In this early case, the Supreme Court asserted its power to find laws enacted by Congress unconstitutional and to decline to enforce them.
Congress passed a law in 1792 requiring the U.S. circuit court justices to hear veteran’s disability claims and forward recommendations to the secretary of war, who could decline to accept them. Five of the original six justices declined to do this, asserting in various ways that the law violated separation of powers by giving them nonjudicial duties in the executive branch. Some objected that Congress, rather than being bound by a judicial judgment, could decline to follow their findings. Congress later revised the law to avoid these difficulties. Although ambiguous, scholars regard this case as an early assertion of the Supreme Court’s powers of judicial review and justiciability because of concerns about the results of the justices’ deliberations.
Separation of powers