Enforcing a Court Order

Court Orders Removal of Monument to Ten Commandments

Question is suppose Moore does decide to defy the court’s order. How exactly do they go about enforcing it? Do they have some power over federal marshals, who they can order to physically remove the monument? Or arrest Moore for defying the court? If so, Moore, who as Chief Justice presumably has similar authority over state enforcement officials of his own, could theoretically have his own marshals block it. Does it depend on how far Bush is willing to back up the Appellate Court?

I’m sure there must be a system in place for this, and the appellate court seems pretty confident that they can prevail, but I wonder about the mechanics of how it plays out.

Here’s a good article on federal contempt of court powers. Looks like Judge Moore could be headed for the Big House if he fails to comply.

I believe the Federal Court must rely on the executive branch to enforce its rulings, when its own prestige fails. Witness, for example, the desegregation rulings referenced above. IIRC, the president (Eisenhower) called out the National Guard and the 101st Airborne Division.

So yes, the question is whether Bush and Ashcroft have any intention of backing up the court on this issue.

Assuming the case is affirmed or declined by the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Marshal service will come in to enforce the court order if it isn’t complied with, and anybody with an ounce of sense will stay out of their way. Eisenhower wasn’t a big fan of the desegregation decisions, but he didn’t hesitate to send in federal troops when Govenor Wallace refused to submit to the authority of the federal courts and the U.S. Marshals.

The “Indian Removal Act” of 1830 was ruled unconstitutional in Worcester vs. State of Georgia (1832). Andrew Jackson was president. His response to the Supreme Court was “John Marshall has made his decision; let him enforce it now if he can.” King Andrew had decided that he was going to “overcome” a “bad” decision by the US Supreme Court by means of the equivalent of an “executive order”, I guess. He then called out the army to evict the Cherokee. See also “Trail of Tears”.

But was Eisenhower supporting the ultimate primacy of the Supreme Court or supporting the Federal government against a fractious State government?

I’d say he was doing both, and viewed them as one and the same (although I should have said Faubus in addition to Wallace; the biggest problem was the Little Rock crisis). The press releases and documents from his desk speak repeatedly of the importance of upholding federal court orders in maintaining the integrity and authority of the federal govenrment. In his diary notes following a meeting with Governor Faubus he recalled telling him:

“I further said that I did not bleive that it was beneficial to anybody to have a trial of strength between the President and a Governor because in any area where the Federal government had assumed jurisdiction and this was upheld by the Supreme Court, there could only be one outcome–that is, the State would lose, and I did not wish to see the Governor humiliated.”

The text of a later press release read:

“Whenever normal agencies prove inadequate to the task and it becomes necessary for the Executive Branch of the Federal Government to use its powers and authority to uphold Federal Courts, the President’s responsibility is inescapable…As you know, the Supreme Court of the United States has decided that separate public educational facilites for the races are inherently unequal and therefore compusory school segregation laws are unconstitutional. Our personal opinions about the decision have no bearing on the matter of enforcement; the responsibility and authority of the Supreme Court are clear. Local Federal Courts were instructed by the Supreme Court to issue such decrees as might be necessary to achieve admission to public schools without regard to race–and with all deliberate speed.”

All of the documents from the Little Rock crisis are in PDF at the online
Eisenhower Presidential Library.