The jury is out regarding the replacement for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who announced earlier this year that he would be resigning. As of now, President Trump has appointed Judge Brett Kavanaugh to take Kennedy’s seat on the bench and he is in the process of being approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. This concerns many liberals because it would give the conservatives a majority control of the Supreme Court.
Justice Kennedy has served since the Reagan Administration as the “swing justice,” which means he does not always vote in favor of his party’s political agenda. For instance, Justice Kennedy has voted with the other four liberal members of the bench on issues such as gay rights, the death penalty, and abortion. But if Kavanaugh is appointed, the new “swing justice” would be Chief Justice Roberts, who is considerably more conservative. Ultimately, Kavanaugh’s appointment would bring into question previous Supreme Court’s rulings regarding affirmative action, access to abortion, gun control, and the separation of church and state.
However, this problem cannot simply be solved by appointing a liberal to the bench, since Republicans would be up in arms. Unlike previous appointments of Supreme Court Justices, the individual who takes Kennedy’s seat would give either the Democrats or the Republicans majority control of the bench. For past appointments, a liberal has taken a liberal’s seat, and conservative has taken a conservative’s seat, in order to maintain an equilibrium.
As if this appointment wasn’t controversial enough, Brett Kavanaugh has been accused of sexual assault by Christine Blasey Ford. Of course, Kavanaugh “categorically, and unequivocally” denied these allegations and has proclaimed them as false. However, the 10 Democrat members of the Judiciary Committee have already urged the chairman to postpone the vote until they have a full picture of the events. Similarly, in 1991 Justice Clarence Thomas was accused of sexually assaulting Anita Hill, however, he was able to gain a seat on the bench because of circumstantial evidence. This turn of events may eliminate Kavanaugh from becoming the next Justice on the bench and would cause the Trump Administration to nominate a new individual.
This appointment, however, is on a clock because mid-term elections are around the corner, where many political pollsters believe that a “blue wave” may be approaching: the Democrats taking control of both Houses of Congress. If Kavanaugh does not get voted in before new Congressmen and women take their seats, then a Democrat would most likely take Kennedy’s position of the bench, making the ideological center of the Supreme Court much more liberal.
However, it is possible that Judge Kavanaugh could be the moderate that the Supreme Court needs, which is evident in some of his statements in the Judiciary Committee’s hearing on Sept. 4.
“My judicial philosophy is straightforward. A judge must be independent and must interpret the law, not make the law. A judge must interpret statutes as written. A judge must interpret the Constitution as written, informed by history and tradition and precedent,” said Kavanaugh.
This shows that Kavanaugh is willing to be a swing vote and that he will respect precedents, that is, the previous Supreme Court’s decisions. However, many Democrats detest the idea of Kavanaugh sitting on the bench because he still is a conservative. For instance, Democrats were protesting during his hearing, saying that the White House had withheld information regarding Kavanaugh’s work during the Bush administration. This distrust between parties highlights a much larger problem within the American government, the polarization of political parties, and this appointment process has intensified the issue.
Ultimately, the Supreme Court appointment has become a game of political tug of war between the Republicans and Democrats, and only time will tell who’s stronger and who will gain the majority on the bench.
James Cook // Sports Editor