President Trump’s Supreme Court Justice Pick

Morgan Minkler and Kaushikee Nayudu

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Why should you care …

The Supreme Court is the final judge in all legal cases and the final judgment on the foundation of our country – the Constitution. The Supreme Court holds the power of judicial review; this means that it holds the power to compare acts of Congress, the Executive Branch, and state governments with the Constitution. This, in turn, means that the court holds the power to overturn any act undertaken by the other branches of the United States’ government. The Supreme Court consists of nine justices nominated by the acting president and approved by Congress. Unlike other civil servants, Supreme Court justices are elected until they choose to retire, or expire, adding further weight to the importance of these nominations.     

 

Prior to the nomination …

   Towards the end of the Obama administration, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a strong conservative, passed away leaving a vacancy on the Supreme Court. Republicans arguing that the right to fill the seat belonged to the next president refused to consider the Obama administration’s proposed nominee Merrick Garland. This action enraged Democrats, and even before the announcement of Donald Trump’s nominee Democrats swore to filibuster the Senate hearings for the nominee, and do everything in their power to prevent his/her ascension to the Supreme Court. In response to such assertions by the Democrats Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took the floor on Monday declaring that “The Senate should respect the result of the election and treat this newly elected president’s nominee in the same way that nominees of newly elected presidents have been treated, and that is with careful consideration, followed by an up-or-down vote.” Such an up-or-down vote would be a safe move for the GOP given their majority in the Senate. Should the Democrats stage a filibuster, however, the nominee would require sixty votes to be approved. Donald Trump took to Twitter soon after encouraging Republican senators “to go nuclear” in order to prevent Democratic blockades, or rewrite the rules to pass the nominee with a simple majority.

 

The nominee …

   On Tuesday, January 31st, 2017 Donald Trump turned the East Room of the White House into a television studio in a dramatic reveal of his Supreme Court nominee. Trump declared that he would hold true to his campaign promises of electing a Conservative justice in his eyes deserving of Scalia’s seat. As the nation tensely watched he announced his nomination, Neil Gorsuch.

For republicans, Neil Gorsuch was the present they had been waiting for. With a strong legal background and clear conservative ideals Gorsuch fulfilled the GOP’s hopes. Some have described Gorsuch to be the echo of former justice Scalia. There have been some who argue that Gorsuch is the best Democrats could’ve hoped for. Unlike Scalia, Gorsuch holds the belief that his opinions are worth defending, and is know to make efforts to persuade the public of his values and opinions. Gorsuch published a book on euthanasia & assisted suicide presents the expected conservative stance on the topic, but also presents an unexpectedly rational and persuasive defense. The truth remains that Gorsuch is a strict constitutionalist, whose ideals and opinions are reminiscent of Scalia.

 

What comes next …

   Though Republicans are in quite the rush to get Gorsuch approved, there is a lengthy process ahead of the Supreme Court hopeful. This process can be broken down into five main steps:

  1. Referral to the judiciary committee – A committee of eleven Republican and nine Democrats will make the primary approval of Trump’s nominees. Given that it takes a simple majority for approval there’s not much Democrats can do beyond voicing their disapproval, at this stage.
  2. Pre-hearing research – Prior to the confirmation hearing both Republican and Democratic committee members will conduct extensive research into the nominee’s background. The nominee will complete an extensive questionnaire which will be created by the highest ranking members of the aforementioned committee. Traditionally, during this time the nominee will begin interacting with senators and other politicians.
  3. Confirmation hearing – For several days committee members will directly question the nominee and outside witnesses. They may also submit written questions for the nominee’s response.
  4. Committee vote – The committee will vote on whether or not to approve the nominee, and submit a recommendation to the Senate.
  5. Full Senate vote – This is the portion where things begin to get complicated. The Democrats can force Republicans to gather sixty votes in the Senate for the nominee’s confirmation. Given that there are fifty-two Republicans in the Senate, Democrats can “filibuster” the confirmation as long as less than eight Democrats are in favor of Trump’s nominee. But – it only takes 51 votes in the Senate to employ the nuclear option, and rewrite the rules. While this seems to make a Republican win easy, the Republicans may not have the vote.  Senator Susan Collins of Maine has already said that the Republicans can’t count on her vote, declaring Monday evening that it is her hope “that common sense will prevail and that we will have a normal process for considering this nominee.” Of course, Vice President Pence could supply the 51st vote for Republicans to invoke this so-called nuclear option. Nonetheless, without Collins on board the Republicans can only afford to lose one vote.

Let’s assume that Gorsuch is confirmed as many expect him to be. Then what? Well, the answer to that question comes not in the form of Gorsuch, but from another Supreme Court justice, Anthony Kennedy. Kennedy is the middle ground on the Court, though typically conservative he has swung over to the liberal side on certain cases. Kennedy has hired aides for the coming October, but several still speculate that he is considering retirement. If he stays the balance on the court returns will return to what it was during Scalia’s lifetime, but should he leave giving Trump room for another nomination the court will then presumably have a strong Conservative majority, undoubtedly for several decades.

 

The voices of Dublin High School …

Prior to and following the nomination many students and faculty addressed their opinions and concerns about this prevalent issue.

 

“I would hope that Donald Trump would pick somebody who would correctly interpret the Constitution, so his Supreme Court pick would not support his or a Republican agenda but rather the people’s agenda. I’m a little concerned right now because the Republicans control the House, the Senate and the presidency and I would hate to see it be even more imbalanced if a Supreme Court judge who is not fair to all people is confirmed and appointed… I’m just concerned about the direction that the country is going in.”

– Mrs. Lea, French Teacher

 

“ As someone with several LGBTQ+ friends, I’m concerned that whoever this guy is he’s going to end up repealing a lot of important human rights” – Michelle Morris, Freshman

 

“I’m glad to hear the nominee has experience in the Supreme Court and is aware of how the Judicial system works. His experience makes him an extremely qualified candidate to assume this position”

– Freshman

 

“Judge Gorsuch should clarify his position on women’s rights, specifically their right to access and [to] determine their own reproductive health care” – Junior

 

“We should be concerned if the nominee will uphold religious freedom respected by all Americans [that] has been valued for what centuries now, as he has a history of prioritizing religious beliefs over equal rights” – Senior