Written By Elijah Smith
The judicial branch of the United States is perhaps the most misunderstood aspect of our government. The judicial branch is a massive system consisting of over 100 courts, over 800 judges, and thousands more employees. Despite this massive system of judicial oversight on the legislative branch, at the end of the day the buck stops with the 9 seats on the Supreme Court of the United States. Since 1869, nine justices have sat on the Supreme Court, exercising judicial review on laws all over the country.
For almost one-fifth of the time since the establishment of the nine-seat court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg served on the court, pioneering a new era of justice and equality under the law. Justice Ginsburg was the second woman to serve on the court, the sixth Jewish justice, and the first ever Jewish woman to serve. Justice Ginsburg passed away on September 18, 2020 at eighty-seven years old after twenty-seven years on the court.
The Constitution of the United States says that the power to select and nominate a candidate to the Supreme Court is granted solely to the President. In order to fill the vacancy opened by Justice Ginsburg’s passing, President Donald Trump announced the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett on September 26, 2020. The Constitution also stipulates that the nomination will only be confirmed with the advice and consent of the Senate, the upper body of the legislative branch.
Amy Coney Barret, a professor at Notre Dame law school, is one of the youngest judges in modern history to be nominated to fill a seat on the Supreme Court. She will, if confirmed, be the first female justice to have school aged children while sitting on the court. Judge Barrett is, according to the American Bar Association “well qualified,” having clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, teaching at Notre Dame Law School as a recognized faculty member for eighteen years, and serving on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
In order to exercise its constitutional duty to examine any candidate in consideration for the Supreme Court, the Senate Judiciary Committee began confirmation hearings on October 12th. The hearings were marked by both sides asking how Judge Barrett would rule on various issues should they arise during her potential tenure. These questions were almost always met by the same answer: “no hints, no previews, no forecasts.” The hearings were a total of three days; the first day was dedicated to introductions and opening statements and the remaining days were dedicated to questions and answers. The committee then recessed for one week in order to deliberate the nominee and her qualifications for the position. They committee is expected to vote today to send the nominee to the full Senate for consideration.
Although it is entirely possible that an unexpected bump arises in Judge Barrett’s confirmation, it is more than likely that Senate Republicans will be able to confirm her with no delay as early as next week. With a 53-47 majority, the Republican caucus theoretically has plenty of room to spare in ACB’s confirmation. However, with another week until the vote, no one can say for certain what will happen.