The Supreme Court has Always Been Political
Article from For Liberty by Norm Leahy.
With the partisan lines firmly established for and against Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, the old concerns the court has become too tangled-up in politics, hurting its legitimacy, have returned.
The Cato Institute’s Ilya Shapiro writes that such worries are misplaced. The court, Shapiro says, has always been political, and there has never been a golden age when merit, alone, guided court appointments:
From the beginning of the republic, presidents have picked justices for reasons that include balancing regional interests, supporting policy priorities and providing representation to key constituencies.
Whether looking to candidates’ partisan labels or “real” politics, they’ve tried to find people in line with their own political thinking, and that of their party and supporters. Even in the earliest days, it was rare for someone to be on the Supreme Court short list of presidents from different parties.
Look at the judicial battles of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, with the Midnight Judges Act — the original court‐packing — as well as Jefferson’s failed attempts to appoint justices to counter the great Federalist John Marshall (whom Adams had appointed in the lame‐duck session after losing his bid for reelection).
In the years that followed, when U.S. politics was defined by rivalries within the Democratic‐Republican Party and its successors, ambitious lawyers knew that their careers depended on navigating the intra‐party split. There has never been a golden age when “merit” as an objective measure of brainpower and legal acumen was the sole consideration.
Keep this history in mind as the Barrett confirmation fight – as well as those yet to come – gets underway. The Supreme Court has always been political. And the ultimate deciders on who gets to sit on the bench aren’t senators or presidents, but the voters who elect them to office.