Senate’s conformation of Amy Coney Barrett and the plausible reshaping of the US Supreme Court.
Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation as a judge of the United States Supreme court on 26th October 2020, after the demise of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was an iconic achievement for President Donald Trump and his congressional counterparts. The confirmation given by the Senate judiciary committee in a 52 – 48 vote has now solidified a 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court just over a week before the scheduled U.S. election on 3rd November 2020.
The appointment of Barrett is said to mark a prominent change in the landscape of US politics since a slew of cases involving constitutional interpretation is said to be heard by the Supreme Court in the upcoming months. To name a few, Barrett may be asked to weigh in on cases that would determine the outcome of a close election and is expected to vote on whether the Affordable Care Act is constitutional soon after she joins the court.
Before understanding in depth the effects of this appointment, let us understand the procedure that the United States follows in appointing Federal, Appellate, and Supreme Court judges.
Unlike in India, wherein a judge who satisfies the eligibility criteria is appointed to the Supreme Court by the President of India in consultation with the Chief Justice, in the United States, Supreme Court justices, the court of appeals judges, and district court judges are nominated by the President and confirmed by the United States Senate, as stated in Article III of the Constitution. The names of potential nominees are often recommended by senators or sometimes by members of the House who are of the President’s political party. The Senate Judiciary Committee usually conducts confirmation hearings for each nominee. In India, the age of retirement for a Supreme Court judge in 65 years and that of a High Court Judge is 62 years, however, in the United States Supreme Court Justices have no prescribed term and serve for life
Elevating the charismatic 48-year-old jurist helps fulfill a longstanding GOP goal of propelling the federal bench into a conservative legal bulwark and build a strong foundation for decades to come. With the clearest pro-life record of any appellate court nominee in a long, Barrett’s appointment also is a major victory for Evangelical Christian groups that have loyally supported Republicans and are an important voting bloc for Trump especially in the swing states of Pennsylvania and Ohio as he heads into Election Day trailing Democrat Joe Biden.
Trump and his GOP allies in the Senate hastily confirmed Barrett, without following the Senate Rules of debate, and it came just 38 days after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who appointed by former president Bill Clinton, for over two decades anchored the court’s liberal wing and countered former Justice Scalia’s attempts to suppress progressive verdicts. Trump had said he wanted his replacement for Ginsburg in place to avoid a deadlocked court should the outcome of the presidential election depend on a ruling, as was the case in 2000.
All Democrats in the Senate voted against Barrett’s confirmation, as did Republicans except for Sen.Susan Collins of Maine, who believed confirming a judge to the bench so close to the elections was unfair
The highly partisan vote on the confirmation reflects the wide divides on social practices in the country leading up to the election and on some of the issues that will be before the high court shortly. To name a few, those issues include the status of the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that noted that abortion falls under the ambit of the right to privacy, as well as voting and civil rights.
Who is Amy Coney Barrett?
Amy Coney Barrett, who hails from South Bend Indiana, served on the 7th circuit Court on Appeals since 2017. She completed her undergraduate degree from Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennesse, and went on to complete her Juris Doctor summa cum laude from the University of Notre Dame, where she also served as a faculty. Her record includes writing a 41-page dissent opinion when the majority upheld a preliminary injunction against the Trump administration’s controversial “public charge rule”, which heightened the standard for obtaining a green card.
As a circuit court judge, she never got an opportunity to rule on an abortion case, however, one important decision that is considered as a hallmark for her unequivocal pro-life stance is her vote against striking down an Indiana law requiring burial or cremation of fetal remains.
Barret, during her Senate confirmation hearings, has repeatedly stated that her political leanings shall never interfere in her policy of abiding by judicial precedents. Another major concern that democrats have is, that Barrett is a staunch regarder of ‘constitutional originality’ and thus will attempt to negate any attempts made at judicial activism. The Republicans have long been known for craftily using their majority at the court to bring about a general shift to the right and only time will tell what legacy shall this appointment leave on American jurisprudence.