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By Aanand Joshi

Freshman, Stanford

The recently deceased Ruth Bader Ginsburg is considered one of the most “progressive” Supreme Court justices who has ever been appointed. Ginsburg has been instrumental in supporting women’s rights through her advocacy both on the court and off. However, several of her rulings have drawn significant criticism from progressives. For example, in Department of Homeland Security v. Thuraissigiam, she sided with the Trump administration in concluding that asylum seekers whose claims are struck down by immigration officials do not have a right to a hearing before a judge. Another highly controversial ruling is City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York in which RBG wrote the court majority opinion that native repurchasing of tribal land did not restore their sovereignty to that land. Even the most liberal of justices failed to consistently support the interests of Indigenous people and asylum-seekers.

With RBG’s passing, President Donald Trump rushed to nominate the very conservative Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacancy due to the proximity of the election. With a Republican majority in the Senate, she was confirmed without much difficulty, and even some Democrats showed little resistance to her confirmation. This made the Supreme Court a 6-3 conservative supermajority over liberals. The confirmation stands in direct contradiction to Republican refusal to even hold a hearing for President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland in 2016, with the excuse that the election was too soon, and it should wait until the elections had finished. 

The fact that the people have zero direct say in who is appointed to one of the three branches of the government and it is instead up to self-contradicting corporate senators makes it clear that the mere existence of the Supreme Court is inherently undemocratic. With Barrett’s confirmation, many Americans now must worry about the very real potential loss of their reproductive rights, as well as the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which has saved thousands of lives annually and has prevented people from having to choose between going bankrupt and getting medical treatment for severe injuries. People’s access to healthcare and reproductive rights may have rested on the sickening predicament of whether an 87 year old woman with cancer could stick it out until after the election.

President Trump has warned that the Supreme Court could also be used as a means to dispute Joe Biden’s victory in the election. As it turns out, there is historical precedent for the “apolitical” Supreme Court to intervene in the vote-counting process in order to sway the results of an election: The infamous Bush v. Gore case of 2000. With a small margin of victory in Florida, then-candidate George W. Bush went to the conservative majority Supreme Court to stop a recount of votes in Florida, which ultimately secured him the victory over Al Gore. This was a clearly political intervention by the supposedly apolitical Supreme Court, and ended up costing the lives of 200,000 Iraqi civilians that resulted from Bush’s subsequent invasion of Iraq in 2003. 

The Supreme Court is an archaic institution that has demonstrated time and time again that it has the potential to damage the rights of the American people without being accountable to them in any direct way. Even RBG, the most liberal of justices, sided against asylum-seekers and Native Americans trying to regain the rights to the land that was stolen from them by the U.S. While the potential is limited, the results of the recent election that declared Joe Biden the victor has the potential to be challenged by the 6-3 conservative supermajority should any of Trump’s lawsuits make it to the Supreme Court. The precedent set with the deeply political decision by the Court to halt the Florida recount in the 2000 election is a dangerous one in any case, further demonstrating that the Supreme Court has the potential to be deeply ideological despite claiming to be “impartial”. For the sake of human rights and lives both domestically and internationally, the Supreme Court should be abolished.

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