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Supreme Court Nominee

February 2nd, 2017
Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch and President Donald Trump. Public domain via the White House via Wikimedia Creative Commons.

Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch and President Donald Trump. Public domain via the White House via Wikimedia Creative Commons.

For nearly a whole year now, decisions by the highest court and ultimate tiebreaker in the U.S. — the Supreme Court — sometimes ended in a tie . It’s not supposed to be that way.

The Supreme Court is supposed to have nine justices so there can’t be a tie. But when Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died February 13, 2016, at age of 79, he wasn’t replaced.

How do you become a Supreme Court Justice?

The President of the United States chooses someone … and then the Senate has to approve that person.

After Mr. Scalia’s death, President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to replace Justice Scalia.  At the time, there were still 10 months to go until the presidential election but members of the Republican party in Congress decided to hold off on Mr. Garland and hope that a Republican became president so they could have their own pick.

Republicans were harshly criticized for doing that but their plan seems to have worked.

Tuesday evening, President Trump announced Neil Gorsuch (pronounced Gore-such) as his nomination for the Supreme Court.

If a judge is just meant to be fair, why does it matter so much whether Democrats or Republicans choose?

A Supreme Court justice’s job is to make decisions about complex issues that impacts the country including interpreting the Constitution — the rules for the country that the Founding Fathers wrote 229 years ago. Since they’re no longer around to ask, judges try to interpret what they meant … and different judges have different interpretations.

Is the Constitution meant to be taken literally? Some people think so, but even then there are disagreements.

Or now that a lot of time has gone by and there are some situations the Founding Fathers couldn’t possibly have anticipated, should we interpret the Constitution as it applies to the way we live today? That depends on who you ask.

The other reason presidents and party leaders care so much about the choice is because when you become a Supreme Court judge … it’s for life.

Mr. Gorsuch is 49 years old, quite young by Supreme Court justice standards, and so if he gets the job his decisions could influence our country for many decades to come. A president is in office for at most 8 years. But the next Supreme Court Justice pick? Could be 30 or 40 years. So a president’s beliefs could be felt long after he’s left office through his Supreme Court justice pick.

Mr. Gorsuch is considered to interpret the Constitution more closely to how it was originally written. And whether that’s your preference or not, most people will agree that he is extremely qualified.

Many Democrats are still upset that the Republican-led Senate didn’t give Mr. Garland a chance, so they’re not planning on being overly co-operative with Mr. Gorsuch’s confirmation. In the meantime, some Supreme Court cases have been delayed because of the prospect of a 4-4 tie at the nation’s final court. That also isn’t productive.

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