Supreme Court Authority


Article III Standing

Article III §2

Jurisdiction of the Court is limited by the Constitution to “cases” or “controversies.” The Supreme Court and all lower federal courts will not issue advisory opinions (see: John Jay Correspondence with Washington).

Advisory opinions lack specific factual context, puts courts in too close a proximity of other branches of government, and there is no adversarial system.

Doctrine of Standing

Stems from Article III §2. Certain people cannot bring suit because they are not sufficiently affected or have sufficient stake by the action they are challenging (they’re better served by legislative or executive action). The doctrine is sometimes controversial because the standards are often difficult to apply.

Four Constitutional Ways to Limit Supreme Court Power

(1) Appointment Power – President appoints Supreme Court Justices and the Senate confirms the appointment by simple majority. This provides some democratic control because the President and Senate are elected. However, there are two problems – (a) The Justice may reach decisions against expectations and (b) the Justice may decide cases not contemplated at time of appointment.

(2) Constitutional Amendment – The constitutional powers of the Supreme Court could be modified by amendment, which would require 2/3 of both Houses and then 3/4 of the States.

(3) Impeachment and Conviction – Justices are appointed for life in “good behavior” and may be impeached and convicted for “treason, high crimes and misdemeanors.” No justice has ever been removed, though, so it’s not clear how effective this mechanism of control is.

(4) Exceptions Clause under Article III §2 cl.2 – The Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction “with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make.” Therefore, Congress could limit or expand the purview of Supreme Court jurisprudence.