It is important to remember the Supreme Court is the highest court in our great country. The cases heard by the Supreme Court are important because they have an impact on just about everything in our daily lives. While the legislators create our laws and law enforcement enforces our laws – it’s the judicial system that steps in and serves as a balance to ensure justice is being served but, most importantly that our Constitution is being upheld. But, with everything in our lives being high dramatized and commercialized, it can be difficult to see “the forest through the trees” meaning; the news about Justice Kennedy’s retirement may seem like just another politicized issue.
As a brief overview, the Supreme Court has nine Justices (Judges) who come together and decide cases throughout certain months of the year. Each Justice comes from a different path of service and unique background. They each have different viewpoints, interests, and political affiliations. Each Justice is appointed by the President – and later confirmed by our legislators. They all must take an oath to uphold the Constitution. These Justices serve on the Supreme Court for life - this means our Supreme Court Justices have a lifelong gig and they will be making decisions about monumental cases for many years to come. Some of the Justices currently on the Supreme Court are over 80 years old!
What makes our Supreme Court unique and wonderful is that it allows for a mixture of viewpoints and the decisions are generally aligned with an interest of doing the “most good” while simultaneously aligning with our Constitution. Justice Kennedy has had an interesting and special role on the Supreme Court because, he was known as the “swing vote.” Many highly politicized cases were decided based on his single vote – “the swing vote.” For instance, his votes have shifted our policies on women’s rights, individual rights, and LGBTQ rights. While he is not necessarily known for having liberal values, as a conservative member on the Court, he has done an impressive job of aligning his values with what is deemed by many as an “equality stance” thus, making him the “swing vote.”
So, you may be thinking, how will Justice Kennedy’s retirement have an impact on me? On my case? Well, its quite simple - what happens in the Supreme Court affects all of us. The decisions made in the Supreme Court, trickle down and impact all other cases. But, more generally, having Justice Kennedy – or the “swing voter” - retire means that it is likely the pro-equality stance he had will end with his retirement. Eventually, our current President will nominate a new Justice to takeover and we do know who that will be, yet – or what their positions and values will be. For now, take it from me, the world is not ending, as opposed to what you may hear on the mainstream media cycle. However, our Supreme Court Justice panel is changing – as it has numerous times in the past.
While it may be frightening to think about another conservative Justice being added to the panel -- and we can spend all day fearing about what this means for equality in our county, you must save faith in that attorneys are advocates of change and movement. No matter who is on the Supreme Court, we will continue to advocate for those who have experienced injustice, inequality, or unfair treatment. We will bring important cases to the forefront and zealously fight for justice at every step of the way. The shift in Justices may end up meaning that your attorney or your future case may have an impact on the justice system –what could be more meaningful than that?
By: Destiny R. Barbosa, Esq.