In order for America to be a democracy the judiciary, i.e. the Supreme Court, needs to be independent and a-political. If not then what is good for the people and for America may be ignored in favour of judgements that favour a particular political Party or viewpoint. In the 18th Century when the Founding Fathers were first writing the Constitution, they must have intended for the Supreme Court to be a-political, in order for it to fit into their new democracy, however, it is debatable whether or not a Supreme Court that is appointed by the President, can ever truly be independent from political influences.

            Theoretically it is possible to have an independent Supreme Court; to that end the Founding fathers made certain stipulations in the Article III of the Constitution. Effectively these mean that a Supreme Court Justice, once he has been appointed holds that position for life, as long as they don’t commit some high crime like treason, and also that their pay will never be cut, in order to cut down on the possibility of bribery. This means that a Justice need not fear dismissal or a pay-cut if he makes a judgement that the President and his Party find unfavourable, instead they can focus on making good decisions that benefit all of America, not just certain politicians.

            The Supreme Court could also be viewed as a-political because, although Justices are nominated by the President, that nomination has to be ratified by the Senate. As there is never any real guarantee that the party controlling the Senate will be the President’s Party, this can be an assurance that the President will not be able to select a judge who will just rubber-stamp anything the President’s party wishes. In this way, theoretically, the Supreme Court stays independent from political bias, although if the Senate is controlled by the president’s party, they may just sign off on whomever he wants to put in, knowing it would benefit their Party.

            However, despite the nominees having to be ratified, the power of appointment does belong to the President, and so he can choose nominees who share his political beliefs, and keep on choosing them until the Senate ratifies one, as the Senate cannot make such a choice. All nominees, in recent years at least, have been in some way connected to the president or his Party, if not necessarily their philosophy. This negates the idea of judicial independence because a Justice would have been chosen because his political views coincide with the President’s, and any personal connection with the nominee could lead to the new Justice being swayed by the President’s political wishes, resulting in a politicised Supreme Court.

            An a-political Supreme Court is also hard to come across because everyone, no matter how vague they may be, has political beliefs of some kind. Be they Republican beliefs or Democrat, conservative or liberal, everyone has an opinion. And even though they have been appointed to a supposedly politically neutral judiciary, Justices would find it just as hard as ordinary people to stop having political opinions. This means, that, even though it is not overt like the President choosing a nominee because of their affiliation with the Party, or the president himself, the Supreme Court is not a-political because political beliefs are always going to favour a Justices judgement.

            It is the job of the Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution, and as the Constitution aimed at making the Judiciary independent and so fully democratic, it is theoretically possible to have an a-political Supreme Court, but in reality it is not that likely. Any President is going to choose a nominee who shares some of their beliefs, and who isn’t going to vote against him, it wouldn’t make sense, and to have got to be President they must be politically astute. Also, it is human nature to have opinions, and virtually every opinion can, in one way or another, be related back to a political belief. This makes it very hard, especially in the modern world, for an a-political Supreme Court to be a workable reality.

Jessica Briggs

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