The Passing of a Remarkable Justice and What That Means For The Judiciary

Posted on 09/21/20

Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Friday at the age of 87 of complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer, according to a statement released by the Supreme Court. Ginsburg reshaped the meaning of jurisprudence as a women’s advocate and upholding the rights of millions. Notoriously becoming a cultural and political icon in the United States, Ginsburg’s impact on American freedoms will be remembered.

2020 has been a year filled with extraordinary events ranging from the impeachment of President Trump, the coronavirus pandemic, and severe economic collapse. The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg will have lasting implications on the 2020 elections, which is just 45 days away. With the election just around the corner, the Supreme Court nomination will dominate the political debate shuttering out the various issues. Whatever political side you’re on, this historic moment will have lasting impacts on the ideological makeup of our court system for decades. Before Ginsburg’s death, the court leaned Republican, standing at 5-4. With Ginsburg’s passing and a seat becoming available, the President and Senate Republicans could appoint a nominee securing a third nominee in just less than four years.

In 2016, Obama nominee Merrick Garland failed to even be heard by Senate Republicans after the death of Anton Scalia. Senate Republicans will have to decide if the actions taken in 2016 will also fall into place for this election. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell argued back in 2016 that the American public should be able to choose the next supreme court justice, not a lame-duck president. The “McConnell Rule” faced criticism by Democrats but it was an astonishing sign of strength on behalf of Senate Republicans. Although the rule wouldn’t apply for the newly open seat as the rule explicitly states that if the Senate and Presidency were of the same party, the nomination could occur

Historically, just two supreme court vacancies happened closer to the election. Both Presidents nominated and confirmed those nominees when they won reelection. Unsurprisingly, as the tables have turned, McConnell has now argued that President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote, while Democrats are pushing for the next presidential term. Whatever happens, the implications that follow will be severe. As Democrats accuse Republicans or court-packing, Democrats may continue to float the idea of pushing for additional seats on the Supreme Court. The idea, although controversial, surfaced after the 2016 Merrick Garland debacle.

With the election looming, the nominee Trump chooses would have to be moderate enough and diverse enough to ensure that white suburban women and moderates as a whole would go for the pick. If Trump chooses an extremely conservative nominee, Democratic enthusiasm as a counter vote against Republican senators and the president will be high. One of the most decisive elections in modern American history is likely to become tenser. As Americans, it’s your choice in the country you want to live in. Whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, we are all Americans. Through these challenging times, our firm calls for unity. If we continue to lead down the path of hate, our liberties and freedoms will be in jeopardy.