Jackson’s hearings will show her status as the first black woman appointed to the High Court. Yet the televised sessions will also put the trajectory of America’s highest court, now controlled by a conservative supermajority, at the center of national attention.
“Will this institution survive the stench it creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are nothing but political acts?” she asked.
The Senate Judiciary Committee hearings may provide a first glimpse of how Jackson, 51, would see her fit into the court’s diminished liberal wing and how she could work with colleagues on both sides of the ideological divide.
Not since 2010, and the nomination of Elena Kagan, a Democratic candidate has been before the Senate Judiciary Committee. (In 2016, President Barack Obama selected Merrick Garland for a vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, but the Republican-controlled Senate declined to hold hearings or act on the nomination.)
This decision and others, including those that allow extreme partisan gerrymanders and big campaign spending, have lowered the guardrails of democracy. At the same time, states have increasingly passed regulations for ballots, and federal legislation to protect the right to vote has stalled in Congress.
A new type of republican control
Republicans dominated the Supreme Court for decades simply because of who held the White House and when vacancies occurred on the bench. Since 1969, when Chief Justice Earl Warren’s liberal term ended, 19 new justices have been appointed, 15 of them by Republican presidents, four by Democrats.
But Republican appointees were varied enough that their political and ideological identities didn’t always align, as with liberal GOP appointees Harry Blackmun, John Paul Stevens and David Souter. (Chief Justice Warren himself was appointed by Republican President Dwight Eisenhower.)
Democrats like Biden have sought out liberal jurists, while simultaneously seeking diversity. Jackson would be the first black woman on the Supreme Court in its 233-year history.
President Barack Obama appointed the first Hispanic judge, Sotomayor, in 2009, and Lyndon Johnson appointed the first African American, Thurgood Marshall, in 1967. Republican Ronald Reagan appointed the first female judge, Sandra Day O’Connor, in 1981.
Areas of Biggest Change
The suspension of the right to abortion by the new majority was one of the most surprising developments. Last September, the court refused to block a Texas law that bars abortions at around six weeks, before most women know they are pregnant.
The law defies Roe v. Wade’s 1973 which legalized abortion nationwide and prohibited the government from placing an undue burden on women seeking to terminate a pregnancy before the fetus was viable, at around 23 weeks.
Other Republican-led states took a page from Mississippi. The Florida legislature earlier this month passed a 15-week ban. In response, Biden tweeted, “My administration will not tolerate the continued erosion of women’s constitutional rights.”
The majority of the Supreme Court will have the final say on whether the right to abortion remains, as the court found in 1973, grounded in the 14th Amendment guarantee of freedom.
Religion necessarily colors disputes over reproductive rights, and it has become a dominant theme at the transformed court. Some judges have complained that religious freedoms are under siege. In a 2020 speech to the Federalist Society, Judge Samuel Alito used the Covid-19 rules, including capacity limits for worship services, as an example.
Yet the conservative majority has sided with religious groups that challenge Covid-19 restrictions and, more broadly, exempted religious believers from a myriad of government regulations. In 2020, he sided with the Trump administration as the administration bolstered the ability of private employers to opt out of Obamacare birth control coverage in employee insurance plans based on religious or moral objections.
Racial dimensions in new cases
The nation’s first black female judge would join a bench expected to immediately delve into new racial dilemmas. The judges said they would revisit previous rulings allowing colleges and universities to consider applicants’ race as one of several criteria for achieving campus diversity.
Even before the Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority was clinched by Trump appointees, the justices had rejected some racial appeals, including plans for voluntary integration into public schools. Roberts wrote in this 2007 case, rejecting plans that considered student race in school assignments: “The way to end discrimination based on race is to stop discriminating based on race. “
But the court (due to the dissent of the Chief Justice) had narrowly upheld the college’s affirmative action. Such practices seem ripe for a reversal now, with the 2018 addition of Brett Kavanaugh for retired Justice Anthony Kennedy and with Barrett for Ginsburg. Kennedy and Ginsburg had previously voted to authorize affirmative action.
The new majority is also expected to continue to scale back the 1965 Voting Rights Act, with the redistricting controversy already accepted for the 2022-23 session. (In 2021, the court dismissed voting rights concerns and upheld Arizona measures that required ballots cast by people in the wrong neighborhood to be thrown out entirely and separately criminalized collection by third-party mail-in ballots, for example, from residents of a nursing home.)
In the Alabama redistricting dispute added to the judges’ upcoming schedule, a three-judge special panel said the state should have created a majority-black second district, based on the black population and its geographic compactness.
A separate development of the High Court could affect future federal elections, including presidential elections. As justices earlier this month dismissed Republican challenges to Congressional maps in North Carolina and Pennsylvania, four conservatives expressed interest in a theory that would give state legislatures full control over how their federal elections go. , without any review by their own state and state courts. constitutions.
This controversial doctrine, pressed by Trump’s lawyers in 2020, could have upset the results of the last presidential election and could affect what happens in 2024.