Text Size -A+

First Amendment: Freedom of Petition

The First Amendment includes a provision that says that "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the right of the people . . . to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." Although there do not appear to be any Supreme Court cases that precisely define the contours of this provision of the First Amendment, it reminds individuals that, in a democracy, it is the Government's job to redress the legitimate grievances of its citizens.

The judiciary redresses grievances whenever it determines that constitutional or other legal rights have been infringed upon, and then attempts to remedy the situation. The Congress redresses grievances when it changes bad laws. The Executive Branch redresses grievances when its administrative agencies change inefficient regulations. When the President pardons someone who has been justly convicted, but for whom extenuating circumstances exist, he also may be redressing grievances. Thus, although there is no definitive interpretation of this clause of the First Amendment, it seems that each branch of government has specific means available to it to redress the grievances of the citizenry.