It’s the Fourth of July, so Americans are busy celebrating the founding of our country–squeezed in somewhere between going to the beach, grilling out and shopping red, white and blue sales. What all those activities have to do with the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. I’m not sure. What I am sure of is that most citizens have a good grasp on our country’s inception (Boo King George! Yea George Washington!), but they are uniformed about, and perhaps uninterested in, current events affecting our government..
The revered Declaration of Independence begins with the words “When in the course of human events it becomes necessary….” Back in 1776 it was necessary for the colonists to get out from under British rule. Fast forward to 2018. The British are out and so is a sitting United States Supreme Court Justice. Anthony Kennedy, the tie-breaking voter on some of the court’s biggest cases, has announced his retirement at the end of this month. Please raise your hand if this situation is the #1 topic at the water cooler at work. I thought not.
Sadly, most Americans don’t even have a grasp of what SCOTUS is much less what’s going on there. The Supreme Court of the United Status (edgily referred to as SCOTUS) is the highest federal court in the country and is in the judicial branch of our government. It is composed of nine justices who may collectively be referred to as the Supremes, but the group has nothing to do with singing. The members of the court are not elected (that would apparently be too political); justices are nominated by POTUS (President of the United States) and confirmed by the Senate (SOTUS?).
Even though SCOTUS is not a political body, a big political battle is brewing because the next justice confirmed will have the opportunity to shift the court to the right for some time to come. Upon Justice Kennedy’s retirement,, the remaining eight justices will be split between four liberals and four conservatives, i.e., a Mexican–er, American–standoff. Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayer and Ruth Bader Ginsberg were Democratic (liberal) nominees and John Roberts, Neil Gorsuch, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas were Republican (conservative) nominees. President Trump, being a Republican and a conservative, is going to appoint a conservative. But whomever he appoints has to get past the Senate which is composed of a good number of Democrats/liberals. Prepare for a rumble on Capitol Hill!
A justice confirmed now will be able to exert influence for many years. Justices have a lifetime tenure, so once a justice is on the bench, the country is stuck with him until he dies or retires. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, age 85 and a liberal, may die with her robe (not her boots) on because she does not want to allow the current conservative president the chance to replace her with a conservative justice. President Trump has already been through this process once when he nominated conservative Neil Gorsuch
The president’s nominee is to be announced on July 9th, the day before President Trump leaves for a presidential trip to Europe. Twenty-five people are on his consideration list, all but one of whom are judges; the odd man out is Utah Sen. Mike Lee, an attorney and former assistant U.S.Attorney. So far, so good. The President is astutely considering only those with judicial (and in the case of Sen. Lee, legal) experience.
News reports indicate that there is now a shortlist of candidates. While it is uncertain who will be chosen, it is clear that Trump’s choice will be someone who can “serve for decades,” i.e.., someone relatively young. Trump may be in office for only a few short years, but he can leave a living legacy on the bench in the Supreme Court building.
A frontrunner is said to be Judge Amul Thapar, a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge. Thapar is appealing because he would be the first American of Indian or Asian descent to receive a nomination. Amy Coney Barrett, another federal appellate judge and former Notre Dame law professor, is also a top contender. Sure there are already women on the court, but do any of them have seven children like she does? Are large families appropriately represented on the high court? Being PC is all well and good, but this is the highest court of the land, so perhaps we should just aim to select the best qualified candidate regardless of race, gender, nationality descent, size of family, etc.
SCOTUS is in summer recess, but a judicial decision, i.e., confirmation of the newest SCOTUS justice, is expected before the first Monday in October, the day the high court traditionally reconvenes after its summer recess. For the time being, all eyes will be on a decision about SCOTUS rather than from SCOTUS. No matter who is added to the high bench, Americans should be interested in what’s going on with SCOTUS every day, not just on July 4th. Regularly exercise your independence by staying in the know about SCOTUS.
JUST WONDER-ing: Before your read this post, how many of the nine SCOTUS justices could you name? Were you aware that Justice Kennedy had retired? Did you already know what the acronym SCOTUS stands for?