The Pursuit of American Justice
Updated: Oct 7, 2020
To avoid an ideologically fractious Supreme Court and to have impartial, fair, and unbiased legal experts as judges, the American public will need to have a conversation on judicial reforms and find a solution.
Written by: Jeffrey Ram, Toronto, Canada, October 6, 2020
The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has led to a political storm. Judge Amy Coney Barrett has been nominated by President Trump to be the new Supreme Court judge. Senate is required to confirm her nomination. The Democrats want the Senate to wait till the November elections. Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate. The outraged Democrats can delay the confirmation, but they cannot stop it.
How is a U.S. Supreme Court Judge appointed?
The President nominates a judge, and the Senate holds a hearing and then confirms or rejects the nomination. The confirmation requires a simple majority.
In 2016, Republicans blocked the confirmation of Democratic President Obama's nominee for the court 237 days before the election. Republicans had the majority in the Senate. They argued that the President should not appoint a justice in an election year. But now, with less than 40 days until the November election, Republicans agreed to consider Judge Barrett's nomination for confirmation.
Why is this issue so important?
The Supreme Court is the highest court of appeal. It is often the final word on highly controversial laws and disputes between states and the federal government. The Supreme Court's opinions can also create precedents, directing other judges to follow their interpretation in similar cases.
The court's nine justices are appointed for life, and Judge Barrett's confirmation will shift the court's ideological balance sharply favoring the conservatives with a 6-3 majority.
The Democrats fear that this will threaten the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and the significant 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion legal in the U.S. The LGBT community is concerned that the Supreme Court might overturn their right to same-sex marriage.
How might Democrats respond?
If Judge Barrett is confirmed and Biden and the Democrats win in the November elections, they would undoubtedly take some countermeasures. These may include increasing the number of justices to 15 and giving statehood and congressional representation to the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. There are also proposals to fix retirement age for judges and put term limits on individual justices or each seat.
The U.K. keeps politics away.
An independent commission nominates the justices to the 12-member Supreme Court in the U.K., which keeps the politics away.
U.S. Justices are for life.
The U.S. Supreme Court justices have lifetime appointments. In the U.K., Supreme Court justices retire at 75. Other Western European countries also have a fixed retirement age. In Germany and Switzerland, the top judges retire at the age of 68. In Canada, the mandatory retirement age of Supreme Court justices is 75.
The President also appoints other judges.
Beside Supreme Court justices, the U.S. president also nominates court of appeals judges and district court judges. The Senate confirms them. All these judicial officers are appointed for life.
The Reasonable and Common Sense Qualifications
Ideally, the justices should be impartial, fair, unbiased, just, equitable, righteous, and merciful. They should also have legal expertise, sound judgment, discernment, and considerable experience.
Unfortunately, in the U.S. system, the primary qualification for appointment as justice is for the nominee to lean in the direction of the President's ideology and politics. The U.S. Constitution has no minimum qualification requirements for a Supreme Court justice or a federal judge.
The confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett will not settle the dispute in the politically divided American society. Justice should be the common concern of all Americans. To avoid an ideologically fractious Supreme Court and to have impartial, fair, and unbiased legal experts as judges, the American public will need to have a conversation on judicial reforms and find a solution. Otherwise, politically biased appointments of judges and politically subjective judgments of federal courts will continue, thereby negatively impacting the pursuit of American justice.
Blessing: May God Bless You, Your Family and Friends, and Make You A Blessing to Others.
(Reform Advocate/ World blog is published on the Tuesday of the first week every month)
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