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BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - After the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in September, President Trump nominated Circuit Judge Amy Coney Barrett for appointment to replace Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. Often regarded as a conservative jurist, Judge Barrett could solidify a conservative majority on the Court.
With the upcoming election only a few weeks away, many have criticized her rushed nomination. Political opportunism is inevitable in today’s polarized environment, so some students are concerned about Barrett’s potential impact on the Court.
Now that her confirmation hearing has concluded and a decision is forthcoming, students expressed their thoughts on Judge Barrett’s nomination.
Senior Joshua Vaidman voiced concerns about the hypocrisy of the timing of this nomination. He said, “There was a lot of anger when President Obama couldn’t appoint Merrick Garland in 2016, and there is a lot of anger with this nomination. So, President Trump should have to wait, too.”
In 2016, President Obama nominated Circuit Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, but the Republican-held Senate blocked all hearings. With Republicans previously arguing that a President should not appoint anyone during an election year, it is hypocritical that the same politicians would support an appointment today.
Still, Judge Barrett’s nomination is legal, and can be seen as a power play by the Republican Party. Given the political nature of Judge Barrett’s nomination, her appointment may further erode public confidence in the Supreme Court to judge impartially.
The Supreme Court writes opinions that have shaped this nation, as shown in cases like Roe v. Wade, Grutter v. Bollinger, Obergefell v. Hodges, and others. These cases protected a woman’s right to an abortion, upheld affirmative action in college admissions, and granted same-sex couples the right to marry.
At the center of the argument is whether a conservative Supreme Court will overturn more liberal decisions like these when they come before the Court. It’s essential that the Supreme Court completes its duties fairly based on the law, not party line.
Senior Kelly Donfield expressed skepticism towards the current Supreme Court’s ability to properly apply judicial review. “We are living in a politically motivated age. The Court tends to get mixed up in politics, [and] today there is a severe lack of trust in the justices of the Court,” Donfield said.
Not all students share Donfield’s skepticism. Junior Andrew Rampaul-Pino defended the legality of Judge Barett’s nomination and expressed his confidence in the current Supreme Court and Judge Barrett’s judicial philosophy.
Judge Barrett is a proponent of originalism, a legal theory which argues that laws should be interpreted based on the original understanding of the legislators. Based on this theory, judges apply Constitutional law to modern day situations based on what they think the intended meaning of the law was when it was first adopted.
Rampaul-Pino said, “What do I think of Judge Barrett’s originalism? I think this is what the judicial philosophy of all judges should be. Judges are not supposed to be policymakers. What the Constitution meant when it was adopted is what it means today, and its meaning doesn’t change just because we think that meaning is no longer adequate to our times.”
Donfield believes this can lead to unfortunate consequences. “[Then laws] cannot be extended to the problems that exist today that were not as prevalent during the time they were drafted such as LGBTQ+ rights,” she said.
Is a judge’s duty to apply the law as originally understood, or should a judge’s duty extend to practical considerations? Fiercely debated, Judge Barrett’s judicial philosophy adds to the divisive nature of her nomination.
As citizens recognize the impact of the Supreme Court on their lives, many voters on both sides of the political aisle are keeping an eye on the confirmation hearings.
With so much at stake, it is critical to remain aware of our nation’s judiciary and ensure it continues to uphold the law.