Presidential election to direct course of Supreme Court

In this Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016, file photo, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speak during the second presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis. (Patrick Semansky, File/AP)

In this Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016, file photo, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speak during the second presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis. (Patrick Semansky, File/AP)

The 2016 presidential election will choose a new President of the United States and direct the course of the Supreme Court through appointments.

“This election and any election, for that matter, is so important for the Supreme Court,” Political Science professor Dr. Kimberly Bergendahl said. “These are lifetime appointments and presidential legacies.”

In order for a presidential nominee to be accepted to the court, there must be support from the Senate. This has led to recent conflict, as the seat vacated by the late Justice Antonin Scalia is still empty because of no hearing for President Obama’s nominee, the Honorable Merrick Garland.

“The president has a right to make a nomination, under Article II, Section II Clause II,” Bergendahl said. “Legally, the senate has every right to do what it is currently doing (in reference to the stalled nomination process). The Senate is just doing their job. The framers did intend for a process that would select the best candidates to sit on the court.”

The bench is currently split with four justices who lean more conservatively and four justices who lean more liberally. This has cause decisions to tie 4-4; meaning that the lower court decision is accepted as law.

“The (Supreme) Court has seen at least five cases tied 4-4 this session,” Bergendahl said. “There is no set number of seats on the Supreme Court. But for the American public to see some resolution from the cases coming forward, there has to be an odd number of seats on the court.”

There has been concern voiced by conservative leaders in the Senate regarding the liberal replacement for Scalia’s traditional originalist opinions, according to the New York Times. There is much speculation that Garland will not go through as a nominee, leaving the pressure of selection to the newly elected president come Inauguration Day.

“Trump has already released a list of names,” Bergendahl said. “I feel that Hillary will pick a nominee similar to her husband’s selection, given the parallel nature of their philosophies and values. I would not be surprised if she was looking for someone who is like RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsburg) and focuses on gender equity.”

Justice Ginsburg has recently been under media scrutiny for her condemning remarks of Colin Kaepernick’s protest to discrimination and violence towards African Americans by sitting down during the National Anthem.  

In this Jan. 28, 2016 file photo, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaks at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. Ginsburg is calling the protests of football players who decline to stand for the national anthem “dumb and disrespectful.” (Michael Dwyer, File/AP)

In this Jan. 28, 2016 file photo, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaks at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. Ginsburg is calling the protests of football players who decline to stand for the national anthem “dumb and disrespectful.” (Michael Dwyer, File/AP)

“I will admit that I was very surprised when I saw that (regarding Ginsburg’s comments),” Bergendahl said. “We in our occupations should refrain from saying certain things. At least she came back, pretty quickly to say that she probably should have refrained from saying those comments. (Ginsburg) acknowledged that there should have been some restraint, which is better than saying something like that and then standing by it.”

Bergendahl said that she does not believe this will have any lasting negative impacts on Ginsburg’s career, since Kaepernick will most likely not have a case that reaches the Supreme Court that she would then have to recuse herself from.

“When Scalia made comments about a case on the 9th Circuit, regarding Elk Grove Unified School District v. Nedow, he recused himself, but this was more of a clear connection established between Scalia and the case than Ginsburg and Kaepernick,” Bergendahl said.

“This election is so important not just for the selection of a new president, but the selection of a new Senate that will confirm the next appointment to the Supreme Court,” Bergendahl said.

The last day to register to vote is Nov. 1st. The last day to file for an absentee ballot in Connecticut was last week, and those who filed should have received their ballot. Students should contact their municipal registrar if they have questions regarding voting.


Elizabeth Charash is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at elizabeth.charash@uconn.edu.