David O’Brien, Editor
While the media frequently focuses on the Presidency and Congress, the third branch of the United States government is rarely looked at until a new justice is appointed. Few people have a good understanding of the Supreme Court’s role as an agency and its members’ political philosophies beyond their party. This article will examine each conservative Justice’s judicial philosophy, background and controversies.
(Chief Justice) John Roberts:
The Chief Administrator of the Court, Roberts has the additional responsibility of representing the Court when addressing Congress and the president. He also works as the mediator for impeachment hearings and swears in the president. Chief Justice Roberts worked under the Reagan and first Bush administrations as a member of the justice department. He then worked in private practice for fourteen years, frequently appearing before the Supreme Court. His highest profile case was Microsoft’s antitrust trial. The second Bush appointed him to the District of Columbia’s appellate court and then to the Supreme Court in 2005. Roberts frequently swings between the conservative and NY Times liberal camp of the court when writing opinions. He firmly believes in the concept of judicial restraint; however, he does support the idea of overturning laws if they are flagrantly unconstitutional. He frequently rules in favor of big business and supports civil liberties. He authored numerous opinions against segregation and almost always votes in favor of free speech. While originally ruling against gay rights, he eventually switched positions and now frequently sides with the liberal camp on trials regarding LGBTQ issues. Roberts usually sides with liberal justices on abortion cases.
Thomas started his career in the Reagan administration as the chairman of the Equal Educational Opportunity Commission. Bush senior appointed him to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals and in 1991, to the Supreme Court. He narrowly passed the Senate’s vote for his approval because of sexual assault violations by Anita Hill. Despite the fact that he almost always votes in favor of states’ rights, he voted in favor of Bush’s policies on executive privilege and supports the idea of a powerful executive. He has voted against LGBT rights as well as abortion rights; he frequently makes the argument that the federal government has no control over these matters because the constitution contains nothing discussing them. He is a strict textualist, meaning that he believes in abiding by the original meaning of the constitution.
Alito worked as an assistant Solicitor General under the Reagan administration and argued 12 cases to the Supreme Court. He then went on to become assistant Attorney General where he worked tirelessly to increase the power of law enforcement. Afterwards, he worked as the US attorney for the district of New Jersey. He worked as an adjunct professor at Seton Hall, teaching constitutional law until he was appointed to appellate court’s third district. He was nominated to the Supreme Court by George W. Bush. His judicial beliefs are the most pro-business on the court; he frequently publishes opinions stating that corporations must have stronger rights and must be seen as living organizations. He also remains tough on crime and has strong tendencies to support states’ rights. He has sided against minorities and women in numerous equal and civil rights cases.
Gorsuch began his career in public service as principal deputy counsel to the associate attorney general. He was then appointed to the tenth court of appeals by George W. Bush. Donald Trump nominated him to the vacancy that was unable to be filled by President Obama which was unable to be filled because the Republican Senate refused to hold hearings for Obama’s appointment of Merrick Garland. The reasoning behind this was it was too soon to the next election. Gorsuch is an advocate for judicial restraint and believes that liberals allow judicial activism to play too large of a role in courtroom decisions. He, like Thomas and Alito, is a textualist. He believes the constitution must be followed by its original intent. He has sided with liberal wing numerous times, especially with abortion and Native American laws. He has also voted in favor of the LGBTQ community.
Kavanaugh began his career working with Attorney Ken Starr, best known for working as prosecution for the Clinton impeachment trial. Kavanaugh helped author the Starr report for the impeachment trial. Kavanaugh also worked for the Bush legal team in 2001. His job was to help stop the Gore camp’s ballot recount attempt in Florida. President Bush nominated him to the appellate court afterwards. Donald Trump nominated Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, where he barely was approved by the Senate by a 50-48 vote. Kavanaugh was accused of sexual assault by three women. Kavanaugh believes in executive privilege and arguably has the most leeway given to the executive branch of government out of all of the justices. He has voted against LGBTQ workplace rights, claiming that Congress should be in charge of issuing opinions on these matters, not the courts. He also has issued opinions against abortion. Kavanaugh has ruled in favor of reviewing Trump’s tax records.
While the media focuses on the Presidency and Congress frequently, the third branch of the United States government is rarely looked at until a new justice is appointed. Few people have a good understanding of the Supreme Court’s role as an agency and its members’ political philosophies beyond their party. This article will examine each liberal Justice’s judicial philosophy, background and controversies.
Ruth Bader Ginsberg:
Ginsberg spent most of her early career working for the Women’s Rights department of the ACLU after she struggled to get work because of her gender. She also worked as an adjunct professor at Columbia University before being appointed to the Appellate Court by Jimmy Carter. In 1993, President Clinton appointed her to replace Byron White’s seat on the court. She firmly believes that all members of the liberal wing should have one voice, unlike the conservative bloc who frequently make multiple dissenting opinions. She firmly believes in a right to abortion and has been known to write majority opinions for cases discussing gender rights. She often cites foreign and international law as reasoning behind her opinions, a relatively unheard of concept on the court. She is a firm believer in judicial activism and frequently uses her position to push the Democratic agenda, a practice many find unsavory for her position.
Breyer worked as a professor at Harvard Law School and the Kennedy Public Policy school before his appointment to the Appellate Court by Jimmy Carter. He was well known as the country’s best expert on administrative law. Clinton appointed him to SCOTUS directly after Ginsburg in 1994. Breyer believes in sociological juripendce, believing that law must change as present circumstances change over time. He believes originalism is fundamentally flawed as the nation’s issues change constantly over time, thus the law must as well. He has an incredibly liberal interpretation of law in that every trial should interpret each law to provide as much liberty as possible to the individual being tried. He is also vehemently opposed to the Second Amendment.
Sotomayor started her career as assistant district attorney for New York. She was tough on crime as well as extremely tough on officers who committed acts of police brutality. George H.W. Bush appointed her to the district court for the Southern District of New York. Clinton appointed her to the second appellate court, and eleven years later she was appointed to SCOTUS by Barack Obama. She was narrowly not appointed because she made comments discussing her race when being appointed, which led to senators questioning her ability to remain impartial. She frequently votes in favor of upholding First, Second, and Fourth Amendment rights over state decisions. She almost always votes in favor of minorities in civil rights disputes as well as women. She has also voted in favor of upholding citizen’s property rights over the state. She also votes in favor of unions and against big business.
Kagan worked as a professor at the University of Chicago Law School before becoming an associate White House council and then a policy advisor for the Clinton Administration. She then worked as a professor at Harvard Law and became its first female dean. In 2009, she was appointed as the first female solicitor general for the Obama administration. She was then nominated to the Supreme Court without serving on the bench prior. She often votes in favor of a defendant’s First and Sixth Amendment rights. She is also known for writing decisions opposing gerrymandering. She is known for writing her opinions with rhetoric rather than legal facts.