US Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia passed away this past weekend and Democrats and Republicans are at war on whether or not his seat should be filled or left vacant until the next president takes office. US presidential candidates obviously know the gravity of the selection of a Supreme Court justice.
The Supreme Court has decided on cases that have changed the history, some more memorable than others. Some of the major cases decided by the court (credit CNN):
- Brown Vs. Board of Education: When 3rd Grader Linda Brown was denied admission into a “white school” a few minutes from her house, and was forced to attend a “black school” that was much further from her home, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of Brown.
- Roe vs. Wade: Jane Row was single and living in Texas when she got pregnant. She was seeking the right to abort her unborn child and the supreme court ruled in favor of Roe 7 to 2
- Dred Scott vs. Sandford: Dred Scott and his wife sued their slave master for their freedom in Missouri (a slave state at the time). They had lived with their owner in Wisconsin (a free state) and were demanding their freedom. The Supreme Court ruled against Scott.
- United States Vs. Nixon: President Nixon illegally taped conversations and was subpoenaed when he claimed immunity. The Supreme Court ruled against Nixon unanimously.
There are nine justices’ seats in the Supreme Court. These nine individuals outlast presidents and they are indeed the epitome of power in the judicial branch. Based on information from wikipedia.com, below are brief Bios on each of the sitting justices:
Elena Kagan: 55 years old, appointed August 2010 by President Barack Obama.
Sonia Sotomayor: 61 years old, appointed August 2009 by President Barack Obama.
Samuel Alito Jr: 65 years old, appointed January 2006 by President George W. Bush Jr.
John Roberts: 61 years old, appointed September 2005 by President George W. Bush Jr.
Stephen Breyer: 77 years old appointed August 1994 by President Bill Clinton
Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 82 years old, appointed August 1993 by President Bill Clinton
Clarence Thomas: 67 years old, appointed October 1991 by President George H. W. Bush Sr.
Anthony Kennedy: 79 years old, appointed February 1988 by President Ronald Reagan
Vacant: formerly Antonin Scalia’s seat, Antonin Scalia was appointed in September 1986 by President Ronald Reagan.
The appointment of Justice Antonin Scalia’s replacement is crucial because, of the eight sitting justices there are four conservatives and four liberals. Scalia’s replacement could tip the scale either way in a voting session and this is why republicans are not comfortable with current Democratic President Barack Obama nominating a replacement. However with the presidential election about 10 months away the Supreme Court seat could be left opened for about two years at least if President Barack Obama does not make a nomination. This potential delay could be problematic if there are tie votes on issues brought before the Supreme Court.
These justices are the gate keepers of the US constitution, they can undo laws in a single voting session and their time in office could span decades. They could alter traditional laws with a stroke of a pen. Are they the epitome of power in government? I affirmatively believe so.
Written By Lola Fajemirokun
Photo Credit (nobeliefs.com)