Supreme Court breakdown: What a new justice means for America

Confirmation vote for Trump’s Supreme Court scheduled April 7

Brown v. Board of Education, Roe v. Wade, Obergefell v. Hodges.

Social issues. Presidential elections. Human rights.

Whether it is ruling segregation in schools unconstitutional, declaring that women have a constitutional right to an abortion during the first two trimesters or legalizing same-sex marriage across all 50 states, each one of these cases has been pivotal to American society.

“The Supreme Court fundamentally has an impact on American society,” said Associate Professor and Chair of the political science department Dr. Kyle Kreider. The Court, in most cases, has the final say on the country’s major issues and, as such, should be a pivotal part of what voters take into consideration when choosing a presidential candidate.

On Feb. 13, 2016, Republican Justice Antonin Scalia died. Since then, the question has been begged: Who will replace him? On April 7, a confirmation vote will take place to appoint President Donald Trump’s pick of Republican Judge Neil Gorsuch.

This decision has been met with mixed feelings from Democrats and Republicans alike. During the election cycle, many liberals expressed concern that a Trump-appointed justice would create a conservative-leaning Court. However, as Kreider put it,  it is simply “one conservative replacing another.” The balance of the Court will not shift unless another justice needs to be replaced while Trump is in office.

Although Gorsuch is not Democrats’ first choice, Kreider noted that they must be strategic in how they handle it. Many Democrats see a weakened president after the healthcare bill failed, which was Trump’s first big legislative attempt, Kreider explained. Therefore, they see this as an opportunity to put another kink in his agenda and hurt the administration’s morale.

As such, Democrats in the Senate have threatened to filibuster to delay or stop the appointment of Gorsuch. Webster Dictionary defines filibuster as the use of extreme dilatory tactics- such as making long speeches- in an attempt to delay or prevent action, especially in a legislative assembly. If the Democrats do this, there would be 60 Republican votes needed to approve Gorsuch. However, with only 52 Republicans in the Senate and 2 Independents, at least six Democrats would need to approve.

Republicans in the Senate could counteract this, however, by changing the filibuster rule so it is not allowed during a Supreme Court vote. Although this is what Kreider refers to as a “nuclear option,” it would ruin any chance of Democrats being able to use this strategy to delay the appointment of a second justice, if the time comes.

If two conservative justices are appointed and the balance of the court shifts, Kreider speculates that conservative states will make stricter laws regarding social issues, such as abortion, with the mindset that if they are challenged and go to the Supreme Court while it is conservative-leaning, a new standard will be set.

According to, there is no disagreement that Gorsuch is conservative.

“On issues like abortion and affirmative action and gun rights and states’ rights, we can expect him overall to be a reliable conservative vote and someone who is going to forcibly and eloquently put forward conservative positions on the court,” Richard Hasen, professor of law and political science at the University of California, Irvine told the news outlet.

With The Senate having the final vote on the appointment, constituents that would like their voice to be heard have the opportunity to call their senators and encourage them to vote one way or another.

“We’re seeing the results of a president that doesn’t have much political knowledge or skill,” Kreider said. “He can’t bully everyone into submission.”