Solon students’ take on Supreme Court vacancy

The Supreme Court of the United States. Photo courtesy of istockphoto.com

The Supreme Court of the United States. Photo courtesy of istockphoto.com

Audrey Lai

On September 18, 2020, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away at 87 from metastatic pancreatic cancer. 

“My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed,” Justice Ginsburg stated days before her death.

Her role in landmark Supreme Court cases, such as United States v. Virginia, which upheld gender equality, and Obergefell v. Hodges, which granted same-sex couples the right to marry, cemented Ginsburg as a cultural icon, especially among younger Americans.

Government teacher Mary Clare Lane believes Ginsburg’s life and legacy has left an impact on America’s future.

“I think [Justice Ginsburg] provides some inspiration to younger generations, particularly of women who now believe that they can sort of achieve it all,” Lane said. “That they can be successful in their career. That they can be successful at school and to pursue their dreams to the highest level while having a family and having a robust life with friends and other interests outside of just the profession.” 

Along with her legacy, her death left an open seat on the Supreme Court and sparked partisan debate over whether a judge should be appointed before Election Day this November. The election of another conservative judge would tip the Supreme Court from a 5-to-4 to a 6-to-3 conservative majority.

Democrats argue that President Trump should not be able to fill the vacancy because Republicans had already established a precedent from 2016, when former President Barack Obama nominated United States Circuit Judge Merrick Garland during an election year following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell declared that any nomination made by Obama would be null due to the close proximity of the 2016 election and therefore, the seat was not filled until after Obama’s departure from office. Young Democrats Public Relations officer Margarita Brokhman has used this fact to argue that the vacancy should be filled after the election.

“I believe another justice should be appointed, with hope that they will be a Democrat, to balance the prevalence of both parties,” Brokhman said. “However, Mitch McConnell has stated that SCOTUS judges shouldn’t be appointed during an election year. Knowing this information, and applying it in 2020 rather than 2016, Mitch has been inconsistent with this stance and says a judge should be appointed immediately to ensure Republican majority. In conclusion, it would be fair to both sides if another judge was appointed after the election year.” 

Republicans argue that the filling of the vacancy is constitutional, and that if in the same position, the Democrats would do the same thing. McConnell pointed out that before the 2016 election, the presidency and the Senate weren’t controlled by the same party, and therefore the decision that followed Justice Scalia’s death cannot be used as a precedent. Many Republicans, including Sen. Ted Cruz, also argue that a Supreme Court with eight justices during Election Day would be unideal. Young Conservatives President Jack Whitman uses the Democrats’ reasoning for the filling of Scalia’s seat in 2016 to argue that Ginsburg’s seat should be filled now.

“I think Justice Ginsburg said it best herself,” Whitman said. “‘The president is elected for four years, not three years, so the power he has in year three continues into year four. Basically, Justice Ginsburg insisted that the confirmation of Merrick Garland was necessary and constitutional. The fact that the left has fully reversed course shows that they only care about the Constitution when it is convenient for them.”

Although Democrats have reversed their stance on the filling of a Supreme Court vacancy during an election year from 2016, so have Republicans.

Despite ongoing debate, on September 26, President Trump nominated conservative United States Circuit Judge Amy Coney Barrett to succeed Justice Ginsburg. 

“ACB is an excellent choice. A strict constitutionalist, she has the record and the experience necessary for the job,” Whitman said.

Barrett’s history of cases reflect a conservative voting record on topics including abortion, health care, and gun rights. Her presence on the Supreme Court would push the Court to the right.

“[The impact of the election of] an individual who has sort of a far right leaning or is incredibly conservative is that you would have an individual on the bench, especially if [President Trump] nominates someone young who could, for the next potentially 30 or 40 years, definitely have a more strict and literal interpretation of the Constitution and of precedent setting cases that have come before,” Lane said. “As for what it might mean politically, there could be a significant amount of political fallout and response for trying to push through someone who is very conservative especially if he doesn’t win the election.”

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