Week 3 – Reflection Paper
Reflection Paper #3
This week’s agenda reviewed the topics of how our judicial system works hand in hand with philosophy and legal interpretation. First and foremost, the podcast that reviews Judicial Philosophy in Legal Interpretation at the Supreme Court, talks about how those who work with and for the law make the choices and decisions they make and why. They have addressed how police officers, supreme court justices, and even judges evaluate the law and interpret the written law and reprimand or investigate certain situations based not only on mandated law, but they also use personal beliefs and experiences to make legal choices. It distinguishes how these justices may vote for and with the written law and the court system rather than their own beliefs and philosophy. There are many supreme court justices that are acting on behalf of the supreme court for 30 years, or what is considered a lifetime. When this occurs the law and supreme court views and dispositions do not change, the influences on the court hardly differ. The only way to change the beliefs of this supreme court committee is to enact a law, which could be constitutional, only allowing these justices to be involved for a max of 18 years. This then suggests that every other year a justice will retire thus changing the ideals, beliefs, and philosophical ideologies of those who are making choices on behalf of the law. Professor Ward Farnsworth had commented on a particular situation that I found very interesting; the situation was about a young man who was in an area known for illegal activity, the young man then began running as soon as he noticed the police officers. The police officers then had to determine, based off of previous experiences if the young man was running because he was hiding something, had done something illegal, or was in fact scared. Host Dan Rae had then mentioned that maybe the young man had grown up in an environment that led him to fear law enforcement, and he began running whether or not he had in fact done anything wrong. As Professor Ward then stated that the police officers experience may have been that individuals who run from law enforcement typically have done something they shouldn’t. You now have two very different perspectives and only life experience combined with the law can determine what actions to take.
In the case of George W. Bush vs Al Gore, the same principles have applied. When the state court systems approved the recount of the votes in various counties the supreme court then reviewed the case and decided that under the fourteenth amendment, the Equal Protection Clause, back down to the state level and the state of Florida felt as though they had no choice but to dismiss the case for a recount of the votes. It was determined that the actions that took place during this election in the state of Florida left many individuals feeling as though there were politics involved in the outcome. The choices made by those justices may or may not have been influenced by personal, ethical, and past experiences that could have swayed their choices. The outcome of the courts vote, 5-4, truly put the election choice into the hands of the Supreme Court. Bush supporters celebrated while Gore supporters were perplexed and incensed. The entire election led to the potential recount of these votes in Florida. The state did what they thought was right, based again on ethical beliefs and past experiences in connection with the way that the law was actually written, and claimed that the only right thing to do was to pose a recount to ensure that the correct presidential candidate truly won. When the supreme court stepped in many people, not just those from the Florida court system, believed that the power of the Supreme Court was taken too far. The Supreme Court had truly overstepped its boundaries and legal rights.
I think the most important concept that I learned this week was that even though the law is written and determined to be the final say in all judicial circumstances, that there truly is a grey area. Police officers, lawyers, judges, and political figures, everywhere all have a past. They each have grown, learned, seen, and heard their own individual lives. The similarities they all share is education, however even education is subject to criticism and understanding. Ethical and moral choices are made aside from the law. “When a man makes a moral choice two things are involved; one is the act of choosing, the other is the various feelings, impulses and so on which his psychological outfit presents him with, and which are the raw material of his choice,” says C.S. Lewis; these thoughts are similar to those in a legal position, you have the law in which you have to abide but then you also have your feelings and opinions in which help outline the decisions you make within those legal parameters (Lewis, 2005).
I believe that this legal concept affects businesses because state and federal law outline what is acceptable and not acceptable in everyday life and in those of businesses. Federal laws oversee state laws, in which some cases are contradictory. For instance, if state law allows the use of marijuana but the federal laws do not, a company is faced with a choice to hire a person based on state or federal law and have to be willing to accept the legal repercussions that come along with that choice.
The concept that was most confusing for me, is that the Supreme Court is allowed to override the choices of individual states regardless of the subject matter. I understand that this is similar to a checks and balances system, but I feel as though it eliminates the system our country had originally intended it to be. At the end of the day if we truly cannot even select our own president, and the supreme court has the ability to overrule our choices, then why are we even give the choices to begin with?
Bibliography Lewis, C. S. (2005). Mere Christianity. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers, Inc. .
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