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Supreme Court Justice

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“The two major sanctions which a justice can use against his colleagues are his vote and his willingness to write opinions which will attack a doctrine the minority or majority wishes to see adopted” as noted by Walter Murphy (1964). The role of the United States Supreme Court is to interpret the constitutionality of laws and statutes. The most visible, and arguably the most important part of the job of any Supreme Court justice is writing opinions. Opinions provide context to the general public and explain why a justice voted the way he did. Some of the Court’s most famous decisions were not unanimous, such as Miranda v. Arizona, Bush v. Gore, and Citizens United v. FEC. All of those cases were decided on a 5-4 margin; if those cases were…show more content…
She explores Sandra Day O’Connor’s departure from the Court, her voting behavior and the impact that her exit would have on the Court. She notes, “O’Connor, through her position as the Court’s center, had been the critical fifth vote for the victories - few though they were - of the moderate-liberal wing of the Court in abortion, church-state, campaign finance, race, and death penalty issues” (p.60). This statement suggests that O’Connor was willing to move her vote along the political spectrum so long as the laws fit her interpretation of the Constitution Alternatively, Coyle (2013) also discusses Kennedy, whose political opinions appear to factor rather heavily into his judicial opinions. Of him she writes, “Justice Anthony Kennedy would assume the center position in most closely decided cases [...] he would swing to the left less often” (p. 60). The addition of Roberts and Alito to the Court only served to solidify the so-called conservative contingent of the Court that Kennedy’s opinions brought it. This cohort, as well as its liberal counterpart, suggests that political party is an important factor in opinion writing. However, the idea of a swing vote in general suggests that partisanship can be set aside for effective…show more content…
Some would argue they don’t play a role at all. “...Another justice, speaking only on background, explained, “I think that when Justice X sits down and starts working on a a case, that justice doesn’t think, ‘This is the result I want to reach because I’m a [liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican].’ That justice does what I do: reads the briefs, reads the statute, reads the cases” (Coyle, 2013, p.7). The objective legalist perspective is significant because it is the ideal; it is what the Court should be. Sandra Day O’Connor exemplified this perspective because she was, more often than not, the deciding vote in 5-4 decisions. She voted impersonally; what mattered to her were a case’s merits rather than its partisan implications. This trend has continued to an extent with Justice Kennedy, though he doesn’t always enjoy the title of “swing vote.” The less a given opinion relies upon the feelings and party affiliation of a justice, the more legitimate an opinion seems with the passing of
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