What’s Going on With the Supreme Court?

by Pascale

As most people who have done any amount of research will know, the United States political situation is, to put it shortly, a mess. Between the upcoming elections and presidential debates, and Covid-19, the US is in a precarious position. But most uncertain of all: the Supreme Court.

The US government is split into three branches based on a system of checks and balances written into the US Constitution. The legislative branch, known as Congress, makes federal laws. Congress includes the Senate and the House of Representatives. The executive branch, led by the president, contains different departments, which execute the federal laws. The last branch is the judicial branch, which arbitrates these laws. The highest court is the Supreme Court, responsible for deciding whether laws are constitutional.

Within the Supreme Court, there are nine justices, appointed by the sitting president when a justice dies, or, in some cases, resigns. As such, if Trump gets to nominate a third justice, his legacy will be secure far after he is out of office, no matter the outcome of the November election.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who served for 27 years recently died, creating an available seat on the Supreme Court. Under normal circumstances, this would not be cause for debate. However, when Justice Antonin Scalia died while Obama was in his last year of office, the Republicans established a de-facto law that no president could appoint a Supreme Court justice in their last year. This meant that the nomination went to the next president: Trump. However, now that Trump has the opportunity to appoint his third justice, although he is in his last year of office, the Republicans are going back on their word, and because the law is de-facto, they can get away with it.

Trump’s nominee, Amy Coney Barrette, would put the Supreme Court at a 6:3 republican supermajority, a historical number, as this would be the most conservative the Supreme Court has been in 70 years. This would change how the supreme court rules on many important cases, as, rather than having one justice with the power to sway a decision one way or the other it will take two justices voting liberally for a case to be swayed to the left. Furthermore, the type of cases that are going to appear on the floor will change dramatically, and many keystone decisions, such as Roe vs Wade (concerning abortion rights) will be revisited and quite possibly overturned.

Of course, Amy Coney Barrette has yet to be appointed. But the process of appointment has been moving at warp speed. The Republicans are doing everything in their power to have her on the bench before the November election. Furthermore, it is very difficult to predict how a justice will rule once on the bench. However, if past action is any indication, Amy Coney Barrette will be voting conservatively, making a “conservative revolution” on the courts a real possibility.


Pascale is a full-time OnJustice Group member

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