This is Tim Benjamin’s article that appeared in the Evening Leader on Monday, October 5, 2020
The Supreme Court has been in the press a lot recently with the passing away of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. As there was when Justice Brett Kavanaugh was nominated, there will be a lot of coverage of the latest nominee, Amy Coney Barrett. I thought I would take our time together this week and talk about the role of the Supreme Court and why these nominees are so important.
The Supreme Court was established in 1789 and signed into existence by George Washington. The purpose of the court was then and continues to be the interpretation of law. At that time, it was 6 justices. For a very short time, that number was reduced to 5 in 1801 before being returned to 6 in a dispute between John Adam’s administration and Thomas Jefferson’s. Then it was increased to 7 in in 1837. Thirty years later, the court was expanded to 9. During the Civil War in the 1860s, the Supreme Court was expanded to 10. In the years after the Civil War, President Ulysses S Grant moved the court back to 9 with 6 required to form a quorum.
The Supreme Court has always been viewed as a political body, but that is not nor has it ever been the purpose of the Court. What they are is the ultimate check of the other two branches of government, the legislative and executive. If the legislative branch of government makes a law that violates the standards and precedent of our constitution, then they can deliberate and rule on it. If the executive branch steps out of line in enforcing the law, the judicial branch gets to make a ruling on the situation.
The purpose of the Court was never to make laws or create anything from the bench. Their purpose was to interpret what is currently happening based on what is established. If there needs to be changed procedures or rules, then the legislative branch is where that is to happen, not the judicial branch. The judicial branch is the ultimate checks and balance for the whole system, to make sure that authoritative policies and enforcement are not overreached.
I have a healthy respect for the Supreme Court because they hear a wide variety of very difficult cases and they are the ones who make the final determination. The reason that the Supreme Court is so hotly contested is because they are not elected positions – they are appointed. The head of the legislative branch is the Senate, which is chaired by the Vice President. The head of the executive branch is the President. Obviously, both of those positions are elected by the American people. The Judicial branch doesn’t work that way. The Supreme Court, headed by the Chief Justice, is nominated by the President and vetted and confirmed by the Senate. That is why most of us can name the President but very few of us can name Chief Justice John Roberts.
That makes the appointment of the Supreme Court extremely important because they are the body that we, the people of the United States, count on to keep the entire government in check. If there is a boundary that we do not want our government to cross or if there is a practice that we insist our government should provide, it is the judicial branch that will make sure that boundary is enforced. This is a vital check and balance to our system.
The Justices on the Supreme Court are meant to be non-political and non-partisan. I know that seems like a joke, but it is true. Their roles is strictly to interpret the constitution and other precedents that have been set in the past to help us interpret what is going on in our world right now. -This is why it is in our best interest as the American people to have our leaders appoint and confirm Justices who are well versed in legal precedents rather than interested in rubber stamping for one side of the political aisle or the other.
These appointments are difficult, and our current political climate just adds fuel to the fire. I encourage all of you to pray for the Senate as these hearings are taking place, that the person of God’s choice will become the next appointed Justice, whoever that may be and whenever that may happen.