In the beginning of the movie Amistad, slave hunters abducted a large group of Africans from Sierra Leone in Africa and shipped them to Cuba to be traded. The Africans were purchased by Spanish men and put aboard a ship called Amistad. This abduction and trade violated treaties that then existed, because you could not be bought or sold as a slave unless you were a natural-born slave, which they were not. During the journey overseas, the Africans seized the ship, killed the head crewmembers, and ordered the remaining crew to sail to Africa. Not much later, the Amistad was seized by a U. S.
ship. The two Spanish men were freed and the Africans were imprisoned on charges of murder. President Van Buren was in favor of convicting the Africans, because he was warned that if the Africans were set free, it would start a civil war. So when the Federal court judge seemed to be leaning towards the Africans side, Van Buren impeached him and replaced him with a new young judge that he thought would support the Spanish mens side. This is an example of checks and balances. It demonstrates the executive branch's check on the judicial branch.
The court ruled that the claims to the Africans as property were not lawful because they were illegally abducted and held as slaves. Therefore, the Spanish men were to be imprisoned and the Africans sent back to Africa. A well-known man warned the president again of civil war and the negative outcome of the Africans being freed. When the president said there was nothing he could do about it now, the man told him that he could appeal the case and make it appear before the Supreme Court. This is exactly what Van Buren did, and this is also an example of checks and balances. The president has the right to appeal a courts decision.
The case went to the Supreme Court, and former President John Quincy Adams argued the Africans case. Adams defended the right of the Africans to fight for their freedom. The Supreme Cour decided in favor of the Africans, and they were finally aloud to return to their homeland.