The impact of a conservative majority on the Supreme Court


Sara Mody, Staff Writer

On Oct. 26, the Senate confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.  President Donald  J. Trump nominated Barrett to succeed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg after her death on Sept. 18.  The Senate confirmed Justice Barrett with a vote of 51-to-48.  Her appointment creates an even greater conservative majority in the high court.  Justice Ginsburg served as a voice for abortion rights, gender equality, and more liberal ideals. In the coming months, many cases regarding the Affordable Care Act, mail-in ballots, immigration reform, and other controversial topics are expected to be decided by the Supreme Court. 

“The reality is that conservatives have had a majority on the Supreme Court for some time.  They have had a 5-4 majority.  What makes the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett so different is that she brings the majority from 5-4 to 6-3,” said Schreiber Social Studies teacher Mr. Fontano. 

Justice Amy Coney Barrett has consistently voted conservatively during her time as a judge.  As a graduate from Notre Dame Law School, Barrett worked under the strict constitutionalist  Justice Antonin Scalia as a clerk.  Barrett became a professor at Notre Dame and a federal appeals court judge for the 7th Circuit, which had jurisdiction over Wisconsin, Indiana, and Illinois, in 2017.  The LGBTQ community disputed Trump’s nomination because of Barrett’s affiliations with anti-LGBTQ religious groups.  Although she has claimed that her strong Christian beliefs do not impact her judicial rulings. Barrett has received backlash for using the words “sexual preference” during her hearing in front of the Senate.  The use of this term is typically used by anti-LGBTQ advocates to suggest that someone’s gender or sexuality is a choice rather than a part of their identity.  During her hearing, Barrett refused to announce her stance on same-sex marriage, climate change, gun safety, the legality of Medicare, abortion and birth control, whether systematic racism exists, and more.  The confirmation of Judge Barrett left many citizens questioning the safety of their rights. 

“I think the flip of the Supreme Court will have a detrimental effect on this country and can take away the rights of prominent communities,” said junior Mollie Tashlik. 

But how will the conservative majority affect the nation?  The significant conservative majority following Barrett’s confirmation will begin a new era of Supreme Court decisions.  This year alone, the court is scheduled to hear 41 cases.  In light of the drama surrounding the recent election, the legitimacy of  mail-in ballots are being heavily debated. 

The Democratic party in Pennsylvania sought an extension of three days past election day to count mail-in ballots.  Mail-in ballots were predicted at the time to favor Democrats over Republicans.  Justice Barrett did not participate in the 4-4 decision, which allowed mail-in ballots to be counted as long as they were postmarked before the end of election night.  With the continued disputes over the election results, citizens and politicians call for Barrett to recuse herself from an election deciding case, as President Trump appointed her.  

On Nov. 30, the court is expected to hear Trump v. New York.  This case will determine whether illegal immigrants in our nation can be counted in the national census, which happens every ten years.  The incorporation of this population in the census could impact the number of representatives a state has in the House of Representatives and votes in the electoral college.  They are also scheduled to hear Texas v. California on Nov. 10; this case will decide the terms of the Affordable Care Act, which provides healthcare for millions of Americans. 

“The first test of this (new) Supreme Court will be when they meet to talk about the Affordable Care Act.  We will see how they rule and whether or not some of the justices, like Roberts or Kavanaugh, will be more likely to side with the liberal Justices to keep things in place,” said Mr. Fontano. 

Justice Roberts has recently become the swing vote in decisions regarding mail-in ballots and LGBTQ anti-discrimination protections.  Justice Kavanaugh is expected to become the next swing vote as he tends to rule more moderately in high profile cases. 

With countless impactful decisions awaiting the Supreme Court, it is essential to note Barrett’s history as a judge.  In 2019, Justice Barret ruled on Kanter v. Barr, a controversial Second Amendment case.  Kanter was appealing to Wisconsin and federal law, which prohibits citizens from previous felony convictions to obtain firearms legally.  She ruled that non-violent offenders should not lose their rights to own a gun.  In the case, Kanter was convicted of mail fraud, and Barrett argued that allowing him to own a firearm would not logically lead to an increase in gun violence. 

In the case of Schmidt v. Foster, Schmidt believed his 6th amendment right to counsel was violated during a pretrial hearing where Schmidt wasn’t allowed to confer with his lawyer.  Schmit admitted to shooting his wife seven times and was convicted of first-degree homicide and sentenced to life in prison. Barrett dissented Schmit’s original conviction and said that Schmidt’s lawyer should have been allowed in the pretrial hearing, changing his sentence to second-degree homicide, which was a moderate decision.  Among these momentous decisions, Barrett demonstrates her moderate to conservative views concerning gun rights and criminal defendant rights.  

“I think ultimately the Supreme Court will find its way to the middle as opposed to the right.  We need to wait and see what the implications may be,” said Schreiber Social Studies teacher Mr. Klaff.  

Whether you agree with her politics or conclusions, Barrett is now a confirmed Supreme Court Justice.  Her interpretation of the Constitution will undoubtedly impact  future Supreme Court decisions and our lives over the next several years.