Poli-ticks

Arlene Violet: It is wrong to politicize the Supreme Court

By Arlene Violet
Posted 10/2/20

As folks debate whether to retain statues of defeated Confederate generals in the public square, one statue that should be commissioned is that of Ruth Bader Ginsberg. She was a legal pioneer as one …

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Poli-ticks

Arlene Violet: It is wrong to politicize the Supreme Court

Posted

As folks debate whether to retain statues of defeated Confederate generals in the public square, one statue that should be commissioned is that of Ruth Bader Ginsberg. She was a legal pioneer as one of the first women to attend law school and to present reasoned arguments in support of civil rights, including gender equality. Her acute perception in support of the federal regulation of greenhouse gas emissions (Massachusetts vs. Environmental Protection Agency) was a bedrock ruling on rising global temperatures. There is a delicate ballet in law where point is balanced by counterpoint in order to achieve an appropriate synthesis. Gaming the system doesn’t help the public respect the highest court as a nonpartisan body nor does it assist in writing a well-thought-out opinion.

Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress have already sullied that reputation by their antics. Republicans promised a vote on confirmation even before knowing who the candidate was. Democrats promised retaliation by expanding the court and erasing the perceived conservative advantage, also without knowing who would be nominated. President Donald Trump clearly established that he had his own litmus test in selecting a candidate in order to game that his views trumped any independent analysis of law by his nominee, as well as putting in place an ally just in case the election results get kicked upstairs. In the past such litmus tests were eschewed by all sides. Bandying about political priorities in the selection insults and threatens to topple the court’s approval rating of 58 percent as an independent arbiter, a rating far better than that of the executive branch and Congress.

The President has selected Amy Coney Barrett, whom he nominated to the US Court of Appeals in 2017. She has a dearth of opinions. During her confirmation hearing she stated that she would follow Supreme Court precedents, yet she had previously written that judges should not be held to upholding Supreme Court precedents like ROE v. WADE. As a devout Catholic and law professor at Notre Dame, she stylized herself as “a different kind of lawyer,” saying "a legal career is but a means to an end…and that end is building the Kingdom of God."

Democrats will be stymied by challenging her on whether she thinks Christianity is THE WAY to that Kingdom since they cannot appear to be against Catholics. Additionally, any tactics will obliterate the central message of candidate Joe Biden about the mishandling of the coronavirus. As one pundit put it, any minute where democrats are not talking about COVID is a good minute for the President and Republicans. Perhaps the Affordable Care Act (ACA) may lend itself to questioning since people are scared about losing coverage. President Trump recently announced a “health plan” but it was no plan at all. He merely reiterated he wants Congress to pass something that prevents folks with preexisting conditions to be denied coverage, something that the ACA already forbids. Overturning ACA would leave a vacuum of such coverage which threatens to last a long time since republicans haven’t proposed any alternative health plan for years. Any other discussion, including abortion, solidifies Mr. Trump’s base.
The democrats have very little room to stop the appointment, so Judge Coney Barrett looks like a shoo-in.

Arlene Violet is an attorney and former Rhode Island Attorney General.

Arlene Violet

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