Before the election, President Trump made an effort to have a long-lasting impact on the country by nominating Justice Amy Coney Barrett to replace late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. This had many Americans worried that the court would be made up of predominantly conservative justices, but is that how the courts should be viewed?
History teacher Victoria Zonko said that she thinks the justices should be nonpartisan [politically unbiased] but view the constitution as a living document, interpreting it for modern-day scenarios. “I think the judicial system is important because it’s, in theory supposed to be nonpartisan and holds the highest amount of power in the system, because they are the ones who are ultimately deciding the constitutionality of laws,” Zonko said.
The idea of interpreting the constitution as a living document is one that has been debated for many years. The idea is that you adjust the Constitution’s meaning to fit present day situations; the document can evolve as the needs of Americans evolve too.
In junior Annika Tsay’s opinion, the judicial system should work to solidify and aid the rights of the American people. “To me, the judicial system is important because it ensures the rules of law and protects our rights within the United States. Checks and balances are essential to the judicial system and are supposed to keep other branches and officials in line,” Tsay said.
Senior Fischer Atkins brings a similar perspective, “Well the judicial system is the upholder of the law. I believe that it is very important to our society because it provides a check on the enforcement of the law. In America we are lucky that we have the right to a fair trial because this ensures that we are not wrongfully accused, for the most part,” Atkins said.
Tsay said she understands how justices get grouped into the same political beliefs as the President who nominated them, but doesn’t agree with this practice and thinks that justices shouldn’t either.
“… with the role of being a justice on the highest court, justices should not feel obligated to carry out the current president’s agendas. The judicial system was put into place to make sure that everyone can have a fair, unbiased trial, and this requires that the justices are impartial, nondiscriminatory, and equitable,” Tsay said, “It’s unfortunate that America is so partisan that those who serve on the Supreme Court are likely to be biased in one way or another.”
Zonko also acknowledged that everyone has biases, but said that justices “have a role to uphold certain matters or choose not to uphold certain laws, and I think people look to them for upholding certain conditions of our democracy.”
Atkins said he thinks that the Supreme Court’s rulings and nominations should be nonpartisan, but can fall short when it comes to left-leaning judges.
“I believe that a president nominates a judge purely on competence for the job. Or at least that’s the way it should be. Historically left leaning judges have had a harder time being objective and purely upholding the law… I think that a president should pick a judge that will stand by the constitution. However, of course there is going to be some bias in the nomination,” Atkins said.
Tsay said she is concerned about the future of the Supreme Court after Justice Coney Barrett was confirmed. “I don’t believe ACB [Amy Coney Barrett] is fit for the position of a supreme court justice. I think the confirmation was haste, highly politicized, and unprecedented…” Tsay said, “Separation of church and state is needed when reviewing cases and I do not believe she will do so. She has been described as unashamedly pro-life and could not answer several questions posed to her during her confirmation trial. In previous cases, ACB is shown to be heavily biased. Several senators have also expressed their concern over her partiality.”
On the other hand, Atkins said he thinks that Justice Coney Barret has been a good addition and hopes she will make nonpartisan rulings. Atkins also said that he thinks some people have been upset by her nomination because she was nominated by President Trump, but that she shouldn’t be criticized based on that.
“I think that historically and recently the left has had a hard time when a right wing based person is elected into any office. So I think that depending on the judge it will affect the nation emotionally and obviously they will have a lot of responsibility on cases that could change America forever. Although, we won’t know how it will affect rulings until they rule on a case,” Atkins said.
According to Zonko, society should only judge a justice’s biases based on their previous decisions in court. Zonko said she doesn’t think Justice Coney Barrett has enough experience for Zonko to be able to identify any perceived biases she may have. Justice Coney Barrett was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in 2017 before her United States Supreme Court nomination in Sept. 2020.
“It’s really just a matter of time to see, when she does start deciding cases and starts writing on cases dissenting or not. You just don’t really know where she’s going to lie. I mean you can make assumptions based on things in her own personal life, of how she’s going to rule, but you can’t really know until things start getting out into the court. I think right now she’s trying to stay really quiet,” Zonko said.
While Tsay doesn’t agree with Justice Coney Barrett’s confirmation, she said justices on the Supreme Court have monumental roles in American society, and the court should be as bipartisan as possible to uphold the morality and ethics of the court.
“With the amount of political affiliations on the SCOTUS, people are bound to be anxious about rulings. Cases that make it to the supreme court all hold serious value and these rulings could seriously influence millions across America,” Tsay said.
Atkins agreed that the Supreme Court is highly influential on American life, but said the Justices are bound to be associated with a political party based on their personal beliefs. Atkins said, “Judges have a very important role because it is their job to stay impartial and be unbiased. Their purpose is to be objective and to stand by the laws.”
Zonko said, “I think if you were to sit them in a room together, they probably have a lot more in common than the public likes to perceive. But again, you just have to go based on, you know, their writings and the rulings on Supreme Court cases.”
Zonko said that while the public may not know the personal beliefs and opinions of each justice, it’s important to trust that they would work together to come up with a bipartisan ruling for each case.