ABSTRACT

T h e C o n s t i t u t i o n is the f u n d a m e n t a l l a w of the U n i t e d States, a n d judges must enforce the l a w . O n t h a t s i m p l e a n d s t rong a r g u m e n t J o h n M a r s h a l l b u i l t the i n s t i t u t i o n o f j u d i c i a l r e v i e w of l e g i s l a t i o n , 1 a n i n s t i t u t i o n that is at once the p r i d e a n d the e n i g m a of A m e r i c a n jur i sprudence . T h e p u z z l e l ies i n th i s . E v e r y o n e agrees that the C o n - s t i tu t i on forb ids c e r t a i n f o rms of l e g i s l a t i o n to Congress a n d the state legislatures. B u t ne i ther S u p r e m e C o u r t justices nor c o n s t i t u t i o n a l l a w experts n o r o r d i n a r y c i t i zens c a n agree a b o u t just w h a t it does f o r b i d , a n d the d isagreement is most severe w h e n the l eg i s la t i on i n quest ion is p o l i t i c a l l y most c on t rovers ia l a n d d i v i s i v e . 2 It therefore appears that these justices exercise a veto over the p o l i t i c s o f the n a t i o n , f o r b i d d i n g the people to r each decisions w h i c h t h e y , a t i n y n u m b e r of appointees for l i f e , t h i n k w r o n g . H o w c a n this be r e c o n c i l e d w i t h d e m o c r a c y ? B u t w h a t is the a l t e r n a t i v e , except a b d i c a t i n g the p o w e r M a r s h a l l dec lared? T h a t p o w e r is n o w so f i xed i n o u r c o n s t i t u t i o n a l system t h a t a b d i c a t i o n w o u l d be m o r e des t ruc t ive o f consensus, m o r e a defeat for c u l t i v a t e d expec ta t i on , t h a n s i m p l y g o i n g o n as before. W e seem caught i n a d i l e m m a d e f i n e d b y the c o n t r a d i c t i o n be tween d e m o c r a c y a n d anc i en t , f u n d a m e n t a l , a n d u n c e r t a i n l a w , each of w h i c h is c e n - t r a l to o u r sense of o u r t r a d i t i o n s . W h a t is to be done?