One of the biggest questions in the nation today is how to replace a supreme court justice. Justices are increasingly choosing to time their retirement, waiting for a Republican president to select their replacement. For example, Justice Anthony Kennedy retired in 2018 to give Trump the power to pick his successor. In contrast, Justices Breyer and Ginsburg were under intense political pressure to step down, but their timing backfired.
Thomas is the longest-serving associate justice
The first black man to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, Thomas earned his undergraduate degree in English from the College of Holy Cross in Massachusetts and his law degree from Yale Law School in 1974. Thomas voted largely with the conservative wing of the court, agreeing with conservative Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch more than 80% of the time during the 2020 term. Thomas grew up in a Catholic family, and his father left the family when he was a young boy. His mother, Leola Anderson Thomas, struggled to support her family and was forced to enroll the child in an all-white seminary. Her father left the family when she was just three years old and the young Clarence was sent to live with her maternal grandparents. While in the seminary, Thomas began working for a legal career, and eventually worked for a law
While on the supreme court, Thomas has been controversial for his judicial opinions. He has often sided with the police. In two recent cases, he upheld the constitutionality of random searches of parolees and extracurricular students. In another case, he dissented in Georgia v. Randolph, which barred the use of search warrants without a warrant. In this case, Thomas argued that the ruling was not based on the original Constitution, but on the Coolidge v. New Hampshire case.
In addition to his role as the longest-serving associate justice on the Supreme Court, Thomas also is the second-oldest justice on the bench. He was appointed by President H.W. Bush in 1991 to replace the late Thurgood Marshall, who had served on the court for four decades. Thomas is considered to be the most conservative of the eight associate justices since the last 70 years and often votes with the Chief Justice Rehnquist.
As the only African American on the court, Thomas has an unusual set of views. In recent years, he has been accused of sexual harassment by Anita Hill and has spoken publicly about living on a barge off GITMO. In addition to his career in the law, Thomas has held numerous positions in the government, including being the chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces workplace discrimination laws.
Scalia declined to step down
Antonin Scalia, the last of the six founding justices of the United States Supreme Court, has declined to resign from the bench. His conservative jurisprudence and adherence to originalism led him to take a number of controversial legal positions, many of which conflicted with his own political views. His lone dissent in Morrison v. Olson defined the constitutional right to confrontation in a criminal case. In addition, he was highly critical of affirmative action and special protection for minorities under the law.
Scalia’s nomination to the Supreme Court was a testament to an era in American history. In the era before the nomination of William Bork, presidents were thought to have wide latitude in naming their justices. The failure of the Bork nomination reflected the end of this era. Justice Scalia was a former colleague of Bork on the D.C. Circuit. This led to some controversy regarding Scalia’s comments in Bush v. Gore, the unsigned opinion that essentially handed the presidency to George W. Bush. In response to the unsigned opinion, Scalia wrote a concurring opinion.
Despite the intense public scrutiny, Justice Scalia remained steadfast in his decision to retire. During his tenure as a Supreme Court justice, he had accumulated the highest number of judicial citations for cases involving discrimination. His judicial career spanned seven decades. Although he remained a stalwart of American law, he declined to step down from the Supreme Court.
While many Supreme Court justices recuse themselves from cases, the majority of these are voluntary and not in response to a petition from a litigant. These recusals rarely contain long, detailed rationales. Justice Scalia disclosed new details about his trip to Louisiana with Vice President Cheney three weeks after the court decided to take the case. He also revealed that he had never hunted in the same blind as Vice President Cheney before.
A third Supreme Court nominee was in the works, but the confirmation fight over Antonin Scalia’s replacement has exposed the Republican willingness to block a Democrat’s choice of successor. The Senate refused to consider President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, and filled the vacancy with Republican Neil Gorsuch. In addition, Republicans lowered the threshold vote requirement to a simple majority, denying Democrats the opportunity to shift the balance of the court.
Ginsburg declined to step down during Obama’s second term in office
A number of conservative justices have announced their retirement or are nearing retirement age. If Ginsburg had stepped down during Obama’s second term as president, a conservative majority would have ruled, but an ideological battle would ensue. This is because Ginsburg is a woman and the court is heavily conservative. She also has trouble sleeping in public, so Justice Sonia Sotomayor had to wake her up. Ginsburg is not able to sleep at a reasonable hour, and her retirement plans are complicated by this issue.
Despite a lack of support from Democrats, Ginsburg stayed on the court for the entirety of Obama’s second term, denying Democrats the chance to nominate a younger, more liberal justice to fill her seat. The death of Ginsburg makes the political situation on the court more volatile than it was before. However, her legacy will last far beyond her retirement, and the political situation will undoubtedly remain complex.
Despite the political risks, Ginsburg has embraced her celebrity status and been immortalized in children’s books. She has even appeared on SNL, helped with a CNN documentary, and lent her face to merchandise. She has made great use of her celebrity status. While she has been working in her new role as a pop culture icon, she has avoided allowing her celebrity to overshadow her contributions to society.
The Supreme Court has historically been very conservative, and the Republicans’ dominance of the presidency from 1969 to 2009 was unprecedented. The Republicans controlled the Supreme Court for nearly two decades, while the Democrats controlled only a quarter of the federal appeals courts. Today, the Democratic Party controls nine of the thirteen circuit courts. In fact, as many as 70 Obama nominees are confirmed, the current political climate may be in a more conservative one than ever before.
While President Obama has made the courts a priority, he has had mixed results in his attempts to influence the court. Presidents Bush and George W. Bush emphasized the importance of “strictly applying” the law and eliminating racial preferences. The conservative agenda included limiting abortion rights and lowering barriers between church and state. However, the president has been trying to distance himself from the ideological battle and has instead focused on the competence and integrity of judges he has nominated.
Scalia’s replacement will change the balance of power on the court
The vacancy created by Scalia’s retirement will change the balance of power on the Supreme Court. As a conservative jurist, Scalia voted to gut the Voting Rights Act and deregulated political campaigns in Citizens United, as well as to halt the recount in the 2000 Florida election. His controversial opinions took on an increasingly ugly edge over the past several years, and he may have cost his alliance with Sandra Day O’Connor. His friendship with Ruth Badinsburg never won her vote.
President Trump’s selection of a successor to Antonin Scalia will change the balance of power on the Supreme Court. The Senate will no longer be the sole decision maker in confirming a new Supreme Court justice. During the 2016 election, the Senate vowed not to confirm a presidential nominee until after the election. That meant no new nominees for justice in the Republican Party. This means a stalemate will persist.
Despite the partisan divide, the four remaining justices are ideologically close and often vote together. The fifth liberal vote comes from Anthony M. Kennedy, who has become a popular swing vote in recent years. If Scalia’s replacement is confirmed, the court will experience the biggest ideological shift since 1991, creating a liberal majority. That shift would change the way American law and life is governed. If Justice Scalia were to be confirmed, many precedents would be at risk, including the Second Amendment, religious freedom, and abortion rights.
Having a conservative on the Supreme Court could create a battle between the three branches of government in 2016. It would also put Republican candidates in tight races in a bad position if they were holding up the Scalia nomination. As a result, conservatives in the Senate may end up losing their majority in the Senate. Further, there is a significant risk that the Supreme Court will decide several cases with massive political implications. The decision on abortion could determine the outcome of the next presidential election.
The appointment of a conservative may also change the ideological balance among the Justices. With Scalia’s departure, the conservative movement’s effort to slay public sector employee unions in the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case will be delayed. Instead, it is likely to end in a tie and confirm a lower court decision that affirmed the union rights of teachers.