"Presidents come and go, but the Supreme Court goes on forever." - William Howard Taft

When I was in law school, what gave me the impetus to become a civil-liberties attorney was seeing firsthand how much good could be done through the justice system. Those were the years of the Warren Court (1953-1969), when Earl Warren helmed the U.S. Supreme Court as chief justice, alongside such luminaries as William J. Brennan Jr., William O. Douglas, Hugo Black, Felix Frankfurter, and Thurgood Marshall.

The Warren Court handed down rulings that were instrumental in shoring up critical legal safeguards against government abuse and discrimination. Without the Warren Court, there would be no Miranda warnings, no desegregation of the schools, and no civil-rights protections for indigents. Yet more than any single ruling, what Warren and his colleagues did best was embody what the Supreme Court should always be - an institution established to intervene and protect the people against the government and its agents when they overstep their bounds.

That is no longer the case. In recent years, especially under the leadership of Chief Justice John Roberts, sound judgment and justice have largely taken a back seat to legalism, statism, and elitism, while preserving the rights of the people has been de-prioritized and made to play second fiddle to both governmental and corporate interests - a trend that has not gone unnoticed by the American people. In fact, a recent New York Times/CBS News poll found that just 44 percent of Americans approve of the job the Supreme Court is doing, while 75 percent say the justices' decisions are sometimes influenced by their personal or political views.

There is a widely held view that Congress has virtually unlimited power to legislate, especially concerning economic matters. Consider, for example, the passage of the controversial Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act two years ago. While Congress' power to regulate the economy is not completely unbounded, it is very far-reaching indeed. However, it was not always so.

(Editor's note: "Fully Informed Juries: A New Hope for Freedom," Don Doig's commentary on jury nullification, can be found here.)

Like most people, Mike Angelos was surprised to learn about the power of juries to disregard the law. "The courts are really stacked against people," he said.

And he's trying to change that.

For more than a year, Angelos (a retired electrical engineer) and three other people have been handing out information regarding jury rights, including the power to return a verdict of "not guilty" if jurors believe that the law itself is unjust -- regardless of the facts of the case. This is commonly called "jury nullification" of laws, and the effort to spread the word about that power is known as the "fully informed jury" movement.

"The message we try to get to people is that it's the jury's right and duty to judge the law -- laws are arbitrary, bad, and misapplied -- as well as the facts of the case," Angelos said. "This was a new concept to me."