Trump Nominates Replacement for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Sparking Controversy


Robert Franklin, South Bend Tribute

Supreme Court Nominee Amy Corey Barrett is a right-wing extremist, but a brilliant and principled thinker nonetheless.

Emma Peterson, Staff

The legendary Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg died last Friday, leaving an open seat in the Senate just months before the upcoming presidential election. 

President Trump made it clear that he would hasten the process of finding a replacement so that he could appoint a new Justice before the November election. He tweeted on September 19th, the day after Ginsberg’s death: “We were put in this position of power and importance to make decisions for the people who so proudly elected us, the most important of which has long been considered to be the selection of United States Supreme Court Justices. We have this obligation, without delay!” 

He has now announced his controversial nomination for her replacement: Amy Coney Barrett, an ultra-conservative Catholic who represents the ideological opposite of what RBG fought for. 

Despite losing the election in almost every current poll, Trump hopes that his nominee will divert new support into his campaign by pleasing his conservative voter base (a strategy he has heavily relied on in the past). Barrett’s nomination might also win the approval of Catholic voters, helping Trump’s chances in places like the “Rust Belt” of the industrial midwest.  

If Barrett is approved, Republicans will secure a conservative majority in the Supreme Court that could influence American politics and legal decisions for decades to come, especially with 48-year-old Barrett’s relatively young age. Based on her views and past rulings as a judge, we can expect Barrett to work to restrict access to abortion, do away with the Affordable Care Act, and oppose LGBTQ rights.  

Mitch McConnell, majority leader of the Senate, has stated that he will support the attempt to initiate Barrett as a justice. The chair of the judiciary committee, Lindsey Graham, will be a part of the effort as well. However, Trump’s nomination has sparked controversy among Democrats and Republicans, and it is unclear whether or not Amy Coney Barrett will actually be approved. 

Most Republicans argue that there is no reason why Barrett should not be approved. 

First of all, there is no law stating that Trump is not allowed to appoint a new Justice. A President holds the power to nominate anyone he wants, and the Senate holds the power to either approve or decline that nominee. This does not change until January 3rd, when a new senate is elected. Throughout history, there have been 29 similar occurrences where a Supreme Court vacancy occurred during an election year or during the lame duck session in between November and January. In all of these instances, the President decided to nominate a new Justice, and many times his decision was approved, even after the election. So, based on historical precedents, there is no reason why Trump should not be able to appoint a new Justice.  

My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

— Ruth Bader Ginsburg, shortly before her death

In an opinion piece for Fox News, Senator Ted Cruz made an argument for why Trump’s decision should be streamlined into approval. He argues that “this nomination is why the American people elected Donald Trump as president and this confirmation is why the American people voted for a Republican majority in the U.S. Senate.” They deserve to see their desires being met. 

He also makes a minor but interesting point: if the upcoming election ends up going to court to decide a ruling (in the past, Trump has stated that he will not lose without a fight), and the court has an equal split between Republican and Democratic justices, we might face a stalemate that could last for even longer than a usual court ruling would last. It could take ages for the justices to decide, and our country would be left without clear leadership in the midst of a pandemic, natural disasters, and nationwide protests. 

However, Democratic politicians, as well as 6 out of 10 citizens, think the winner of the next presidential election should choose the next Supreme Court justice instead. After all, it was one of Justice Ginsberg’s last requests: she said to her granddaughter shortly before her death, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

In the interest of maintaining balance between conservative and liberal views in the Supreme Court, the Democratic National Committee is ready to push for “structural court reforms to increase transparency and accountability.” According to Sen. Mazie Hirono, this could entail “adding to the court, including having certain circuit court judges cycle in,” and other ideas like term limits and a code of ethics for justices. Democrats also want to increase the diversity of the Supreme Court, with regards to gender, ethnicity, age, and ideologies. 

Many go further, arguing that Amy Coney Barrett is not qualified in the first place to replace Ginsberg. The Human Rights campaign tweeted on Friday, “[Barrett has] argued against trans rights, marriage equality and reproductive rights — and she shouldn’t be on the Supreme Court”. 

Justice Ginsberg’s death has sparked widespread progressive activism, as people realize the enormous stakes of this decision. According to The Guardian, groups such as the progressive organization Indivisible are leading efforts to push for delay in the election of a new Justice. In addition, online platforms have received huge donations in support of removing Trump from office and ensuring that the legacy of RBG is respected.

Hingham High students seem to be on the side of the Democrats and activists with regards to their opinions on the justice replacement. Miranda McGeoghegan, a junior, says, “I’m really hoping [Amy Barrett] doesn’t become a justice. After seeing the cases she’s worked on and hearing her opinions, I know she wouldn’t be good for this country. I hope we can find a good replacement rather than someone who’s against abortion and the LGBT+ community.” Junior Ally Higgins agrees, hoping that “despite his persistence in rushing the process, Trump will not be able to choose the new seat.”

Former president Barack Obama presents another reason for the Senate to wait to approve a Justice until the next president is put in place: reciprocity. Mitch McConnell declined to consider Obama’s nominee for a new Justice in late 2016, so, as Obama argued in a statement following Ginsberg’s death, McConnell should not approve Trump’s nomination either. “A basic principle of the law – and of everyday fairness – is that we apply rules with consistency, and not based on what’s convenient or advantageous in the moment,” said Obama. “The rule of law, the legitimacy of our courts, the fundamental workings of our democracy all depend on that basic principle.”

It is impossible to predict the outcome of this decision at the moment. Right now, President Trump (backed by many Republican politicians) is trying as hard as he can to replace RBG’s seat before the end of his term. However, he and the Senate also face incredible backlash from U.S. citizens and Democratic politicians alike. Appointing a justice to the Supreme Court is one of the most influential powers a president has, and this time is no different: the fate of America’s future hangs in the balance.