Government and Politics

Bill of Rights

Who determines whether a law violates the liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights?

It is the job of the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether or not a law impinges upon the liberties listed in—or implied by—the Bill of Rights (1791). The difficult task before the Supreme Court justices is in determining what rights are implied. Such questions prompt months of hearings and deliberations before a decision can be reached as to the constitutionality of a contested law. The judicial body makes its determinations based on a majority vote of the nine justices (one chief justice and eight associates). Established as the highest court in the country by Article 3 of the Constitution, the Court has ultimate authority in all legal questions that arise pertaining to the Constitution. Called the “court of last resorts,” the Supreme Court both interprets the acts of Congress (including laws and treaties) and determines the constitutionality of federal and state laws (under the Fourteenth Amendment, the Court has upheld that most of the Bill of Rights also applies to state governments).


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