The Amorphous Relationship between Congress and the Courts

Michael A. Bailey, Forrest Maltzman and Charles R. Shipan

in The Oxford Handbook of the American Congress

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199559947
Published online May 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of American Politics

 The Amorphous Relationship between Congress and the Courts

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The relationship between Congress and the judiciary is a complex one that is poorly defined or understood. This ambiguity in the relationship is the result of the failure of the Constitution to define what legal doctrines must shape judicial decision-making or whether the judiciary has the authority to strike the acts of Congress. Whereas the relationship between Congress and the executive is well-defined in the Constitution, the relationship between Congress and the courts was left by the founders to be defined by history. In addition to the Constitution's ambiguity in defining the relationship of Congress and the judiciary, the ambiguity also stems from several factors: the relationship has changed over time; modern accounts of the relationship have produced theoretical claims that are difficult to validate; and the multiple dimensions of the interdependence of the two institutions makes it hard to determine whether Congress is constrained by law and whether the Court is constrained by Congress. This article discusses the evolution of constitutional interpretation. It discusses Congress's abandonment of its role as an interpreter of the Constitution and the emergence of the federal judiciary as a venue for policymaking. The article also discusses congressional response to the Court. It discusses legislative anticipation of judicial review, congressional assertiveness in the nomination process, and congressional reaction to hostile Court activity. The article also discusses judicial anticipation of congressional review.

Keywords: Congress; judiciary; constitution; constitutional interpretation; evolution; policymaking

Article.  11798 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; US Politics ; Politics and Law

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