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Scroll to bottom to navigate to different departments

Just how important are presidential Supreme Court picks? 

By Matt Hadro

Washington D.C., Oct 27, 2016 / 06:18 am (CNA/EWTN News) - Both major presidential candidates say that the future of the Supreme Court depends on this election – but how important is the Court to Catholics, and will the next president really shape it?

“It is certainly one of the most important things that a president does,” said Professor Michael McConnell, a law professor at Stanford University and director of the school’s Constitutional Law Center. “And because the Supreme Court has been so closely divided with so many 5-4 decisions, even one justice can make a very big difference.”

After the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in February, President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland, chief judge of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, to take his place. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to confirm the nominee, saying the Senate would wait until next year to consider confirming nominees.

Thus, the Supreme Court – normally composed of nine justices – is operating with an empty seat, leading to outcomes like a 4-4 split in United States v. Texas, the case involving President Obama’s executive action on immigration. The even split allowed the lower court’s decision to stand.

Advocates of both major presidential candidates say the next president’s nomination of a justice will be one of the most important reasons to vote in the coming presidential election. And, given the age of some of the justices on the bench, several more could retire in the next few years, giving the next president the opportunity to nominate several of their hand-picked justices to the Court.

Has a president been able to shape the Court in the past? Yes, McConnell said, there are historical examples of this.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt at first saw his “New Deal” policies declared unconstitutional by an unfriendly Court; however, “by the end [of his presidency] he had named all nine” justices and “the Court was completely in congenial hands,” McConnell told CNA.

“President Nixon had the opportunity to name four justices, which marked the end of the liberal activist Warren court and ushered in an entirely new jurisprudence,” he added.

The next justice could very well determine future jurisprudence on the constitutionality of state abortion bans, abortion regulations, and religious freedom cases where, for example, businesses are sued for conscientiously declining to serve a same-sex wedding or conscientiously declining to have birth control covered in employee health plans.

Pro-life and pro-choice advocates have both touted the importance of the Court in this election.

For instance, after the Supreme Court struck down Texas’ regulations of abortions clinics in a 5-3 decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the president of the pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List Marjorie Dannenfelser said “the stakes for the 2016 election could not be higher.”

“The next president will be tasked with selecting Justice Antonin Scalia’s replacement and up to three others,” Dannenfelser said. “We must elect a pro-life president and safeguard today’s pro-life majorities in the House and Senate.”

Meanwhile, the political arm of Planned Parenthood praised the Court’s decision. “Our next president – and the new Supreme Court justices they’ll appoint – will determine whether women continue to have a constitutional right to safe and legal abortion,” Planned Parenthood Action stated.

At the final presidential debate, when asked what kind of Supreme Court justices they would appoint, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump gave different answers.

Clinton insisted that “we need a Supreme Court that will stand up on behalf of women’s rights, on behalf of the rights of the LGBT community,” adding that “it is important that we not reverse marriage equality, that we not reverse Roe v. Wade.”

Trump, meanwhile answered that “I am pro-life and I will be appointing pro-life justices,” along with justices that “will be protecting the Second Amendment.” He stopped short of saying that he wanted Roe v. Wade overturned.

With the Court closely divided on important cases, the impact of even one Supreme Court justice cannot be overlooked, McConnell emphasized.

For instance, in a 2014 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the craft chain Hobby Lobby and other “closely-held for-profit” businesses were protected from the federal government’s birth control mandate by a religious freedom law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

That was a 5-4 decision with Justice Scalia in the majority, which meant that if just one justice in his place ruled differently, the Green family who owns Hobby Lobby – and other business owners claiming to run their business based on their religious beliefs – would have lost a key religious freedom case.

“The Court is very divided on questions of vital importance to believing and practicing Catholics,” said Professor David Upham, attorney-at-law and professor of politics at the University of Dallas.  

On one side, four justices have been appointed by Democratic presidents and have ruled consistently together. “They vote in virtual lockstep over 90 percent of the time” and “very rarely file separate opinions,” McConnell noted.

They have voted to uphold legal abortion and same-sex marriage and have opposed the religious freedom of Catholics who don’t want to cooperate with “the evils of the sexual revolution” like “contraception, abortifacients, and the public celebration of homosexuality,” Upham told CNA.

On the other hand, three justices have voted the opposite way on these issues.

They “have repeatedly voted to affirm, and not invalidate state and federal laws designed to secure the right of the child to his life and his parents,” Upham said, and “they have voted consistently to affirm and preserve the immunity of Catholics and others against compulsory participation in the practices and celebrations of the sexual revolution.”

And the remaining justice – Justice Anthony Kennedy – “has been less than consistent on these questions,” Upham added.

And how closely do the justices on the bench resemble the politics of the president who nominated them to the Court?

Historically, the justices are pretty consistent with the party politics of the president who appointed them, McConnell said. “Presidents don’t make mistakes all that often.”

“It’s certainly true that justices sometimes vote contrary to what you might think are the political leanings of the party who appointed him or her, and that’s a good thing,” he explained, but added that “it doesn’t happen very often.”

One example he gave of a justice defying the trend was Justice David Souter – nominated by Republican President George H. W. Bush – who “turned out to be a fairly reliable member of the liberal wing of the court. It’s unlikely that that’s what President Bush was looking for.”

Justices are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Upham agreed that justices nominated and confirmed by a president and senators all of the same party are more consistent with a President’s views.

“In the past 30 years, every justice nominated by a Democratic President and confirmed primarily by Democratic Senators has been hostile to the rights of life, marriage, and religious freedom affirmed by the Church,” Upham said.

“In that same time, every justice nominated by a Republican President and confirmed primarily by Republican Senators has been friendly – or at least not hostile – to those same principles,” he added. “The only exceptions – Justices Souter and Kennedy – were appointed by a Republican President but confirmed primarily by Democratic Senators.”
 

 

 

Past Issues

Dec. 9, 2018

Nov. 25, 2018

Nov. 11, 2018

Oct. 28, 2018

Oct. 14, 2018

Sept. 16, 2018

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: 2018 Golf Classic; student athletes; physically challenged; Leonard Stegman; Lesson in forgiveness; Sending us on a mission

Sept. 2, 2018

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Priest crisis; Scandal; Opioid addictions; Seeds of Suicide; Leightons; St. Anne; Vincke; seminarians; Dominican Sisters; Stewardship Conference; Dead Sea Scrolls; PSR programs; Roe V. Wade

 

August 12, 2018

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Prayer and Action; Totus Tuus; Janee Bernal; Diana Ramirez; Heidy Ramirez; Bishop Gilmore honored for 20 years ministry; suicide; contraception and abortion; Dead Sea Scrolls; Humanae Vitae; certification in youth ministry; Chuck Weber; Cathedral rectory chapel; Sister Viola Heichelbech; Adam Urban

July 15, 2018

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Immigration Protest/Rally; Faith and Light Fiesta; Seeing the Dead Sea Scrolls; Corpus Christi procession; Prayers for priests; Sisters turn 100; Michael Brungardt; Gerald Vincke; Massacre in San Salvador; Action for Alex 

 

June 3, 2018

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Parish Pray for Priestly Vocations; Appeal reaches $10 million; Gangs; Seminarians; Pam Willis; Why I like being a priest; Happy Father's Day; Patricia Lujan; Tyler and Rachel Bennett; Adoption Protection Act.

May 20, 2018
KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Track meet; Beloved Sinners; Benjamin Martin retires; Smiles; Future of Fortune Telling; Hoisington mission; DofI; Getting Equipped; Spring Social; First Communion; Confirmation
KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Track meet; Beloved Sinners; Benjamin Martin retires; Smiles; Future of Fortune Telling; Hoisington mission; DofI; Getting Equipped; Spring Social; First Communion; Confirmation

May 6, 2018

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Archbishop Romero; Seeing, Touching, Tasting; Exhortation; Father Patrick Conroy; Happy Mother's Day; A child on your doorstep; Vibrant Ministries Grant; From the heart of a young father; Love Gives Life; Roman Holiday; Smartphone; retirement
Fossil Hunting

 

April 15, 2018

 KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Easter Vigil; Angelica Village; Colorado woman; The art of anger; Cimarron Couple; Staats; Adoption; 

Father Ultan Murphy anniversary; Coughlan; Spiritual Advisor to Hoodlums; Woman of Courage; Oration contest; Darcy Feist  

 

April 1, 2018

 

 KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Defending Adoption; Led by the Spirit; Knights; ABC Pregnancy Center;
Memorial of Mary; Homeless; Relics; Down syndrome abortion; Chrism Mass

 

March 18, 2018

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: SKYAC; Aleksandr Men; Fasting for Priestly Vocations; Uganda; School for deaf; Rannah Evetts; Oberle; Rachel and Doug Trombley; Oscar Romero; Paul VI; DACA

 

 

March 4, 2018

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Fasting for priestly vocations; Father Juan; Fasting and prayer;
Quest Weekend 2018; DACA; With God, anything is possible; Homelessness in our communities; Rhubarb, Kansas;
What's the point of fasting; Rite of Election; same-sex couples

 

Feb. 18, 2018

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Catholic Schools Week; Rachel Doll; Ellinwood; Great Bend; Garden City; Ness City; Dodge City; Sister Rita Schwarzenberger; Nigeria; Bishop Hermes; Fasting for Priestly Vocations; World Day for Consecrated Life; 50th Anniversary St. Dominic School; What will life be like in 50 years?

 

 

Feb. 4, 2018

 

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: March for Life; Tracy and Ross Smith; Adoption; Vibrant Ministries; Faith and Light;
Pro-Life; Mortal sin to discard elderly; DACA; Abortion; Dreamers; Human Trafficking

 

Jan. 21, 2018

 KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Louise Korbe; Anne Frank; Miep Gies; Home Heat; Father Solanus

 

Jan. 7, 2018

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Good news and kingdom living; dreamers; Sister Teresa Orozco; Infant Adoption; Elderly; a moral conundrum; seminarian; feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

 

Dec. 17, 2017

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Celebrate Christmas 'unplugged'; Msgr. Matthew Smith; Klan; Catholic Charities Annual Appeal; Fr. Larry Rosebaugh; A Guadalupe Encounter; Laci and Joe Salazar; A Christmas Wish; Adoption; Confession; Advent; EWTN; Christmas Blues; Tilma; Pittsburgh; PSR

 

Dec. 3, 2017

 KEYWORDS, PHRASES: 2017 NCYC; Wheel of Balance; Marita Rother; Stanley Rother; slavery; trafficking; Windthorst water damage; martyred priests; confession; reconciliation; How to go to confession; recipe for codfish cakes; Catholic schools; appeal

 

Nov. 19, 2017

 KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Saints; Father Kola; Black Elk; Giving Tuesday; velvet Elvis; a Slice of Time; Dani Sandoval; Mexican Village; Father Tim Hickey; New faces at chancery; priests share thoughts on confession; Wheel of Balance

 

Nov. 5, 2017

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Matrimony Anniversary Mass, 2017; Riebel; Faith and Light; Scripture Day; Sex in the Bible; Quilt, Mexican Village Story; Finance; Fatima pilgrimage; Fowler church window renovation; Medicare; Crazy Glue


Oct. 15, 2017

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Father Francis Jordan; Sister Renee Kirmer; Father Rother beatified; religious liberty; RCIA Kansas; V Encuentro; Bishop Weisenburger; Daughters of Isabella; Bishop Gerber Science Center


Oct. 1, 2017

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: De Colores; Rebein; Dreamer; Pies; Kellner; Code Quilts; Sister Crucita; Feezor; Formed.org; Sin and pain

 

 Sept. 17, 2017

 

 KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Sister Lucy Fidelis; Underground Railroad; Sister Irene Hartman; DACA; new priests; teachers; Volunteer of the Year; Golf Classic; St. Francis Xavier; St. Nicholas Parish Center, Kinsley; seminarians; Knights Lite; Stewardship Day 2017

Sept. 3, 2017

Aug. 13, 2017

 KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Coronado Cross; Masada; Moody Gardens; Elders; Rother; undocumented children; cages; year of mercy; Kumi; Hollywood makeup artist; New Mexico; refugee women.

July 16, 2017

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Summer camp; tithing and almsgiving; Bill Baalmann; Nathan Schaller; Jubilarian Sisters; Sister Hortencia Rodriguez; Sister Petrona Stockemer; Sister Denise Sevart; Convocation of Catholic Leaders; Mother talks about her son entering seminary; Arcoiris; Youth group travels to Colorado Springs; Major Phillip Roth

June 11, 2017 (Updated)

Ordination; Mark Brantley; Jacob Schneider; Father's Day; Thanks, Dad!; Appeal; Sister Mary Martin Weaver; Bishop Maralit; Budget; Trafficked women; Deacon Michael Brungardt; Dead Sea Scrolls; softball; Father Urban retirement; Sister Kravec retirement; Father Mazouch retirement; Authentic Joy; Pris Climate Accord; Jack Schramm; Pieta.

May 28, 2017 (Updated)

 

Grateful Hearts; MSFS Provincial; Reddy; Reif; Opossum; Dead Sea Scrolls; Our Lady of Fatima; Jorge Herrera, Jr.; Cursillo; Kough; First Communion; Confirmation

May 14, 2017

Esteban Hernandez; citizen; Lilly Ann Rein, Amberly Jimenez, Mother's Day; peacock; Quattrocchi; President Kennedy; Teen Moms; Junior High Youth Rally; Encounter With God's Call; granny/nanny; seniors' contributions; tornado anniversary; harvest; healthcare; Mr. Brown; Store-bought teeth; Louis and Zelie Martin; Father John Sullivan; Irish priest whose prayers could heal; Mexican beauty queen; Esmaralda Gonzalez; religious life

April 30, 2017

   KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Easter Vigil; bully; TEC; Father Marvin Reif; Bet'sie; What makes a hero?; St. Mary of the Plains; tornado

Easter, 2017

 KEYWORDS, PHRASES: SKYAC; Honorable courtship; footsteps of migrants; CHRISM Mass 2017; honoring priests; Encuentro Cross blessed; Daughters of Isabella State Convention; Fatima pilgrim statue; Mary Sharon Moore interview; Senate advances pro-life measures; love must be at the core of family life; Father John Forkuoh's car story; Confirmations; Sisters of Concordia; CNN hero Father Khalil Jaar

March 26, 2017

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: From the heart; kidney; Rother; Friar Carmelo; Schnauzer; Lauren Seachris; Lauren's Treat; fire; Guatemala; immigration; Lenten Regulations 1888; Hot Cross Buns; budget; Trump; Forkuoh; Seiwert; South Sudan; hot ashes

March 12, 2017

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Refugees; immigrants; Gilbert Herrman; When you give alms'; Lent; Call to Continuing Conversion, Rite of Election; Charell and Jeremy Owings; adoption; Our Growing Church; Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia; water; creation; Sudan; Darlow Lampe

Feb 26, 2017

 KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Night to shine; Immigration; immigrants; Knights of Columbus; Pete Gomez; this foreign mission; Creole; Robin Doll; Eagle Scout; Quest

Feb 12, 2017

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Catholic Schools Week; March for Life; Pro-life; Executive Order; Secular Franciscan Order; teachers; Down Syndrome; Eagle Scout; Bronze Pelican

Jan. 29, 2017

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Thank you, religious; SEEK 2017; homeless man to priest; Fourth Sunday; Secret Service to Sacred Heart; Dr. Gerard Brungardt; Martin Luther King; 110 year old nun; Toddler miracle; Letter from undocumented immigrant; health care; immigration

Jan. 15, 2017

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Mary helps us share; Tighe donates home to Birthright; Pro-life billboard; Theobald Hattrup; Helen and Steve Eck; Pearl Harbor; Reigning Grace

Dec. 18, 2017

KEYWORDS: Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, 2016; Pope Francis Christmas schedule; 2016 high school youth rally; Aerospace engineer; Father Stanley Rother; Radio station; Dying girl's letter; Scout nominations; 12 days of Christmas

Dec. 4, 2016

KEYWORDS: Vocations Day; Pope Advent advice; Ex-prostitute; Spearville mission; Pilgrims v. Zombies; Face of God; Mission bazaar; Ness City fall festival; Rural health care; Archbishop Gomez; Bishops congratulate Trump

Nov. 20, 2016

Nov. 6, 2016

Oct. 23, 2016

Oct. 9, 2016


Sept. 25, 2016


Sept. 11, 2016

 
Aug. 7, 2016

July 10, 2016

June 12, 2016

May 29, 2016

May 8, 2016


 April 24, 2016

 April 10, 2016

 March 27, 2016

March 13, 2016

Feb. 28, 2016

 

Feb. 14, 2016


Jan. 31 , 2016

Jan. 17, 2016

Dec. 20, 2015

Dec. 6, 2015

Nov. 15, 2015

Nov. 1, 2015

Oct. 18, 2015

Oct. 4, 2015

Sept. 20, 2015

Sept. 6, 2015

August 9, 2015

July 12, 2015

Jun 14, 2015

May 17, 2015

May 3, 2015

April 19, 2015

Easter, 2015

 

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