Brett Kavanaugh's appointment anticipates the intensification of conservatism in the U.S. Supreme Court decisions, closing the door to ideological balance even more.
With this important appointment - likely to be congressionally endorsed - President Donald Trump has responded to the expectations of his conservative electoral base. The President is expected to secure a solid conservative majority in one of the most significant bodies in the United States through Kavanaugh´s appointment.
Supreme Court decisions establish jurisprudence and have a direct and lasting impact on citizen’s lives. In that sense, the ideological orientation of Supreme Court justices is considered as important as their academic formation and the theory they favor to interpret the Constitution.
The Supreme Court endorsed slavery in the Dred Scott vs. Sandford case in 1857, on the Eve of the Civil War. In 1954, it put an end to segregation in schools in the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka case, and in 1973, it decriminalized abortion in the in Roe v. Wade case.
In recent years, the Supreme Court has resolved multiple cases by one vote with the help of Justice Anthony Kennedy - a moderate conservative now retiring – who was the one to often tip the scales one way or the other. For example, in Obergefell v. Hodges, in 2015, Kennedy endorsed the opinion that legalized same-sex marriage. But in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, he drafted the decision that endorsed a pastry chef in his refusal to prepare a bridal cake for a homosexual couple.
From now on, Supreme Court decisions regarding sensitive issues related to family, abortion, death, civil rights, immigration and the relationship between state and federal governments, among many others, will have an impact on Puerto Rico. The immediate precedent is Commonwealth of Puerto Rico v. Sanchez Valle, 2016. The Supreme Court rejected the thesis that the government of the Commonwealth has sovereignty to file charges in certain criminal cases and established that the power regarding these issues ultimately falls on the federal government.
The repeal of PROMESA -which created the Oversight Board- could also go to the Supreme Court in a lawsuit to be addressed by U.S. District Court Judge Laura Taylor Swain.
Meanwhile, Kavanaugh – appeals court judge in Washington D.C.- will succeed Judge Kennedy. A Yale University graduate, he is a well-known conservative among Republicans for his participation in the investigation against President Bill Clinton on the White House intern, Monica Lewinsky case.
Without pretending to predict the way Kavanaugh will make his decisions or undermine his merits as a lawyer, we can state that his appointment exposes the US and its territories to a more conservative vision in jurisprudence.
The Supreme Court already has Judge Neil Gorsuch - Trump´s nominee and also conservative. He took his first steps in Justice with Kennedy and has replaced the late ultraconservative judge Antonin Scalia.
With his second appointment to the Supreme Court, Trump is consolidating a majority of five conservatives against four liberals in a Court that has already shown conservative bias in recent rulings. One of them is the validation of Trump's executive order to prohibit the entry of people from five countries with Muslim majority.
The Supreme Court is the last and unappealable forum where laws and practices that shape society are upheld or eliminated. Let us hope for this Court to contribute to the progress of the country and all its inhabitants equally.
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