Tag Archives: Supreme Court

Nominee seen as threat to abortion rights

By Myrna Moreno

Phoenix, AZ

After Anthony Kennedy announced in June that he was retiring from the Supreme Court, President Donald Trump made good on his promise to appoint a justice who would uphold conservative values, nominating D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

Republicans are thrilled with the opportunity to appoint another conservative justice to the highest court; Democrats, meanwhile, are fearful that Kennedy’s replacement would lean further to the right. But Princeton University politics professors Charles Cameron and Keith Whittington say they do not expect much to change with Kavanaugh on the court.

“The shift in the median is very tiny,” Cameron said. Like four other justices on the court, Kavanaugh is a conservative, originalist judge. Whittington agreed: Observers should not expect huge changes, he said, because the court is exchanging a conservative for another conservative.

Although Kennedy was appointed by a Republican president, he sometimes diverged from the court’s conservative wing, becoming a crucial swing vote. He voted with liberal justices on cases about gay rights, abortion, the death penalty and affirmative action.

Kavanaugh, 53, is more reliably conservative, which means that there will likely be more conservative court decisions. Liberals fear his confirmation could change the balance of the court—tilting it even further to the right—for a generation.

But Whittington said things won’t change too much. Kavanaugh, he said, is very careful with cases that are very controversial, taking “small steps rather than big steps.”

Because conservatives will continue to dominate the Supreme Court, abortion-rights supporters are concerned that Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that cemented a woman’s right to get an abortion, might be overturned. Both Cameron and Whittington predict the court will never completely overturn Roe v. Wade, but they both concede the conservative justices could chip away at abortion rights in other ways. Cameron believes that the court might allow greater restrictions on abortion, while Whittington said the justices could undermine the ruling by “nibbling away on the margins.”

Ultimately, Cameron said he doesn’t “think Trump gives a damn about the Supreme Court,” crediting the Federalist Society, which grooms reliably conservative judges and pushes for their installation on the court, with his selection.

Cameron said Kavanaugh is thoughtful, humorous, and articulate. But politically, his appointment fulfills a major conservative priority.

“Kavanaugh,” he said, “is the perfect candidate for Republicans.”

Trump picks Kavanaugh, conservative favorite

By Evelyn Moradian

Glendale, CA

The nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court by President Donald Trump looks like another major victory for the right. If confirmed, Kavanaugh could dramatically affect how the court rules on contentious issues such as abortion, religious liberty, and separation of powers.

During his campaign, Trump promised to nominate conservative judges, and he delivered last year with Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. After swing vote Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement in June, Trump again narrowed his list of possible nominees to several strong conservatives before choosing Kavanaugh, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Charles Cameron, a Princeton University professor of politics and public affairs, said he doesn’t “think Trump gives a damn about the Supreme Court,” but he believes Kavanaugh is the “perfect” Republican candidate, fulfilling everything the party desires. From abortion to labor unions, Kavanaugh’s views are in line with mainstream conservatism. Cameron chalks up Trump’s selection of Kavanaugh to the Federalist Society, an organization of conservative lawyers, judges, and scholars that has helped Republicans staff the judiciary.   

Cameron believes Kavanaugh will be confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate barring a scandal—a “smoking gun” that discredits the judge. Likewise, Princeton professor Keith  Whittington said he’d be “shocked” if Kavanaugh is not confirmed. Whittington, a conservative who opposed Trump in 2016, found Kavanaugh’s nomination to be a “pleasant surprise,” though he doesn’t believe Kavanaugh will significantly change the direction of the Supreme Court. Despite Whittington’s skepticism of Trump’s commitment to conservatism during the campaign, the professor supports Trump’s handling of judicial nominations.

If Kavanaugh is confirmed, Democrats fear that the Supreme Court will reverse several important decisions—notably Roe v. Wade, which established a woman’s right to an abortion. But both professors argued that the Supreme Court will not overturn that decision outright. Rather, Whittington believes that the court will instead limit abortion by “nibbling away on the margins,” while Cameron said the court will let “the exceptions to the rule destroy the rule.” In other words, although the case may not be overturned, it can be stripped to the point of nothingness.

Roe isn’t the only precedent at risk. Kavanaugh’s nomination could also change how the court approaches presidential power, voting rights, labor, and a host of other issues. But while the nomination fight over Kavanaugh will be heated, Cameron believes it’s only part of a larger picture of polarization.