There has been an increasing trend of the Supreme Court taking policy decisions out of the hands of legislators, contributing to the idea that the court has unlimited power, said Neal Katyal, Paul and Patricia Saunders professor of national security law at Georgetown Law.
Katyal spoke about the fine line he sees between the important but limited role that the Supreme Court plays, and them abusing that role.
My chief worry is that we live in a democracy and there isnt a way to easily check a Supreme Court who is taking our policy decisions out, Katyal said. It can also be a vice because if we dont like those decisions we dont really have the recourse, [and] we cant vote them out of office.
Katyal said he is concerned that the Supreme Court takes laws that, for example, state that there can not be guns within 1,000 feet of a school, and strikes them down, saying theyre unconstitutional. He said the Supreme Court then takes that decision away from the legislature, and while some of these decisions may be right, together they create a disturbing tapestry.
The great thing about our Supreme Court is that one side you have the fancy corporations with all these lawyers and their law books, and on the other side, you have a man that has nothing, but if he has a good argument he can win, Katyal said. It is what makes America special and great.
Katyal talked about his time as a lawyer in the Guantanamo Bay case for a man who had been a driver for Osama Bin Laden and the importance of protecting the rights of the powerless.
When the man asked him why he was representing him, he said, You know there are all these legal issues in your case, but the one that bothers me the most is that there is this trial system that only applies to immigrants.
In reaction to Katyals comments on Guantanamo Bay, Jennifer Files, Iowa State University liberal arts open-option freshman, said she wasnt aware that the bill President Bush had passed could keep prisoners and hold them for life.
That is really scary to me, Files said.
Sam Eppink, liberal arts open-option freshman, said he also didnt realize how powerful the bill was.
I guess you had heard about it, just not to the full extent. Theres this idea that everyone [in government] has this little sphere of power and he just jumped over all of them and just slammed the door on Congress and the courts, Eppink said.
Katyal said his parents picked America because no matter who you were, you would be treated fairly.
The thing that bothered me the most is that it [the situation with Guantanamo Bay] was so destructive to that vision, he said.