On Tuesday, Sept. 18, Dr. Kyle Kreider of the political science department held a talk titled “Supreme Court Appointments and the Battle for the Constitution” by Widener University Commonwealth School of Law professor Michael Dimino.
Dimino graduated from State University of New York- Buffalo with a degree in history and political science. Dimino then earned his JD from Harvard Law School. He is considered an expert in election law, and has published articles on questions pertaining to judicial selection.
A Constitution Day-themed event is held every year on campus to commemorate the adoption of the U.S. Constitution and the singing of the constitution by the 39 delegates on Sep. 17.
This year, professor Dimino focused his talk on the history of the Supreme Court through the present nomination and appointment processor of Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
Kavanaugh is President Trump’s nominee to fill the vacant seat left by retired Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. There is controversy surrounding around Kavanaugh’s appointment regarding an alleged sexual assault when he was in high school, which Dimino touches on during his talk.
Dimino started his talk around the topic of Supreme Court appointments and constitutional meaning. He stated that the Senate and the president care about the Supreme Court appointments, and their views, because of the power they have to interpret the law.
“Who the interpreters are makes a difference as to what the legal interpretations will be,” said Dimino. “Liberal and democratic justices tend to approach matters of legal interpretation and in particular and most importantly, matters of constitutional interpretation differently than Republicans do.”
Everyone knows this said Dimino, from academics to the president.
“Presidents when they are appointing justices, senators when they are deciding whether to vote to confirm justices or not, do so with the knowledge that the appointees will have an effect on what interpretations the constitution will prevail over the next couple of decades.”
He then began to talk about the differences of interpretations of the law: originalism and those who view the Constitution as a living document.
Those with the originalist view of the Constitution see the Constitution for what it is. They do not find it necessary to amend as society evolves, but to only view, the document as the original framers of the Constitution would. This view is mostly seen in conservative judges, academics, and lawyers.
Those that view the constitution as a living document understand that the evolution of society should be addressed by the constitution. They believe that the justices have the power to look at the law as it affects society today, not to think back to how framers would react to the law. This view of the law is preoccupied with mainly liberal judges.
These views resonated through the rest of Dimino’s talk as he explained how the politics play into the appointments.
He specifically ended with how the Senate will use different tactics to not confirm a potential justice because they do not agree or have the same views of the constitution that the majority does.
Dimino then directed towards the audience for questions. Dr. Thomas Baldino who attended the event as a professor in political science inserted his own views of the appointment process when he asked Dimino a question.
“It strikes me that one of the things that definitely changes… was the concern with age,” said Baldino reflecting on the lack of term limits of the Supreme Court Justices. “The younger the appointee the longer that person sits on the bench… that person could be there for even longer.”
Kreider, the person in charge of Constitution Day at Wilkes, decided to bring Dimino in to talk about Supreme Court nominations because of Kavanaugh.
“I knew that he studied judicial law,” said Kreider. “He is a law professor at a school that a lot of our students go to.
“I asked him, given the Brett Kavanaugh nomination, whether he would focus on that process.
“I thought he was excellent, he explained the process, he explained the politics of it, the legal part of it as well.”