After multiple days of hearings regarding Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Senate voted late Friday to confirm Kavanaugh’s nomination—a nomination that is now pending an FBI investigation. Regardless of the investigation’s outcome, the hearings have effectively signed the death warrant for what’s left of an independent judiciary.
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The Kavanaugh hearings, like the Clarence Thomas hearings before them, are evidence of a larger, more dangerous trend in the American justice system—a move to politicize the courts. The impending confirmation of Kavanaugh, similar to the confirmation of Judge Thomas in 1991, shows that conservatives care more about party ideology than justice. And not just justice for victims like Christine Blasey Ford and Anita Hill, but justice for all American citizens.
The concept of an independent judiciary is specifically designed to give people faith in our justice system. Our courts aren’t designed to be partisan. A judge’s political beliefs, or pressures from outside groups, aren’t meant to be considered in his or her rulings. Judges are meant to evaluate the facts, and the law, to make impartial decisions.
People want to feel comfortable that when they walk into a courtroom—arguably one of the most stressful and vulnerable moments of a person’s life—that they’ll be met by an authority who will issue a fair ruling regardless of the official’s personal feelings. At the federal level, we want to be sure that the most important constitutional issues of our time will be rendered by an impartial arbiter of justice. Recent decades have shown that this simply isn’t the case.
In our own backyard
To make matters worse, the judiciary attack is just as present in Charlotte as it is in Washington D.C. In 2017, the North Carolina General Assembly voted to require all judicial candidates to list their party affiliation on the electoral ballot. In other words, the General Assembly voted to make all judicial elections in the state partisan. Earlier this year, the state legislature voted to divide Mecklenburg County into separate judicial districts—a move to make it harder for African-American judges to get re-elected.
Why is this an issue? By adding an (R) or (D) beside a judicial candidate’s name, you eliminate the veil of impartiality. Judges become true politicians. Instead of electing judges based on their qualifications, voters could choose based solely on party affiliation. Instead of having experienced, qualified judges on the bench, our courts can become filled with politicians making decisions based on party politics instead of the law. Partisan judges allow prejudices to creep into the courtroom and affect sentencing.
Kavanaugh’s blustering, full-throated, evasive performance in front of the Senate judiciary committee last week displayed a clear lack of restraint and judicial temperament. Looking at his manic and attacking testimony, it’s hard to imagine a man who would be able to be a true arbiter of justice. In fact, as an attorney, the behavior he displayed on the stand would be frowned upon and potentially sanctioned in a courtroom.
There’s a reason why every depiction of Lady Justice depicts her as blindfolded. Justice is supposed to be blind to politics, race and status. Whether a justice leans right or left shouldn’t matter. This Supreme Court will hear some of the most important issues of our time in the coming years. Having a sharp mind isn’t enough to make these decisions. With the impending confirmation of Kavanaugh, we’re witnessing the continued erosion of the justice system. Justice is no longer blind and the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh will give her a black eye.