Picture: Patrick Semansky / AP / Shutterstock
On Monday evening, Ms. Amy Coney Barrett was sworn in as the ninth United States Supreme Court Justice, and the 115th Justice in our history. Succeeding the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice Barrett is only the fifth woman to ever serve on the Supreme Court. Justice Barrett is the only justice on the current court who did not graduate from Harvard or Yale law schools, but she was the top graduate in her class at Notre Dame Law School and has had an impressive legal career.
Justice Barrett is the third Justice that President Trump has successfully nominated to the Supreme Court during his administration. It is rare for presidents to be able to nominate this many Justices. Her appointment to the Supreme Court was not without controversy. President Trump nominated Justice Barrett just over a week before the presidential election. Democrats in particular were up in arms about the fact that when other presidents, such as former President Barack Obama, tried to add a Justice during an election year, they were turned down because it was deemed to be too close to the election.
Even though Democrats in Congress were opposed to her appointment and argued that the next elected president should be able to nominate someone for the vacancy left by Justice Ginsburg’s death, the Judiciary Committee voted for her unanimously and the Senate, which is ruled by a Republican majority, confirmed her appointment. With the addition of Justice Barrett, the current Supreme Court is considered to be the most conservative court that the United States has seen since before World War II. This event is also historic as Justices are rarely appointed months before the election, let alone days.
Now, what exactly is the Supreme Court? It is the highest court of the United States with nine judges (or Justices). They require an odd number so when they vote on cases, there is never a tie. The Supreme Court can undo laws which may not follow the United States Constitution; they can also undo the result of a lower court’s decision. Very few cases are brought to the Supreme Court, as the Supreme Court chooses carefully which cases they are willing to hear. The Justices are not allowed to express any political opinions, as they are expected to judge cases on the merits and not be influenced by their own politics or the politics of society. They are highly respected lawyers turned judges who almost always serve until their death or retirement –they cannot be fired.
The current justices on the Supreme Court are led by head Justice John Roberts and are therefore called the Robert’s Court. The other Justices include Clarence Thomas, Justice Stephen Breyer, Justice Samuel Alito, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Justice Elena Kagan, Justice Neil Gorsuch, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and as of this week, Justice Amy Coney Barrett. The last three were all appointed by President Trump in the past three years.