You might be hearing about Jurisdiction stripping for the first time. The law is vast and can be quite confusing.
But the truth is jurisdiction stripping isn’t a new idea and has been in use since the U.S. Constitution came into existence.
Congress boasts several constitutional powers, and jurisdiction stripping is one of them. Congress has also exercised its jurisdiction stripping powers since 1869, and they continue doing so.
Here’s what you have to know about jurisdiction stripping.
What is jurisdiction stripping?
First and foremost, let’s understand that Congress has the constitutional authority to determine a federal or state court’s jurisdiction. But there’s a limit on how much Congress can influence the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction.
So, jurisdiction stripping is when Congress decides to limit a court’s jurisdiction. They can decide to strip a federal court of the power to hear a specific class of cases.
Article III of the constitution gave insight into Congress’ jurisdiction stripping powers. It states the following:
“The Supreme Court shall retain appellate jurisdiction, both as to Law and Facts, with such Exceptions, and under such regulations as Congress shall make.”
So, Congress can decide to stop the Supreme Court from hearing specific cases.
A recent example of jurisdiction stripping was the Military Commissions Act of 2006. There was an attempt to strip federal courts of jurisdiction regarding appeals initiated by Guantanamo Bay’s detainees.
Keep reading for more details on the topic of jurisdiction stripping. Should Congress have such power?
Does Jurisdiction Stripping Promote Democracy?
Judicial independence has been a hot topic from time immemorial. It’s the cornerstone of any democratic society. Judicial independence safeguards citizens’ rights and freedom and gives judges the freedom to pass judgments without pressure.
Unfortunately, it seems judicial independence would only be a topic worth debating. It is under siege and the constitution isn’t helping matters.
Jurisdiction stripping is a threat to judicial independence. It empowers Congress, an arm of government, to sidestep judicial reviews.
The bedrock of a democratic system involves three arms of government acting as checks and balances on one another.
Therefore, how can Congress strip another branch of the government of its powers? Is the judiciary no longer a co-equal branch of government as the legislatures?
Giving Congress power to remove or strip appellate review from the Supreme Court is not a healthy move for a democratic society. It only indicates that there’s no judicial independence.
The judiciary system should have total independence. Judges should have the freedom to perform their judicial duties without fear.
So, jurisdiction stripping is a Congressional authority that needs a complete review and possibly, taken off the constitution. It has no place in a democratic society like ours.
A Handy Tip: Congress doesn’t have the power to remove the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction.
Jurisdiction Stripping Examples In The Supreme Court
As earlier mentioned, jurisdiction stripping isn’t a new idea. It’s constitutional, and Congress has used it several times.
Jurisdiction stripping was reported as far back as 1869. Congress stripped the Supreme Court of its authority to hear and decide specific cases. The Ex parte McCardle, 74 U.S. 506 is a good example of such a case.
Another example of jurisdiction stripping is the Military Commissions Act 2006. Congress tried stripping federal courts of jurisdiction over appeals from Guantanamo Bay’s detainees.
Types Of Supreme Court Cases Congress Doesn’t Have Jurisdiction Stripping Powers Over
Congress still has jurisdiction stripping powers. Despite public outcry for judicial independence, nothing has changed on jurisdiction stripping legislation.
However, there are Supreme Court cases in which Congress’s jurisdiction-stripping powers are ineffective. They are what the judiciary terms “original jurisdiction.”
So, what’s the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction?
This implies the court’s authority to hear and decide specific cases before any lower court can hear them.
The Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction is enshrined in Article III, section 2 of the United States Constitution and explained in the federal law.
Below are the four types of cases that fall into the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction.
#1: Controversies that exist between two or more states.
#2: Controversies between the United States of America and a state.
#3: All proceedings or actions by a state against another state’s citizens or aliens.
#4: All proceedings or actions to which ambassadors, foreign state’s consuls, vice consuls, or other public ministers, are parties.
Why Original Jurisdiction Cases Take Longer Time To Decide
The Supreme Court decides cases from lower courts within a year. Unfortunately, original jurisdiction cases, usually assigned to a special master, take longer to decide. It could take years to decide such cases.
So, why do original jurisdiction cases take time? What’s special about these cases that they require more time to decide?
Well, it’s because the special master treats the case as a new one. In other words, the special master has to begin from scratch, piecing relevant information and evidence together.
A large chunk of pre-existing legal pleadings and briefings from both parties, which the special master must consider to decide the case, are provided.
Another thing the special master must do is hold hearings, where witness testimonies, lawyers’ arguments, and more evidence are presented.
These result in hours of recordings and thousands of transcripts the special master has to compile, prepare and weigh.
Finally, deciding the case would take time and additional manpower since there is a lawsuit.
What is jurisdiction stripping? It refers to the power of Congress to prevent the Supreme Court from hearing and deciding certain cases.
Jurisdiction stripping is constitutional. However, it doesn’t apply in all cases. Congress doesn’t have jurisdiction stripping powers on the Supree Court’s original jurisdictions.
Original jurisdictions are a special type of case that the Supreme Court can hear and decide. An example includes a controversy that exists between two or more states.
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