It has been talked about much lately that the likely President elect of the United States (at the time of this writing) has expressed the desire to overturn certain Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) rulings.

What legal means does the President of the United States (POTUS) actually have available, if any, to overturn SCOTUS rulings? And what are the checks and balances, if any, against those actions?

  • 2
    Worth noting that originally the Suprene Court couldn't do judicial review, so they didn't have the ability to make rulings as we know them today. Thus the checks and balances for the judicial branch are not as firmly described in the Constitution as those for the other branches. Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 3:18
  • This is going to take me more than a day to answer. It would be better if you could narrow in on a specific case. Is there a ruling you have in mind.?
    – user9790
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 3:54
  • @KDog IIRC, few SCOTUS rulings have ever been overturned, so I'm not sure how to go about framing it more specifically.
    – user10258
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 3:56
  • Are you looking for something really detailed? Cause this is a really serious question that would involve a great deal of investment of research and time. If it's cursory interest, the below answer suffices ok, more or less. As is, this question is really hypothetical and I am inclined to spike it.
    – user9790
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 4:07
  • @KDog I don't see how it's hypothetical. I'm asking about what powers a certain office has in relation to another branch of the government. As Thunderforge mentioned, the US Constitution isn't necessarily clear on the matter.
    – user10258
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 4:16

1 Answer 1


There are several ways.

1) Get Congress to change the law.

2) Convince the public that the issue is not a federal issue, but rather something that people should deal with personally or locally.

3) Re-litigate the issues, especially after appointing new Justice(s). As of 2016, there is a vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

4) Re-litigate the issues, after getting Congress to restrict the Supreme Court's jurisdiction.

5) Follow the procedures to amend the Constitution.

6) Emulate Andrew Jackson's actions leading to the Trail of Tears. "Justice Marshall has made his decision: Now let him enforce it."

Options 1-5 are intentional parts of the system of "checks and balances". Option 6 risks defunding (by Congress), nullification (by states), impeachment, losing elections, assassination, and/or civil war.

  • What can POTUS do to initiate re-litigation?
    – user10258
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 3:55
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    @CreationEdge - The President can initiate re-litigation by either committing an action that he knows will cause someone to sue, or by having the Justice Department sue someone.
    – Jasper
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 3:58
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    @CreationEdge It would be more accurate to say that one of the president's powers is to order the Justice Department to sue someone (or charge someone with a crime). Raising the relevant legal point would have to happen naturally in the suit. This is more of an effective or implicit power.
    – Brythan
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 4:41
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    It's probably noteworthy that there is currently a vacant seat.
    – user9389
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 5:15
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    The President can also wait for a Supreme Court justice to die/retire, then nominate another justice. Additionally he can ask Congress to increase the number of justices so he can nominate justices to comprise the majority. These political maneuvers are otherwise known as "stacking the court".
    – moonman239
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 3:19

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