tv Reel America The Judicial Power - 1960 CSPAN December 12, 2020 10:57pm-11:23pm EST
youth of the state which constitute our principal investment in the future. ♪ the men who wrote this document lived in an agricultural society. it is a measure of their wisdom that their plan of government still provides us with a workable framework for decision. yet the transition from an agricultural to an industrial nation has subjected the constitution to countless stresses and problems of interpretation. this film dealt with one of those many problems. ♪ ♪
the view of a country, any country is harsh through iron bars. i'm joseph wells. i am a lawyer. a flight of birds, some americans in trouble, and a white temple on the hill. this is the story i want to tell you. it is the story of the supreme court of the united states. you feel very small when you stand in the entrance of the supreme court building in washington. the corinthian columns rise
three stories high, made of marble from the quarry of the state of vermont. inside, gleaming marble from alabama is underfoot and all around you. and polished walls and columns under a covered ceiling. in this room, historic meetings take place. with jurists of other days observing from the mall -- walls.
a staircase of bronze and marble spirals upwards. in the hallway, an open pedestal there's the one word, silence. here, for walk softly the feeling is one of reverence. the root of this reverence? a document held dear to us. the american constitution. article three, the judicial power of the united states shall be vested in one supreme court. the judicial power shall extend to all cases in law and equity, arising under this constitution. the laws of the united states, and treaties made under their authority. the first article of the constitution has to do with congress. the second deals with the office
of president. and article three, with the supreme court. one, two, three. that is the way our founding fathers planned it. a government made up of three equal independent parts, put together in a system of checks and balances that keeps any one of them from becoming too powerful. congress makes laws, but the president can veto them. o'er the court declares them unconstitutional. congress can overrule the president, with a two thirds majority. or initiate the overruling of the court, by proposing a constitutional amendment. the president can appoint justices, but he can't remove them. everywhere the checks and balances are at work, the key to the courts rule in this plan is reveal enactght to of the president, or congress. and decide whether it is keeping with the constitution. it also reviews some decisions of state courts, and lower
federal courts. you can see now that this white marble temple, is more than just a court. it is a vital part of the american government. a place where the mighty visit, kings, princes, prime ministers. does it seem a far cry from all of this, to apply to birds over farmland? a modest nebraska teacher? a prisoner behind bars? yet, they like queens and prime minister may have business in this marble temple, a business born the day that troubles strikes them. these birds started their journey under a safe conduct, they are useful friends of man, good for food, enemies of insects that they strike down. -- threatened them with extinction. the united states and canada made a treaty for their protection.
congress implemented it, with the migratory bird act. ism march to september, it illegal to kill capture or sell the wild mallard. but on this day, flying over the southern state of missouri, a federal game warden will try to arrest this hunter. but the state of missouri will a rest the game warden instead. he will be tried and convicted, on the ground that the wild mallards within its borders belong to the state of missouri, and that the game warden is unlawfully interfering with the rights of the hunter. this man, too, is breaking the law. -- lutheran school he was teaching his student a story from history. he teaches it in german, the language of the child's parents. the time is shortly after a war,
and his nebraska neighbors have decreed that no one may teach a foreign tongue to a child under ten years of age. it is safer to americanize them the reasoning goes, safer to speak them first in the american language. so they will grow up with american ideals. the law breaker is apprehended. in court, the teacher will plead his right of free speech. but a jury of his neighbors will find him guilty. this young man, setting out on a changed a $20 bill and felt the hand on his shoulder. was a guilty of counterfeiting? a jury has said yes. it was however, in a rare jewelry at his trial. the young man said he was innocent, but he never asked for a lawyer, he thought only rich people had lawyers. he knows now that he was in proving counsel
his innocence. so he has written a letter, asking for a new trial. he addresses it to the nighted -- the united states supreme court. justices of the supreme court, each nominated by president, and confirmed by the senate to serve for life. the have been 92 judges in 170 year flow of the court's continuity. who are they? not men of marble or parchment, but flesh and blood who have risen to great responsibility. john marshall, born a poor boy knows the law, his hard way teaching himself. was youngment you --
and untried when he became chief justice, but 34 years of his decisions, helped make it strong. oliver wendell holmes like parties and the theater, but he gave the country some of its noblest judicial opinions, justice holmes loved america. when he died he left all he had, to united states government. this is chief justice earl warren appointed in 1953 by president eisenhower. earl warren was a man with the joys and worries of sons and daughters in his life, a family man and a writer of decisions, that have changed american history. justice william o douglas appointed by franklin d. roosevelt, a man who you may find him leading worship or climbing because he pursues understanding everywhere and seeks out friends among even the remotest of people.
at 12, he was an immigrant boy who loved to read, today, a justice who continues to read at every opportunity. at lunch, even when walking in the street did -- justice felix frankfurter. a great leader, and great thinker. when justice hugo brock was 70, he rejoiced, now i can play tennis again. it seems his doctor told him, that a man in his sixties, should not play. when you teach a child tennis the concept of fair play is important.
justice black has spent a lifetime implementing a similar concept in the broader field of government. by are carvedived in the marble over the door of the court he slurs -- serves, equal justice under the law. that all ofidea these justices past and present have striven to uphold. what is equal justice under law? let me give you some examples. the year 1943, the locale is a town in pennsylvania.
a religious sect, jehovah witnesses takes the mandate of the scriptures, to preach the gospel to every creature. the members seek to do so by handing out religious pamphlets on the streets of the town, and from house to house. but a city ordinance requires them to pay for a license, and they are arrested for disturbing their pamphlets without a license. the case reaches the supreme court, and the ordinance is found to violate not only their religious freedom under the constitution, but their freedom of speech and freedom of the press as well. this cartoon, which appeared in
the new york newspaper, represents the situation of two giant companies, whose illegal merger must be broken up. the caption, where shall we begin doctor? among the laws of the supreme court guards is the antitrust jack -- act of 1890 forbidding a monopoly. sometimes a monopoly reappears in a different regard. and restraint may be accompanied the unexpected music it is used in this case, by corporations that produce motion pictures. we have merely expanded to be -- meet legitimate business needs, the fact, they have affiliated with large theater owners to prevent small independent gators from
presenting any small pictures. the decision of the judges, size in itself creates a suspicion of monopoly power. for size carries with it an opportunity. this is not an expansion to meet legitimate business needs, but he kept elated scheme to gain control over the markets and competition. being in contravention of the sherman antitrust act, the these corporations must be broken. their affiliations must be broken. the aged, conditionally peaceful, with folded hands but what turmoil they caused in the supreme court when franklin d new deal brought his legislation to the country, controversy became daily affair in the supreme court.
for the nine judges were sharply divided in their interpretation of the constitution. when the social security act passed, giving an income to retired working people partly to employer contributions, one irate, businessman, declared he was being illegally taxed, and battled the issue through all the courts up to the highest. the aged and their children waited on bated breath as liberal and conservative judges battled. finally the decision with four judges in sharp dissent, the five who made a majority claimed -- >> according to the constitution, congress has power to lay and collect taxes, for the general welfare of the united states. the number of aged persons in this country, is rapidly increasing. three out of four persons, over 65 are dependent wholly or partially on others for support. those who call upon their children, only aggravate the
evil by depriving the younger members of the family, of their resources. since the problem, is plainly national in dimension, the expenditures contemplated under this act, are for the general welfare of the united states, and the act is held constitutional. sometimes even the wisest man must bow to the lessons of experience and change their stance. one of the shortest decisions
in 1817, the united states never pays costs. and of decision. this masterpiece of gravity, was reversed some years later. for self reversal is one of the privileges and duties of the court when changed conditions and concepts make change of its decisions desirable. the 14th amendment guaranteed equal rights to all citizens regardless of race or color, but in the 1896 case of plessy v ferguson, the court had decided -- had to decide whether segregation was constitutional. the decision was yes, as long as the facilities, a both races are equal. separate but equal. that became the law and the custom, of some states.
in 1954 came another segregation case, the issue, whether near children should be obliged to attend separate but equal schools. in the case of brown versus the board of education, chief justice warren, delivered the unanimous opinion of the court. >> the question presented, does segregation of children in public schools, solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities may be equal, deprive the children of a minority group of equal educational opportunities? we believe that it does. >> to separate them from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of the race, generates a feeling of inferiority, as to their status in the community, that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone. whatever may have been the extent of psychological knowledge at the time of cv and
-- plessy v ferguson, this finding is amply supported by modern authority. we see that in the field of public education, separate but equal has no place, and it is so ordered. in one part of the country and another, worn out prejudices give way to the will of the nation as expressed in the constitution. >> i pledge allegiance, to the flag, of the united states of america, and to the republic, for which it stands. one nation under god,
indivisible. with liberty and justice for all. >> work, the work of the supreme court, last year nearly 2000 cases were laid on this desk for the attention of the clerk of the court. once a one-man job, today takes 20 people to keep up with this work which includes preparing cases for the court's doctrine. we are reminded that the contemporaries of the founding when are ie human, looks the 1790, and the first clerk on the august day, did what all men do in the first week of the year, wrote the wrong date. you can still see it, on the yellow page.
1789, hastily changed afterwards to 1790. yes, tradition is strong in this court and the colors cutaway is an unchanging part of it area. the words a justice of the supreme court says, when he ones.office are simple i will support, and defend the constitution, i will administer justice without respect to persons. and do equal right, to the poor and to the rich. this is the rule holding true, whether it's a sovereign state, or an immigrant. a corporation, or convict. the sixth amendment of the constitution provides that in all criminal prosecutions, the accused may have the assistance of legal counsel in his defense. although this man was ignorant of his rights, it still cannot be denied to him. we declare his conviction, and
sentencing to be invalid, and remand his case for retrial. the statute here in question, purports to forward the work of americanization. forin a desire americanization, for a foreign born population, we should not overlook the fact, that the spirit of america, is liberty. the disposition to allow each person, to live his own life, in his own way. on hampered by unreasonable and arbitrary restrictions. befind this statute to unconstitutional and henceforth avoid. does the state on the birds? that claim rests on a slender read. while birds are not in the position of anyone, but yesterday they had not arrived. tomorrow they may be at another state, and in a week 1000 miles away. but the natural interest of the nation's people is involved with
these birds, and that can be protected only by national action in concert with another power, except for the treaty on the federal statute that protects it, there soon might be no birds for any powers to deal with. we see nothing in the constitution that compels the government to sit by while the food supply is cut off and the protectors of our crops are .estroyed we are of the opinion that the statute protecting the birds must and stand. this is the courtroom. in a little while, the traditional call will ring out in this room. >> oh yay oh yay oh yay. all persons having business before the honorable and supreme states aree united admonished to draw near and give their attention. for the court is now sitting.
god save the united states and this honorable court. ivorys room walled in veined marble, the greatest tradition of all unfolds. the decision itself. when the curtains part in three points, and the nine high judges enter, you will know that they have striven to rise above partisanship, regionalism, and political favorites. to render man's best effort at impartial justice. this is the proud record of the supreme court of the united states. ♪
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