The Supreme Court. You’ve been hearing a lot about it this year.
Just a bit. Take me back.
Earlier this year, Justice Anthony Kennedy announced he’s retiring. He was the court’s swing vote – he mostly voted with conservatives, but sometimes sided with liberal justices on key issues. President Trump tapped Brett Kavanaugh to take Kennedy’s seat. Quick resume: he’s a conservative judge who worked for the Bush 43 admin and was a federal appeals court judge in DC for more than 10 years.
Remind me how the confirmation process works.
There are nine members of the Supremes. When there’s an opening on the bench, the president picks a nominee to fill the spot. After that, the Senate Judiciary Committee gets to grill the nominee. Then the committee votes on whether to recommend them to the full Senate. Then, the full Senate decides whether to give the nominee their robes. Except Kavanaugh’s process didn’t go as expected.
You’re talking about the sexual misconduct allegations.
Right. Several women accused him after his confirmation hearings wrapped up in early September. The first was CA professor Christine Blasey Ford. She said Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were teens at a party in the ‘80s. She accused him of pinning her down, trying to take off her clothes, and covering her mouth when she tried to scream. Then there’s Deborah Ramirez, Julie Swetnick, and a fourth anonymous accuser. Kavanaugh denies all the accusations. It turned his confirmation process, which seemed like a sure thing, into a no good, very bad mess.
Kavanaugh and Ford both testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The whole country watched. Ford said she was certain Kavanaugh was the one who assaulted her. Kavanaugh said he was certain it never happened.
The next day, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) said ‘let’s get the FBI on the case.’ Trump ordered the FBI to do the damn thing. About a week and interviews with several witnesses later, the FBI handed in its report. It never went public, but Republicans said that it cleared Kavanaugh’s name. Democrats said it wasn’t thorough enough. The Senate voted to confirm him 50-48 – the slimmest margin for a Supreme Court justice in more than a century.
How does this affect me?
The Supreme Court is in charge of deciding some of the biggest legal issues in the country. The kind that impact health care, gay marriage, and voting rights, to name a few. Kavanaugh’s confirmation moves the bench solidly to the right. And gives the court a conservative majority that could impact how the court rules for decades.
What are some of the cases it’s hearing this term?
There aren’t any blockbuster cases on the docket, but that could change. There are a couple cases on the death penalty – including whether a state can execute someone with dementia who doesn’t remember their crimes. There’s also a case on whether the gov can detain immigrants who’ve served sentences for other crimes. There’s also one about frogs. Keep an eye out for a potential DACA case.
What’s the left saying?
We have a justice who one: has been accused of sexual misconduct, and two: doesn’t have the temperament to serve on the country’s top bench. But the confirmation process is motivating Dems to vote in the midterms – and puts us closer to making the blue wave a reality.
What’s the right saying?
Kavanaugh’s innocent. And getting him confirmed is a huge win for us. It doesn’t hurt that we got this done before midterms, because it’s pushing conservative voters to the ballot box.
What can my elected reps do?
The Senate’s in charge of greenlighting SCOTUS nominees. The party in control has more power to push through, or block, a president’s pick. And the Kavanaugh confirmation process showed how important it is to have a rep in the Senate that shares your views.
Kavanaugh’s confirmation went from predictable to sad to political sh*tshow. And it’s one of the more polarizing issues that’s driving people on both sides of the aisle to the polls.