court rule regarding New York’s law? ________________________________________________________________________

  15. How did Chief Justice Marshall increase the power of the Supreme Court? ________________________________________________________________________

  1. The decision in Marbury v. Madison (1803) was significant because it established that the Supreme Court

(1) had limited powers over state courts

(2) had the power to choose its own members

(3) could declare a federal law unconstitutional

(4) could impeach the president and other government officials

18- Which action can be taken by the United States Supreme Court to illustrate the concept that the Constitution is “the supreme law of the land”?

(1) hiring new federal judges

(2) voting articles of impeachment

(3) declaring a state law unconstitutional

(4) rejecting a presidential nomination to the cabinet
19- Which headline illustrates the use of judicial review?

(1) “Congress Passes a Civil Rights Bill”

(2) “Conference Committee Meets to Finalize Budget”

(3) “New York State’s Reapportionment Plan Ruled Unconstitutional”

(4) “President Signs SALT Agreement with Russia”
20- The establishment of judicial review in Marbury v. Madison (1803) gave federal courts the authority to

(1) decide whether a law is constitutional

(2) create lower courts

(3) approve foreign treaties

(4) appoint judges to lifetime terms

17. Under the leadership of Chief Justice John Marshall (1801–1835), the United States Supreme Court issued decisions that

(1) declared racial segregation laws unconstitutional

(2) gave states the power to tax the Bank of the United States

(3) increased the ability of Congress to limit the powers of the president

(4) established the supremacy of federal laws over state laws

21- The power of judicial review allows the Supreme Court to

(1) repeal amendments to the Constitution

(2) determine the constitutionality of a law

(3) break tie votes in the electoral college

(4) impeach the president and other high-level officials
22- What was one result of the Supreme Court’s decision in Gibbons v. Ogden (1824)?

(1) The power of the federal government over interstate commerce was strengthened.

(2) The rights of accused individuals were expanded.

(3) The power of the judicial branch was limited.

(4) The Court declined to hear cases involving disputes between states.
23- Which power did the United States Supreme Court gain through the Court’s decision in Marbury v. Madison?

(1) judicial review

(2) hearing appeals from lower federal courts

(3) deciding cases involving two or more states

(4) judicial independence through lifetime


  1. Who was John Marshall? ________________________________________________________________________

  2. What important principle was established in Marbury v. Madison? ________________________________________________________________________

  3. What important principles were established in McCulloch v. Maryland? ________________________________________________________________________

  4. What important principle was established in Gibbons v. Ogden? ________________________________________________________________________

  5. How did Chief Justice John Marshall increase the power of the judiciary? ________________________________________________________________________

  6. How did Chief Justice John Marshall increase the power of the executive branch? ________________________________________________________________________

  7. Why is the Marshall Court considered one of the most important courts in U.S. History? ________________________________________________________________________

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Tinker v. Des Moines (1969)

Summary of Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District

Decided by the United States Supreme Court in 1969 (icivic.org)

In 1965, some middle and high school students wore black armbands to school to show their protest of the war in Vietnam. Before the day of the protest, the schools’ principals had heard about the students’ plan and told the students they could not wear the armbands. Five students were suspended from school for wearing the armbands.
Students and teachers have First Amendment rights even when they are at school. They do not leave their freedom of speech or freedom of expression behind when they walk through the schoolhouse gate. Even so, teachers and principals must keep order at school so that learning can take place. In a school setting, therefore, the First Amendment must be applied in a special way to protect free speech and keep order at the same time.

A student at school may express opinions, even about controversial subjects like war. However, the student may not disrupt learning or interfere with other peoples’ rights. The First Amendment does not protect student speech that disrupts class or causes trouble between classes, and school rules can prohibit that kind of speech.
There is no evidence that the students’ armbands disrupted class or any school activity. Outside class, a few students made nasty remarks to those who wore armbands. However, there were no threats or acts of violence on the school grounds.
The trial court had decided that, because the principals were afraid the armbands would be disruptive, it was reasonable for the principals to suspend the students for wearing them. The trial court, however, did not understand the importance of freedom of speech. In our legal system, a general fear of disruption is not enough to take away someone’s right to freedom of expression. After all, a disruption could happen any time one person says something that another person disagrees with. Schools cannot prohibit speech unless they have good evidence that the speech will be disruptive. They cannot prohibit speech only to avoid the uncomfortable situation of someone expressing an unpopular opinion.


1- Under what circumstances are schools allowed to prohibit speech or expression? ______________________________________________________________________________

2- One thing happened that shows the armbands might have caused disruption. (However, the Court did not think this was enough.) Identify what might have caused a disruption.


3- Next, the Court gives a hint about what would be enough to cause disruption. Identify the Court’s hint.


4- Is it enough if the school is afraid there might be disruption? Explain your answer.


5- Would it matter if there is disruption at lunch or between classes instead of during class? Explain your answer.


6- Schools can prohibit speech if they have good ____ that the speech will be disruptive.


7- Do you agree with the Court’s ruling? Explain your answer.


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