American government


Consider what you have learned about the power and impact of the US Supreme Court from the textbook and other sources to write a 650 (+/-10%) word essay ONLY, that addresses the following question: “Is the Judiciary still the “weakest branch of government”?


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briefly consider why it was considered the “weakest branch of government”
identify a major Supreme Court holding (ruling) to demonstrate the power (or lack thereof) of the Supreme Court. (use the US Courts (Links to an external site.) or Oyez (Links to an external site.) to find a relevant case)
Based on the case you chose, its ruling, and the extent to which the ruling has been implemented, construct an argument as to whether the case speaks to the conclusion that the Supreme Court continues to be weak, or that it has expanded its role in U.S. politics and is currently a central branch of government. Use evidence to explain and support your conclusions.
Bonus question: short answer

2) Currently, how many Supreme Court Justices’ votes are required to rule something unconstitutional?

is it 6 ?


It is best to use the textbook only since it’s short,

to search the chapter on the left in the contents to navigate easily.…

Chapter 13: The Courts
Chapter 15: The Bureaucracy

Additional information:

First, bureaucracies are sort of like pyramids: complex organizations with hierarchical structures. This organizational form allows individual employees to concentrate on their area of knowledge and expertise and the power to act lies in the office rather than the current incumbent of that office: allowing specialization, continuation, and institutional memory. Struggles to control the bureaucracy for party political ends is not new, but has come into relief in recent years. Steve Bannon, for example, talked about “deconstructing the administrative state,” (Links to an external site.) to make it more loyal to the president, this is very similar to what president Nixon wanted, but failed to do during his term in office.



The bureaucracy in the US is famously disliked by many people who see it as part of an over-regulation of the economy and society whose growth has spiraled out of control over the years. Indeed, the facts may seem to support that assertion (at least in part).

For example, in 1789, the federal government had only three departments and very few employees. Today, the government (federal, state, and local) employs more than 15% of the civilian labor force! Granted, the country has experienced tremendous growth since then and governing the country has become a lot more complex. The chapters in the textbook will help put that growth in context and detail what functions the government performs and why it has grown the way it has. Contemporary politics will allow you to see that the appointment of the heads of various bureaucratic agencies is very important and can mold their specific agency to reflect their interests and goals. You could, for example, consider what the formal (Links to an external site.)mission of the Environmental Protection Agency (Links to an external site.) is and compare that to what it is currently doing, according to a Yale University study (Links to an external site.).

“Equal Justice Under Law” — carved on the front of the US Supreme Court building, Washington DC.

The second part of the module examines the role of what Alexander Hamilton in Federalist #78 (Links to an external site.) called “the least dangerous branch of the government,” the U. S. Supreme Court.

Hamilton believed this to be true because the Supreme Court has neither the “power of the purse” nor “the sword”. That is, the Supreme Court could make decisions, but it has few tools to force compliance with its decisions.

Indeed, in the early years of the Republic, the Supreme Court did have a very limited role in U.S. politics. In fact, it did not even have the power of judicial review until Marbury v. Madison (Links to an external site.)in 1803 (see, for example, the CrashCourse video–Judicial Review (Links to an external site.)).

Contrast that with decisions from more recent decades: Brown v. Board (1954) ending school segregation; Loving v. Virginia (1967) making interracial marriage legal; or the very recent cases on the Affordable Care Act and on the 2015 constitutional right to same-sex marriage (Obergefell v. Hodges). This expansion of the power of the courts has been criticized as undemocratic, which brings up the difficult question of the appropriate role of courts in democratic countries. Preview the documentA topic that is near and dear to my own research on the role of courts in Latin America. (Links to an external site.)

Another complex aspect of Supreme Court decisions relates to their impact, that is, are the Court’s holdings (rulings) complied with and do they bring about the goals demanded by the litigants? Again, in the case of Brown, the impact of the decision was somewhat less profound than is generally considered. Take a look at this story published when Linda Brown died (the Brown in Brown V Board), it examines the significant limitations of that decision (Links to an external site.).

Brown v. Board of Education (Links to an external site.)Brown v. Board of Education | BRI’s Homework Help Series

Or you might consider why Condoleezza Rice (Links to an external site.), the conservative scholar and former Secretary of State for President George W. Bush, argued in her OpEd on contemporary racial inequality that “systemic change is necessary to make our institutions more just.”

The Annenberg project has an interesting video on the role of judicial independence; select the third video Independent Judiciary (Links to an external site.) to learn more.


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