Expert Pitch
Tulane University

Is the judicial selection process broken? Could it imperil our democracy?

29-Sep-2020 5:20 PM EDT, by Tulane University

On September 26, with a little under one month before the presidential election, President Donald Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court of the United States to fill the vacancy left by the recent death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 

While other justices have been approved in presidential election years, none has been voted on after July. Trump stated his motivation to rush the process is centered around his desire to have a fifth justice on his side should there be any disputes with the upcoming presidential election results. 

Four years ago, Senate Republicans refused to consider former President Barack Obama’s nomination to replace Justice Antonin Scalia with Judge Merrick B. Garland on the grounds that it should be left to whoever was chosen as the next president. The new justice would have been announced 237 days prior to Election Day. The Senate Judiciary Committee will begin confirmation hearings on Barrett's nomination on October 12.

 Tulane University political science expert Sally Kenney, the executive director of the Newcomb College Institute, is available to speak about whether a double standard exists between both current and past presidential administrations, as well as that of the Senate confirmation process.

According to Kenney:

“The hypocrisy of senators who refused to act on President Obama’s nominee of Judge Merrick Garland eight months before a presidential election proceeding with haste a few weeks before a presidential election undermines confidence in the integrity of the process. President Obama appointed a 63-year-old moderate in an attempt to find consensus; President Trump has chosen a far-right 48-year-old.”

 “Judge Amy Coney Barrett is as different from Justice Ruth Ginsburg as Justice Clarence Thomas was from Justice Thurgood Marshall. It is not surprising that President Trump is seeking to make good on his promise to appoint justices who will overturn the Affordable Care Act and Roe v. Wade but it is more troubling that he explicitly states he wants to install his person so that the Court will be at full strength should it have to decide the outcome of the election. Our judicial selection process is profoundly broken, and I worry for the rule of law and our democracy more generally.”

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