SCOTUS Partisanship Relief

Karen J. Kendra

By Karen Kendra

Here we are at the political crossroads----national election season.  As if the country isn’t polarized enough, the appointment of another supreme court justice has taken on an acceleration that leaves the country roiling.

Each presidency considers a chance to place a qualified judge of similar and sometimes extreme ideology on the highest court in the land a victory for their political party.

Since 1869, the Court consists of the Chief Justice of the United States and eight associate justices, all with lifetime tenure.  When a vacancy occurs, the president, with the advice and consent of the senate, appoints a new justice.  Until 1981, the approval process was rapid, but since then, the procedure has taken much longer, primarily because it is believed that Congress sees justices as playing a more political role than in the past.  The process has endured filibuster twice, once by each party, and that process has now been eliminated by the Republican majority. Hearings are becoming adversarial and often conducted as political theater by whichever party is in the minority.

Candidates are assessed on their views of the law, if he or she opines with originalism, textualism, or living constitution; their ideological leanings; and sadly, on whatever controversial cases are expected to be submitted to the court.

My own (perhaps naïve) view is that among the nine justices, there should be three liberals, three conservatives, and three moderates---requiring the current president to appoint an appropriate justice to the empty seat.  Since some retirements from the court can be timed to coincide with the current political mood or party in power, such political theater would be avoided.  I suppose that could only happen when all Americans become less vehemently partisan and the wheels of democracy are better oiled for the common good.