We are on the verge of a decision that will affect the country’s political landscape in the coming decades: the selection of a new Supreme Court justice.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, 81, announced that he will leave his post after more than 30 years of serving on the country’s highest court. This will give President Donald Trump the opportunity to nominate a conservative judge, thus tilting the balance in that direction.
Until now the Supreme Court has been split between four liberal judges who were nominated by Democratic presidents, four conservative judges, nominated by Republican administrations, and Kennedy. Because of his moderate positions, Kennedy has been considered the deciding vote in many high-profile cases analyzed by this court such as abortion, affirmative action to guarantee equal opportunities, the rights of homosexuals, the possession of weapons, the financing of political campaigns, and voters’ rights.
The Court is made up of a Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices, who are appointed by the White House and confirmed by the Senate. The judges appointed to the court serve for life and can only be dismissed by Congress through an impeachment process.
There is a high probability that the judge who will replace Kennedy will be confirmed this fall, as Republicans have a steady majority in the Senate.
Analysts think the other two older judges, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 85, and Stephen Breyer, 79 (who are liberal) will try not to retire during the Trump administration.
Just before the announcement of Kennedy’s retirement, in this last session of the Supreme Court, we could already get an idea of how this organization will function with a conservative slant.
On June 25, the Supreme Court rejected the decision of a lower court, which claimed that Republican lawmakers in North Carolina drew congressional district boundaries to ensure unequal electoral victories in favor of their party.
On June 26, the Supreme Court upheld President Trump’s travel ban that limits entry into the United States for people from some Muslim-majority countries. Thus, they rejected the claim that it discriminated against people of that religion and that the president exceeded his authority.
On June 27, the Court also dealt a devastating blow to public sector unions when it ruled that workers are not obligated to pay “agency fees” if they do not wish to be members of a union.
The Kennedy nomination in 1987 was remarkably bipartisan. It was proposed by Republican President Ronald Reagan and won a strong favorable vote by a Democrat-controlled Senate, which months earlier had rejected Reagan’s first choice: Robert Bork.
Today the country is deeply divided. We hope not to be overly optimistic and dream that, just as the process of naming Kennedy was bipartisan, a judge will be appointed who does not have a clear political tendency, but who faithfully adheres to respecting the Constitution.