Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

Anthony Kennedy, the socially-liberal conservative Supreme Court justice recently announced his retirement from the Supreme Court. We have every reason to fear a politicized judicial branch.

Anthony Kennedy, the socially-liberal conservative Supreme Court justice recently announced his retirement from the Supreme Court. We have every reason to fear a politicized judicial branch.

Recently, it appears Supreme Court nominations are the luck of the draw—almost randomly assigned to the current sitting President’s party. Before the 2016 election, a looming elephant in the room was the rapidly aging Supreme Court: at the time, two justices, including Kennedy, were in their 80s, and over half of the court is over the retirement age. The Presidential candidate elected in 2016 would therefore have the possibility of replacing numerous justices.

The sudden death of Antonin Scalia heightened that fear. Further, when President Barack Obama’s nomination to fill Scalia’s vacancy, Merrick Garland, was outright refused from consideration by GOP senators, the partisanship of the court seems more inevitable than ever.

An increasingly partisan court is visible within the sitting Supreme Court justices, too. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg infamously criticized President Trump and called for his resignation, despite later retracting her statements as inappropriate. Even the late Scalia commented on the entry of political theater into the Supreme Court: “I am not happy about the intrusion of politics into the judicial appointment process.”

It wasn’t always this way and doesn’t have to be. Anthony Kennedy was one of those justices—despite aligning with the Republican party, his vote made key differences in favor of abortion and gay marriage rights, issues typically seen as socially liberal. Upon reading his decisions, it’s clear to see that Justice Kennedy ruled by Constitutional law, regardless of partisanship. After all, that was the original purpose of the court. By swearing to rule purely by the book, the Supreme Court is granted the overwhelming power to control our government—to effectively veto the executive and legislative branches.

Now, with Kennedy’s retirement, Democrats face the fear that President Trump can nominate a solidly Republican candidate and establish a Conservative majority: one that rules on partisanship, not law. Undoubtedly, there are ways to try and prevent a partisan candidate from entering the Court. Recently, Democrats have been touting court-packing or increasing the number of justices in the Supreme Court, as the best solution. A key GOP senator announced recently that she wouldn’t support a candidate that sought to reverse abortion rights. But with the increasingly partisan politics that plagues even the Supreme Court, we have every reason to fear a politicized judicial branch.  

Grace Jin

Grace Jin is a student at Yale University. She’s a multi-time national champion in debate and is passionate about intersectional politics from the perspective of Generation Z.