With the establishment of judicial review in 1803 by Marberry vs. Madison, the Supreme Court became the ultimate interpreter of the Constitution. Constitutional matters, such as whether the Second Amendment affirms the right to possess firearms to the individual or to some militia, ultimately wind their way to the Supreme Court where the meaning of the Constitution’s provisions is voted on and decided. This can take years.
The Court, however, is not infallible. Sometimes the Court reverses itself. The recent Kelo decision, for instance, begs for reversal. And some Court decisions are stains on American history, such as Plessy vs. Ferguson and the Dred Scot decision. So the Supremes are quite capable of error. Also, the Court can be intimidated, as happened under FDR with his attempts to pack the Court.
Despite their human frailties, justices are appointed for life. Only one Supreme Court justice has been impeached, Samuel Chase in 1804. The Senate acquitted Chase in 1805. Federal judges also rule on questions of constitutionality, and they, too, are appointed for life. Since 1789, the Senate has tried 14 impeached federal judges and removed six. This includes former federal judge Alcee Hastings, who was found guilty of corruption and perjury, and removed from office in 1989. (Since 1993, Mr. Hastings has served as the U.S. Representative from Florida’s 23rd district.)Details