Limitation of Power of Supreme Court to Declare Acts of Congress Unconstitutional


The recent nullification of the New Deal acts by the Supreme Court of the United States has given rise to much controversy and discussion. In addition to the immediate dissatisfaction over the voided statutes, there has been some fear expressed that the trend might indicate the voidance of other important measures still to be determined, and that the whole framework, in which the Administration had so confidently expressed its hopes for national economic and social betterment, might be completely destroyed.

Bitter opposition to the Supreme Court and its power over legislation has been expressed thruout its history, and has periodically assumed the proportions of an issue. The original right under which the Court assumed its jurisdiction over Congressional acts is still a matter of dispute, the power not having been clearly indicated in the Constitution. The authority for it was first declared by Chief Justice Marshall in 1803. It was seldom asserted in the earlier years of the Court; during its first seventy-five years two or three federal statutes were invalidated. Since the early Nineteenth Century proposals have been made to modify decisions made by majority vote of one, and proposals were also made at various times in its history to accord to Congress the final decision as to the legality of its own acts. In recent decades, with the change in the nature of legislation and the increasing frequency of labor, social and economic measures, the exercise of this power has become of increasing importance to the national life. The rate of increase in decisions on constitutionality, and in five-to-four decisions, which have been particularly subject to criticism, has been greatly augmented of late.

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • New York
Publication year:
  • 1935


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