A lot of people often associate the government with politics; this makes sense, as many people with thorough understanding of their ideologies can argue a case as to why their interpretation of an issue is most important and correct. Also, a lot of incoming law students often finish their undergraduate experience with a Political Science degree. Even if someone has the intentions of being a lawyer and does not have a traditional-subject degree before heading to law school, that person will have certain beliefs which lead them to argue a law or interpret things in some way. In the end, every person has some type of bias, even if it is not acknowledged in the process of making a decision.
This, too, includes judges, who decide if a law should be upheld, whether or not someone is guilty, and so on. In other words, a judge has to separate themselves from the facts and opinions, one of the hardest jobs, especially if outside forces or a personal agenda has the potential to influence a decision. This, of course, is especially relevenat for the Supreme Court.
Because of this, a while back, many Democrats objected to the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to fill Justice Scalia’s seat. While it is fair to object because there was not even a hearing of Merrick Garland, former-President Barack Obama’s choice for Supreme Court, Gorsuch still deserved a fair examination of past decisions and justifications.
I’ll admit: as a registered and very passionate Democrat, I really did try to find dirt on this guy and I was not really a fan of him by his association with some conservative viewpoints. But, among doing research and listening to his hearings, in the end I didn’t seem to really mind Gorsuch and I learned an important lesson he cleared up about judging being separate from a political atmosphere. And yes, I do think Merrick Garland should have had a hearing, and a lot of days I wonder what would have happened if he did. But the reality is, Gorsuch filled the seat instead, so it’s important to know what exactly that meant and why months later, this is still relevant. Why would I use an article to write about the guy in relation to constitutionality if it didn’t matter?
Typically, in interpretation, liberals align with loose interpretation and conservatives feel more strongly about strict interpretation. I expected very harsh strict interpretation ideals out of Gorsuch, and since I don’t mind government intervention to an extent and I like loose interpretation, I expected to really dislike him and find him quite biased. But something he did well in his hearing was explain that it is a matter of the law in analyzing all the facts presented as well as hearing the oral arguments: just because he is a registered Republican, that does not mean he would put it beneath him to rule in a “liberal” sense. He emphasized that his registration did not mean he was the envelopment of party ideals and he was not polarized, as many people aren’t. He even won votes from a few Democrats in the decision. I realized that this was really significant, perhaps the most important point to discuss in learning about the judicial branch.
It is not always enough to just tell someone “The Judicial Branch of the U.S. government interprets laws.” Okay, how? What are interpretations based off of? Why do traditionally nine people get to debate an argument, and not more nor less? What are some traditional signs in which someone will or will not decide in a specific measure at hand? What happens with a vacancy? What does it mean to have a split decision? These shouldn’t be things to have to take a class for; these are genuinely curious, valid questions that should be addressed to a person when the judicial branch is presented as an idea at all. Also, sure, political ideology would encourage someone to lean a certain way in a decision just based on interpretation from those ideals, but it is not the definite factor in a decision by far.
This isn’t just apparent in Gorsuch; this is apparent in judges throughout history, which seems to get overlooked. Gorsuch just seems to be a relevant example of this. Senator Tim Kaine is personally pro-life, but advocates for pro-choice policy; it can even be seen sometimes in representatives. Politics is not the be-all, end-all in arguments or in life. And this coming from a Political Science major who does nothing but track what’s happening in politics all the time. It’s important to look at each question listed above and realize that the judicial branch is as vital of a governmental organ and operates as much as the legislative and executive branches do. Just because the public hears about some ridiculous story that some Senator has been involved in or the President uses Twitter to announce official, law-changing, turning-point making decisions and doesn’t hear much from the Supreme Court, that doesn’t mean the justices aren’t as busy and aren’t making decisions that affect us all to large extents.
A liberal judge will not always make a decision based on loose interpretation and a conservative judge will not always make a decision based on strict interpretation. It heavily depends on the matter presented as well as the facts provided at-hand; Gorsuch is an example of this.