U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has fulfilled a request made by a federal appeals court judge yesterday, who asked the Department of Justice to recognize the lower court’s authority to review the constitutionality of laws that are passed by Congress.
In a three-page (well, 2.5 to be exact) letter to the three judges who represent the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, Holder affirmed that lower courts do, indeed, have the power to exercise judicial review of laws that are challenged.
“Where a plaintiff properly invokes the jurisdiction of a court and presents a justiciable challenge, there is no dispute that courts properly review the constitutionality of Acts of Congress,” Holder said. “At no point has the government suggested that the Court would lack authority to review plaintiffs’ constitutional claims if the Court were to conclude that jurisdiction exists.”
The chief Justice on the appeals court, Judge Jerry Smith, had asked DoJ for a letter after hearing President Obama say earlier this week that it would be an “unprecedented” and “extraordinary step” for the Supreme Court to overturn his signature healthcare law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Smith called the statement a “challenge to the federal courts or to their authority,” and said in court on Wednesday that he wanted a typed, single-spaced three-paged letter by today.
Yet, Holder defended Obama, who clarified what he meant by saying on Tuesday that that not since the end of the so-called “Lochner-era” in 1937, has the Supreme Court overturned “a law that was passed by Congress on a economic issue, like health care, that I think most people would clearly consider commerce.”
“While duly recognizing the courts’ authority to engage in judicial review, the Executive Branch has often urged courts to respect the legislative judgments of Congress,” said Holder. “Acts of Congress are “presumptively constitutional.”
“The President’s remarks were fully consistent” with that principle, he added.