The passing of RBG - What's next for the Supreme Court?

BY CHLOE CAMPBELL-HAMILTON


Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a titan of law and symbol of feminism, died on the 18th September 2020, sparking a widely controversial debate over the future of the US Supreme Court. The iconic and ‘notorious RBG’ served as a role model for many, challenging gender barriers and discriminatory laws for the duration of her legal life. With her tragic passing, the balance of the Supreme Court will now shift firmly to the right if Trump’s nominee Amy Coney Barrett is approved by the Senate. 

But what’s next? Is Amy Coney Barret a woman every liberal should fear? Will Covid-19 benefit the Democrat attempts to delay the Senate vote as the virus strikes top Republican leaders? As November 3rd approaches, chaos continues in the highest levels of the US justice and political systems. 


But first, let’s talk RBG. She was one of the nine women accepted out of a class of 500 at Harvard Law and famously was forced to justify why she should take the place of a male law candidate. After transferring to Columbia Law in her final year, she became the first woman to contribute to both University law reviews, all while raising a family and supporting her husband throughout cancer treatments. No stranger to adversity, RBG was clearly a woman with achievements that would put any bragging multi-tasker to shame. However, despite graduating with prestige, she struggled to gain legal work on the basis of her sex. The world of law was simply ‘not ready’ for women. After years of teaching at law schools, she eventually tackled the US Supreme Court and established the American Civil Liberties Union’s Women’s Rights Project in 1971. Strategic, disciplined and undeterred, she used primarily male clients to appeal to an exclusively male legal audience, demonstrating how gender discrimination effects all members of society. She eventually gained nominations to the US Court of Appeals and was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1993 by President Bill


Clinton, making her the second ever woman to attain the Supreme Court Justice position. As an infamous justice, she legalised the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, and enabled the legalisation of same-sex marriage in all fifty states. Sounds impressive? You Bader believe it.  A true legal and feminist visionary turned pop-icon; she will be sorely missed by liberal America for her victories in championing the rights of women and minorities. 


But for now, should we worry about the future of the Supreme Court? Absolutely. It is the highest court in the land and has the power of judicial review, ensuring each branch of government recognises the limits of its own power. It protects civil rights and liberties, striking down laws that violate the constitution. In essence, the court serves to make sure that changing views of society do not undermine the fundamental values common to all Americans. Clearly, very, very important. 


Trump’s nominee, recently announced as Amy Coney Barrett, is the definition of a true nightmare, turned reality for Democrats in America. If approved by the Senate, conservative-leaning justices will hold a 6-3 majority in the Supreme Court for the foreseeable future, as Supreme Court justices hold their positions for life. A devout Catholic, Judge Barrett is likely to vote to suppress access to abortion rights, expand gun rights for all Americans and vote against Obamacare, which is set to be reviewed in November. RBG served as a counterbalance to the Republican-leaning Supreme Court, largely speaking out against her colleagues which consisted of Trump nominees Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch. Without her fiery dissents and critiques, Republican views are likely to triumph and shape the future of American society to Democrat dismay. 


The Senate has announced that it will honour Trump’s nomination and hold a hearing. Why are Democrats so angry about this? Republican senators refused to hold a confirmation hearing for Obama’s nomination for Merrick Garland, on the basis that his nomination fell too close to the 2016 election date.  Garland was nominated by Obama 237 days before the 2016 election, Ginsburg sadly has died 46 days before the election this year. With party-politics and political hypocrisy that likely shocks no-one, the issue of the timing of the vote continues to be debated. 


Democrats now face a tricky road ahead. After Trump, his wife, Senators and numerous White House staff have contracted Covid-19, decisions may be delayed in the Senate. Democrats have appealed to delay all Senate proceedings due to confirmed cases in the Republican party. The recent illnesses may well play in Democrat favour and delay a quick confirmation that the Republicans desire. Republicans seek to push through with the nomination due to the risks associated with a loss of power in the Senate after the upcoming election. If Trump loses this November, it will be harder for Republican senators to push the nomination through in the ‘lame-duck’ season before Biden could enter office in January 2021.  


For the Democrats, tactics have changed. Previously, the focus was on undermining Judge Barrett, without seeming to attack her faith or personal background, as this could risk turning away middling or potential Democrat voters on election day. However, now Covid-19 concern is the most-likely path to success. Democrats could even refuse to show up to the congressional hearing, denying Republicans the right number of lawmakers required to fulfil the nomination procedure. 


The future remains uncertain for the Supreme Court and US justice system. As the Covid-19 continues to rampage through the USA and election season fast-approaches, the upcoming months are sure to bring more decisive party-power plays. 


Image - Unsplash.



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