Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the Future of the Supreme Court
When Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, notorious defender of gender equality, died last month, her death threw the United States government into more debate and controversy. She died on the same day early voting for the presidential election began in numerous states.
For American Law teacher Rick Rosenberg, Ginsburg showcased just how far dedication can take someone, despite the hurdles society may put in front of them. “Job discrimination, education discrimination: it’s unbelievable the mountains she climbed,” he said.
As a female lawyer, Ginsburg was well familiar with the obstacles that haunted women, especially in the world of education. Despite ranking first in her class and being an editor of Columbia’s Law Review, she was repeatedly denied jobs and opportunities for advancement due to her gender.
According to Kelly Pecak, a Civics and Government teacher, Ginsburg worked with the American Civil Liberties Union, helping to found their Women’s Rights Project in hopes of establishing a legal balance between women and men.
Ginsburg “created standards that were reducing the difference between how women and men were treated by the law,” Pecak said. “So [her work] basically expanded women’s rights even though some of these cases were representing men.”
With Ginsburg’s passing, a position on the Supreme Court opened up for President Trump to nominate a replacement. He nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett on Sept. 26, and it’s Congress’ role to assess the credentials of his nomination, something that has left it in upheaval.
The timing of her nomination has leaders in Washington — and many citizens — at arms. In March 2016, Senate Republicans blocked President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland following the passing of Justice Scalia. Even though there were seven months left before the election and more than 10 months left in Obama’s presidency, the Republicans in the Senate refused to even give him a hearing. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, claimed that “The American people are perfectly capable of having their say on this issue,” arguing that not Obama but the president the American people elect in the following election ought to fill the Supreme Court vacancy. “Let’s let the American people decide,” McConnell said in 2016.
This year, however, McConnell has changed his tune, instead insisting on going through with holding the hearings even though early voting for the presidential election is already underway nation-wide. And with a Republican majority in the Senate, he had little doubt that Barrett would be confirmed, saying, “We have the votes.” And in fact, on October 26, the Senate confirmed Barrett by a slim majority of 52-48, almost entirely along party lines. Her seat on the Supreme Court solidifies a conservative majority in the Judicial Branch, with now 6 of the 9 judges leaning right.
With Barrett’s nomination, “it’s looking like the Supreme Court will tilt right, which will have an impact on a variety of things, such as all of our health care decisions right now,” Pecak predicts. “The question of abortion will be up for grabs as well.”
On Nov. 10, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the Republican-led case seeking to overturn the Affordable Care Act, and Barrett will have a deciding vote. If it is overturned, Americans will lose the mandate that insurance must cover pre-existing conditions, including such things as diabetes, heart conditions, mental illnesses and any lingering effects of COVID-19.
Barrett is an out-spoken critic of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and is similarly critical of the decision made in the landmark case Roe v. Wade which established abortions as a constitutional right of women. As an acting Supreme Court Judge, her decisions might serve an integral part in the reworking of these established precedents in American law.
Regardless of how the future will pan out for Justice Barrett, Rosenberg is cautious regarding how her appointment will affect our present. “I see this nomination, pushing it through in 25 days or less, as political and just another log on the fire of disunity. What we really need to do is come together. I don’t see this as a unifying force, I see it is as one more thing to tear us apart,” he said.