The dedicated staff of Columbia High School’s award-winning student newspaper, The Columbian, proudly present their third online edition at chsthecolumbian.com. The following article “The Supreme Court’s Legitimacy and Future” by Eli Fishman and Sofie Paternite, Sports Co-Editors of the Columbian and members of the Class of 2021, was originally published by The Columbian on Oct. 31, 2020. With permission from CHS administration and staff at the newspaper, Village Green will be posting more content from the current issue of The Columbian in the coming weeks.
There is much controversy surrounding the aftermath of replacing late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She lost her battle to pancreatic cancer at 87 on Sept. 18, 2020, after a long history of battling the illness. Ginsburg was a feminist icon for many; she advocated for civil rights, aimed to abolish gender discrimination and guaranteed the legalization of same sex marriage. Ginsburg served as the second female Supreme Court justice in history and served on the federal bench for 25 years. Columbia High School (CHS) student Andrea Rebimbas, ‘21, explained, “[Ginsburg’s] death directly impacted me because when we learn about figures in history I have never felt their direct contributions. Her impact on the U.S. was personal.” Charlotte Oliver, ‘21, added, “I think today, feminism is something that’s become disregarded as not really necessary, when really it’s just as necessary as ever. Since I learned her life story at a pretty young age, as my mom wanted me to be just like RBG, it was the first time I learned that it really hasn’t been long since women have been given any roles [of] power. Her life story, while about incredible accomplishments in strength, shows me how far we still have to [go].”
According to the New York Times, Ginsburg said just before her death that her “most fervent wish is that [she] will not be replaced until a new president is installed.” Ginsburg’s wish, which would have worked to keep the Supreme Court bench at a slight conservative majority (5-4) instead of a larger 6-3 gap by prohibiting President Donald Trump from deciding her predecessor, has turned into a paramount piece of symbolism in this presidential election. Ginsburg’s wish was fully supported by the Democrats of Congress, leading to them requesting that President Trump wait to fill the open seat on the bench until after the election. “It would be preferable for the President to wait until after the election to allow the public to weigh in on the process,” CHS history teacher, Jon Campbell, explained. “While many people are not as versed in Supreme Court dynamics, they are aware of the general philosophies of the presidential candidates and can have a meaningful impact on who it is that makes the nominations, giving more democratic input,” he continued.
“Her impact on the U.S. was personal.”
—ANDREA REBIMBAS, ‘21
The phrase hypocrisy has been featured in the media as of late, being that the Republican-dominant chamber denied Barack Obama’s 2016 election year nomination of Merrick Garland, allowing Donald Trump to appoint his first of three justices. The Republican majority Senate’s reason for Garland’s dismissal was the fact that it was an election year, though the 2016 election was 237 days away. Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation was approved eight days before the 2020 election, when over 60 million Americans had already voted.
“Republicans have won the presidency and senate majority at present and have earned the right to act as they see fit for the good of the country as they see it,” Campbell explained. “Most times where a vacancy arose in an election year, where the Senate majority and the President were of the same party, a nomination was made and confirmed, but where the Senate majority and the President were of different parties, the nominations were made but rejected in all but one case. This suggests that the current Republicans are simply following tradition. Were it not for the grand statements made in 2016, it would appear to be politics as usual,” he concluded.
The wish of Ginsburg and a large portion of the electorate was quickly denied by President Trump as he announced his intent to nominate her replacement on Sept. 26, eight days after her death.
On Sept. 26, President Trump nominated federal judge Coney Barrett, a conservative who political experts think will repeal the Affordable Care Act to regulate health care, as well as change regulations regarding Roe V. Wade – the protection of individual women’s rights to abortion. Barrett was a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and was sworn in as the newest Supreme Court Justice on Oct. 26.
Ginsburg strongly supported the notion that women have the right to always have a choice on the issue of abortion, and that any limitation on that choice would be seen as discrimination based on gender. Many women applauded her constant advocacy of women’s rights, as well as having the courage to exude so much confidence while being one of the only women on the federal bench. Anna Paul, ‘21, commented, “She put herself through countless indignities, [and] terrible treatment [by] misogynistic officials who truly believed women were inferior in order to achieve better rights for young women across the country.” Paul continued, “Her selflessness shines through.”
“While society is always progressing,
some individuals and their beliefs [are] not,”
—ANDREA REBIMBAS, ‘21
While Ginsburg preached liberty and equality, Barrett is taking a different approach. Neither in court hearings for her nomination to the Supreme Court nor in statements she has given to the media, Barrett has not commented on her agenda for abortion or expressed whether she plans to undercut Roe V. Wade on the basis of not politicizing the judicial process, making it difficult for the public to ascertain what her true plans for the court are. Rebimbas said, “I think Roe [V.] Wade needs to be protected at all costs. Abortion should be a choice, decided by whoever’s body it affects.”
The notability of the current issues at stake and the impact that the Supreme Court has on society has led to many questions surrounding the process of serving on the highest court. When a Supreme Court Justice is appointed, they serve their role until either their death, retirement or resignation.
Oliver thought that the process is more than acceptable, noting, “The life long term upholds the integrity of the position… I think that a lot of democrats are hesitant to admit that it’s a diligent process to appoint judges because they see people they disagree with being appointed or being nominated for appointments.” Rebimbas, on the other hand, noted that “while society is always progressing, some individuals and their beliefs [are] not,” showing how the ongoing debate about the term length of a Supreme Court Justice has yet to come to a quick resolution.
Though the issue of how Ginsburg’s shoes should be filled turned controversial, the role of the Supreme Court is an important part of America’s democratic government. America is progressing and adaptive laws are necessary to help fulfill the country’s needs.