Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Roberts: Courts are not more powerful than Congress

In today's hearings, Justice Roberts made a very important point:
Supreme Court nominee John Roberts (search) said Wednesday that Congress has the authority to counter a controversial Supreme Court ruling and decide whether cities have the right to seize private property for commercial or public use.

"This body and legislative bodies in the states are protectors of the people's rights," Roberts told the Senate Judiciary Committee on the third day of his confirmation hearings to be the nation's 17th chief justice.
What is important about his statement is it does not place a higher status on the judiciary over the legislative (and presumably executive) branches of government. Roberts will not legislate from the bench - whether for or against abortion, contraceptives, eminent domain, or any other matter. While some may be upset with how this will play out in specific cases in the future, overall this is proper policy, and Roberts is intent on being fair and honest (both of which I have discussed previously on occasion).

Interesting as well was another comment he made:
Congress has been working on legislation that would ban the use of federal funds for any project getting the go-ahead using the Kelo decision. Roberts said that was an "appropriate approach."

"What the court is saying is there is this power," he added. "That leaves the ball in the court of the legislature."
It sounded almost as if the legislature would have power over the courts, in its ability to create new laws to countermand judgements of the court. While this is true, there are obvious limitations, particularly constitutionality, in doing so. This, too, is the proper course. If the courts make a ruling that the country finds unsatisfactory, the legislature can make new laws to control that ruling. By the same token, this would require a decent majority to pass. For issues that require an amendment, this will (and should) prove much more difficult, requiring larger majorities to pass - and putting the issue before the public eye to better gauge its feelings on the matter [Note: If I am wrong on any of this please inform me]. This is the way our government was designed to work: Not through judges legislating their (often fringe) opinions from the bench.

We should applaud Judge Roberts for his smart - and proper - approach.

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