You probably think it makes a huge difference whether our next Supreme Court justice is nominated by President Trump or President Warren.
Fortunately, there’s no truth to that. The history of the Supreme Court is not one of partisanship.
Reagan’s nominee Anthony Kennedy cast the tie-breaking vote in some of the biggest liberal wins of our lifetime. George H W Bush’s nominee David Souter consistently disappointed conservatives during his decades on the bench.
If you are on the Left, you might think that Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch are an evil duo working together to oppress us. Fortunately, there’s no truth to that. Trump’s two nominees vote against each other 30% of the time, which is huge considering most cases are decided unanimously.
Judge Gorsuch voted with the liberal wing to prevent a non-violent illegal alien from being deported in Attorney General v. Dimaya. Gorsuch voted to defend the 150-year-old Tribal rights of a Crow hunter in Herrera v. Wyoming.
While Judge Gorsuch is currently the most interesting member of the high court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is still the most accomplished. According to the entertaining documentary “RBG,” Ginsburg did more for America before she joined the Supreme Court than any Justice in history (including President William Howard Taft).
Ginsburg attended Harvard Law School and excelled even though she had to go home to a young child and a sick husband after school every night. After graduation, she learned that the best firms didn’t hire women. So she blazed her own path.
After teaching law at Rutgers, RBG co-founded the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. During the 1970s, Ginsburg entered the most important period of her professional life. The soft-spoken but intrepid young lawyer argued six equal rights cases before the Supreme Court, winning five.
Each case strategically chipped away at the insidious inequality that plagued the American workplace. For example, Air Force Lt. Sharron Frontiero discovered that her fellow soldiers were receiving a housing allowance to help support their wives. Frontiero, however, was denied the allowance for her dependent husband. In Frontiero v. Richardson (1973), Ginsburg struck a decisive blow against federal pay inequality.
Though she’s a force to be reckoned with in the courtroom, “RBG” shows that Ginsburg herself is essentially a workaholic nerd. She loves the opera a lot more than politics and partisanship. The most colorful aspect of her private life was her warm friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia.
Ginsburg’s 1970s quest for legal equality was so triumphant that she has little of substance to fight for these days. We hear her make a sincere argument why the majority made a mistake in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. But there is no way to convince us that forcing a company to pay for birth control is as important as forcing it to offer equal pay for equal work.
There days, the most oppressed Americans are the poor people being bullied and railroaded by our heartless, rapacious Criminal Justice System. And on this front, it is Justice Neil Gorsuch who has our back.
Our right to trial by jury is explicitly spelled out in the Constitution. But when it comes to restitution payments, a single arrogant judge can destroy a person’s life. In a terrible 7-2 decision (Joshua John Hester v. United States), the Supreme Court decided that heartless rogue judges can continue to hand out crippling fines like Halloween candy. Gorsuch’s dissent is full of passion for the 6th Amendment and empathy for the indebted.
The 6th Amendment also gives us the right to confront witnesses against us. Seven out of nine Justices disagree that we should get to exercise this right when it comes to jerks in lab coats spouting unproven science to send us to prison. Only Gorsuch and Sonia Sotomayor were on the side of civil rights in Venessa Stuart v. Alabama. Hopefully, his dissent will inspire future Courts to respect the Bill of Rights like he does.
In these divided times, we strangely want to believe that the Supreme Court is as blindly partisan as we are. Fortunately, there’s no truth to that.