Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Donald Trump Releases His Picks for Supreme Court

Donald Trump released a list of his picks for the supreme court this Wednesday. The 11 candidates on his "includes six federal appeals court judges appointed by former Republican President George W. Bush, as well as five state Supreme Court justices with conservative credentials" (1).

Trump's announcement comes as good news for the G.O.P., who have generally responded positively to the list. In fact, "Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R., Iowa) [said] Mr. Trump had 'laid out an impressive list of highly qualified jurists' " (1). Trump's announcement may also be a move on his part to try and unify the G.O.P. before the upcoming general election.

The burden of choosing a new Supreme Court Justice has unofficially fallen on the presidential candidates due to the Senate's reluctance to approve any new appointments so late in Obama's term. Do you think this is the right choice to make? Should a president elected on 4-year-old public approval have the ability to influence the United States perhaps for decades to come? What do you think of the list of Trump's nominees? Do any names particularly stand out?

The Supreme Court of the United States
Source: WikiPedia

Sources:
(1) Wall Street Journal
(2) New York Times
(3) Huffington Post

19 comments:

Steven Lee said...

I do not know much about Trump's nominees for the SCOTUS but I do know that at least five of them were recommended by the Heritage Foundation which should be an immediate red flag. For those that do not know what the Heritage Foundation is considered to be a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The organization promotes homophobia, against a woman's reproductive rights, and do not believe the science behind climate change. Knowing Donald Trump and his violent rhetoric on the campaign trail, I am going to assume that most of his Supreme Court nominees are not going to be super progressive. Onto the Supreme Court as a bigger picture, I believe that SCOTUS Justices should have term limits because the sudden death or retirement will almost always lead to political grid lock between the President and the Senate.

Charles Cao said...

Similar to an earlier post, I don't know what is necessarily "right" in this situation. I do know that the same liberals who are bashing the conservative senate for not addressing Obama's nominee, would be the same people arguing to wait until the election passes if the roles were reversed.
An interesting thing about one of the nominees that Trump selected is that he is well known for bashing Trump on twitter. Justice Don Willett, one of this potential nominees, made a series of negative tweets over the last year. You can check them out here
http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/don-willett-trump-twitter

Daniel Jun said...

I am sure at least a few presidents had to deal with this problem, with Congress being less than willing to agree with what the president wants. The fact that this problem still exists proves that it isn't a particularly major issue. However, it is important to note that it makes more sense for Obama to NOT get a Justice accepted. The president is given at most 8 years to create change. If public opinion elects a Republican president or a Democratic president, that is less important than the fact that Obama has had his time. Bad timing is a part of the game. Obama just got unlucky.
Although, having only 8 Justices does leave me feeling a bit miffed at Congress.

Cami Nemschoff said...

In response to Steven's comment, I agree that the Heritage Foundation's involvement is troubling. The Supreme Court was originally created to be apolitical and unbiased. The HF's involvement reveals that many of these nominees are highly political and very strongly opinionated. With that being said, I feel that Trump (if he were to be president) would have a hard time getting some of the nominations passed. When the appointees are extremely opinionated on one side or the other, the members of congress who disagree are going to vote against them. Either way, I think it is ridiculous how stubborn certain members of Congress are when it comes to approving nominations when it puts the function of the government on hold.

Jared Mayerson said...

The decision of who should fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court should not fall on the current presidential candidates. President Obama was elected into office as President and therefore has the power to nominate a Supreme Justice no matter when in his term. The fact that he only has a year left does not change the fact that he is president. His power does not decrease over time. The Republican Senate is violating their constitutional duty and does not have the authority to reject any nominee President Obama suggests solely on the fact that they think the next president should decide who fills the vacancy. Their power is to decide whether or not to confirm a nominee, not decide that their say is worth more than all those who voted for Obama in 2012.

Elliot Quan said...

This does seem like a step towards reducing tensions and trying to unify the GOP. I'm not sure what I think about the Senate's unwillingness to confirm Obama's appointment - there's a debate about whether or not the Senate is actually constitutionally obligated to "provide advice and consent," and some think that by not confirming a nominee, they are withdrawing their consent (as opposed to voting him down in confirmation). I don't think the Senate is violating any sort of constitutional duty, but I do think that this whole situation simply reveals how tense politics are these days in Washington, especially since Merrick Garland isn't a actually a terrible hardcore liberal.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2016/03/15/the-erroneous-argument-the-senate-has-a-constitutional-duty-to-consider-a-supreme-court-nominee/

Carolyn Ku said...

I think that it is interesting to interpret Trump's hypothetical nominations as a move to win more support from the G.O.P. before the election. Since Trump is so radical, many G.O.P. leaders disagree with him and think that Trump gives Republicans and conservatism, such as the conservative judge Don Willett that Charles mentioned. If Trump can show conservatives that he will choose a Supreme Court Justice that they can support if he is voting for president, he can garner more moderate votes from people who might not like him otherwise. In addition, since the open spot on the Court is old news, Trump's "nominations" remind the public that the next president will likely be choosing who fills that spot. People who agree with strict construction and a conservative Supreme Court could decide to support Trump just because they don't want a Democratic president to select a more liberal Justice.

In a broader sense, I agree with Steven that Justices should have a term limit instead of serving for life because it will reduce the time Justices spend on the Court and make the Court more democratic because they are selected by an elected president more often. That being said, term limits will not necessarily prevent sudden deaths or retirements.

Olivia Fong said...

By releasing his list of potential SCOTUS nominees Trump is turning a theoretically non-political institution into a partisan court. Trump released this list in order to gain more support from the conservatives, independents and moderates of this country. However, the repercussions of this choice will change the federal government. The Founding Fathers designed this court so that it would be buffered from outside opinions and politics. But this is exactly what Trump is doing. He is making the Court an important aspect of his election campaign, essentially allowing voters to decide in which direction they want the Court to sway. Trump has definitely made his mark on American politics first by using social media to publicly bash other candidates and now by inserting politics into the judicial branch.

Langston Swiecki said...

I think I have mentioned this in a previous blog comment, but the Republican Senate's refusal to even consider Obama's more than reasonable nominee of Merrick Garland is primarily political as opposed to some consistent ideological backlash over an expired mandate of the president, and I cannot imagine they will welcome a Democratic president with open arms if it comes down to it, so it is not so much a constitutional issue, but rather one of the state of compromise in Washington at the moment. Anyway, with regards to the nominees that Trump has selected, it is nothing new for candidates, after winning the primary, to moderate quite substantially, as was the case with Romney in 2012 and Obama/McCain in 2008, for the demographic obviously shifts to the middle when the entire nation is taken into consideration. Tony also brings up an interesting question in regards to the lasting impact of the president via the Supreme Court, and to this I would respond by saying that the effects of the president choosing nominees with ideology concurrent with his own is dampened by the role Congress plays, leaving the nominee as more reflective of government as it existed at a set time instead of solely the president's desires. Considering that some degree of isolation from the people was included in the design of the Supreme Court and the courts in general, this internal process of selection is fitting, and a fair reminder that the will of the people, which can sway from day to day, does not a solid foundation make, something that is ultimately necessary for the Supreme Court to have lasting power.

Eric Chen 1 said...

In response to Daniel's assertion that "Obama has had his time," I think it's worth noting that the longest the Senate has taken to confirm a SCOTUS nominee is 125 days. Merrick Garland was nominated on March 16 - waiting for a new president to be sworn in would require waiting nearly a year, and would likely involve the consideration process for an entirely new nominee. This isn't so much bad timing for Obama as it is the Senate taking unprecedented action in regards to the judicial branch, shifting power their way. I certainly don't agree with the decision, as I find it worrying for the state of compromise in our government. Additionally, this involves the more politically isolated judicial branch, and really reveals how extreme partisanship has become.

As for Trump's list, it's unsurprisingly conservative. I agree with Carolyn that examining this as a political move is a more interesting one. It will certainly help Trump with members of the GOP who do not necessarily support him, but I doubt it is enough to sway them on its own. Either way, if this is indicative of Trump's willingness to compromise with the rest of the GOP, then it bodes well for the party going into the general election.

Jeffrey Song said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeffrey Song said...

The point Eric brought up about 125 days being the longest the Senate has ever taken to confirm a SCOTUS nominee is really interesting and further contributes to the uniqueness of this election cycle and its front-runner candidates. The issue with Republicans not approving Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland, who has been described by NPR as being "a moderate liberal..." and SCOTblog as being "essentially the model, neutral judge... acknowledged by all to be brilliant.."

By deliberately not even holding a vote or hearing for the nomination in the GOP-led Senate, the GOP is threatening to create unsustainable uncertainty in the judiciary and their decisions. Ethan's blogpost this Monday about the Supreme Court dodging a major decision on Obamacare birth control and sending it back to the lower courts because of the current 4-4 split in the Court may become more and more common as Obama's term winds down. I suppose that until then, unless the GOP Senate decides to have a change of heart and do what's best for the stability and effectiveness of the judiciary and Supreme Court, all Obama's administration and all we can do is wait. In the upcoming 2016 Senate election, 34 of the 100 seats will be contested, with 10 being Democrats and 24 being Republicans. It's up to whether or not Democrats who come out to vote for Presidential elections do the same for these less-publicized but equally as important Senate and House elections if we want to break this gridlock-esque situation.

Addressing Olivia's point, while I can see where you're coming from and agree on an idealistic level with what you're saying, I think that the nomination and appointment of Supreme Court and federal justices has always been politically-motivated and it's hard to imagine that it would be anything but that when you consider how much influence federal judges can have throughout the course of their career. It's only once justices actually get into the courts that they are "shielded from public opinion" when compared to the other branches. Sure, over-politicizing the nomination and using it as an political asset in a Presidential election may be ethically objectionable to some, but it's nonetheless a smart political move and not unprecedented at all.

Sources:
http://www.npr.org/2016/03/16/126614141/merrick-garland-has-a-reputation-of-collegiality-record-of-republican-support
http://www.scotusblog.com/2010/04/the-potential-nomination-of-merrick-garland/

Dhruv Rohatgi said...

I think that this list of nominations is Trump's way of trying to prove that he could handle the job of being a president. The republicans have decided not to even consider Garland despite him being a quite reasonable nomination. Merrick Garland despite being considered a part of the Democratic party is pretty moderate. He seems like a good choice and it is sort of ridiculous for the republicans to take this political stand. Answering Tony's question, I do feel like it is fair to allow the president to nominate people to the supreme court because of the check of the Senate's approval. I do not know any of Trump's candidates but I do imagine that they match his ideas so they are probably conservative.

Evan Johannet said...

In response to the second question, I believe that term limits on Supreme Court Justices might be a good idea. Creating a term limit make the confirmation process somewhat quicker and less important because we would not be electing justices for life, but rather for a term. This proposition could make the debate above less influential, and we would not see the vacancy that we see now.

Horace He said...

@Steven Lee: You're being ridiculous and inaccurate with your claims against the Heritage Foundation. Like, I get it, you're a very strong progressive, but maligning and denouncing the Heritage Foundation with this:

"For those that do not know what the Heritage Foundation is considered to be a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The organization promotes homophobia, against a woman's reproductive rights, and do not believe the science behind climate change."

First of all, the Heritage Foundation is not merely a "hate group". It's a very well respected think tank often noted among the most influential think tanks in the United States. You might not agree with Conservative ideals, but calling it a "hate group" is slander and honestly ridiculous.

Second of all, your fact that the "Heritage Foundation is considered to be a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center" is unequivocally wrong.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_organizations_designated_by_the_Southern_Poverty_Law_Center_as_hate_groups

Perhaps you confused the Heritage Foundation with the Heritage Connection or Faith and Heritage? Either way, they are in no way considered a hate group.

Sameer Jain said...

I think it is an issue that Trump is choosing candidates that have already been rejected by the Senate in the near past. Trump should respect the decisions made by the Senate, even if they were made by a different group of Senators. By considering people that were already rejected, Trump shows that he is actively being political in his Supreme Court decisions. This goes against the ideals of the Supreme Court since it is supposed to be independent from politics.

Jong Lim said...

I agree with Sameer. I think it's quite funny that Trump is trying to nominate people that have already been rejected. However many times he tries to place himself above the Senate, he's gonna fail. However, I would quite surprised if any of those people are nominated. Then again, you can't stump the trump.

Virginia Hsiao said...

Trump's nominations seem like a call to legitimize his candidacy and to "solidify" his stances. Since his candidacy has been met with wariness by the conservatives, demonstrating his prospective actions, which would refute Obama's attempt to place Merrick Garland in power, seemingly provides him greater traction. In terms of the ability of a president who has public support of 4 years, I do not think the length de-legitimizes the role of the presidency to accomplish his role, as deemed by the Constitution. In effect, the powers should remain with the president throughout the term.

Since the average Joe's lifespan has increased over time, perhaps a modification to the current termless serving period should be made since antiquated viewpoints may theoretically be maligned to public opinion.

Christopher Duan said...


What Virginia has said completely aligns with my views. I see Trump and the candidates' actions in making a point to make suggestions for the nomination process as a cunning move that allows the candidates to gain support where they can find it. If a president is elected for four years, they are allowed the privileges given to them by the people. It seems that this "tradition" s- called by opponents to Obama want another way to reduce his power as his term nears an end. Trump's nominees are all his own choice, I do't know enough about them to comment, but of course, they share his current political beliefs, or at least go along somewhat, so it seems that they would not be beneficial towards progress in the US.