Skyler Simpkins ’23
The judicial branch should stand above the partisan polarization plaguing our legislatures and executives. It should stand as a bastion of justice and legal precedents defining the difference between what is fair and what your idealogy supports. In our heavily polarized system, driven by politicians’ desire for continued power, our judicial system has become a plank in the platform of politicians trying to please the American people with promises of judicial change. This fundamentally disrupts our crucial system of checks and balances by making justices tantamount to public policy. Because of this, the selection of justices has become increasingly polarized to match the opinion of the politician appointing them and therefore satisfying the demands of the politician’s constituents. We see this phenomenon today with the recent death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginesburg. While most jump to opinions based upon political preference, I believe this opinion on replacing Justice Ginsburg should exclude partisanship and focus on the omnipotence of constitutional and legal justice partitioned in our constitution to the judicial system.
Unfortunately, our judicial system has never been immune to the cries of the constituents and the promises of politicians. One of the first prominent cases in American legal history was Marbury v. Madison, a dispute created from political jealousy amidst a transition of power from one party to another. Perhaps the founders hopes of the judiciary being free from the partisan plague were optimistic, but I believe there is still time to change this dynamic and to pull our judiciary from the hands of bureaucracy and popular opinion. We should judge judicial nominees by their history in establishing just legal precedents and upholding our constitutional rights not by their conformation to popular political values. With the confirmation hearing for Amy Coney Barrett commencing today, I believe it is incredibly important to establish the guidelines in which we are judging these candidates.
Since President Trump has nominated Barrett, our country has seen an outcry of hatred from the left and admiration from the right, but Supreme Court justices should not be judged from the one that nominated them. We should judge nominated justices as we should judge anyone else: by their individual actions and motivations. It is unfair to assume that Amy Coney Barrett will hold all of the beliefs of Donald Trump; while she has a conservative record. We need to view her as an individual woman, not as a Trumpian Republican defined by the president’s views on policy.
In response to concerns about confirmation in the midst of a presidential election, I believe we should continue the judicial confirmation process regardless of what political process is co-occurring. In this, I believe President Trump has the right and should nominate a new justice for the Supreme Court; accordingly, I believe former President Obama had the right to nominate a justice in the place of Antonin Scalia. While both presidents have nominated in the time right before an election, the split legislature ensured that no nominee could make it through the confirmation hearings. The legislative branch is truly where we see the chaos surrounding partisan polarization, but how can we ensure that partisanship is put aside in judicial confirmation hearings? This a process that will take time, as we have to separate political polarization, an ingrained part of policy-making from legislative responsibilities. The only way to change their way of thinking is to challenge their most loved possession: political power. We, as their constituents, should challenge them to think without divisiveness, to judge the individual by their own actions, not those of the political party in which they identify. We should remind our legislators what the judicial branch is responsible for. We should encourage them to protect legal philosophy from becoming plagued by political partisanship. If we continue to fail to confront partisanship, our federal governmental system will become increasingly divided and unproductive. When landslide victories occur for either party, we will begin to see the formation of a political system unrestrained by checks and balances. For the sanctity of our government, we must stop political polarization by encouraging individual judgement separate from our cherished party affiliation and raise our voices in support of bipartisan cooperation and compromise.