By Ally Margolis
Ally Margolis is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences studying Political Science and History.
Former President Trump’s legal challenges to the outcome of the 2020 election were largely if not entirely struck down by courts. In the most recent case, the Supreme Court threw out a case brought by the Texas Attorney General to invalidate election results in various states that President-Elect Biden won. Not one of the Justices offered a public dissent in favor of relief. Justices Alito and Thomas said that they would have let the case be filed but would not have provided any further relief . This decision came just days after the Court denied Pennsylvanian Republicans’ case to throw out all of Pennsylvania’s mail-in votes from the recent election . Again, there were no written dissents to this decision.
As these cases, along with many others, have been decided by the Courts, the media has continually emphasized that conservative judges and justices are many times the ones striking down the efforts of Trump’s legal team. While I understand the appeal of highlighting that even those appointed by the President think his legal challenges lack merit, it sets a dangerous precedent. Chief Justice Roberts famously stated in 2018 that “We do not have Obama judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges.” He went on to say that the “independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for” . This statement was in response to President Trump’s claim that a circuit court judge who ruled against him did so because he was an “Obama Judge” .
While some judges and justices have no doubt tested the “independent” nature of the judiciary, classifying them as “conservative” or “liberal” or “Trump-appointed” or “Obama-appointed” suggests that they are beholden to something or someone other than the Constitution of the United States. The United States court system includes a variety of views on how to read the Constitution, strict or broad constructions, both of which can be criticized. But these readings are not beholden to a person or a party.
As a non-partisan body, the judiciary has held firm against Trump’s election challenges. One hundred and twenty six Republican congresspeople filed an amicus brief in favor of overturning the election results, which if it had not been denied, would have invalidated their own election wins . When certifying the electoral college results on January 6th, six Republican senators and one hundred and thirty eight congresspeople voted to decertify Pennsylvania’s electors, even after the insurrection. While this number was smaller than expected, it is still concerning. State institutions stood up to defend the democratic process, particularly in historically red states like Georgia and Arizona. While their actions were essential and they even warned of the violence that came on January sixth, politicians in these states should not be overly applauded for doing their job. Similarly, the judiciary should be expected to uphold an election decided freely and fairly by the American people. It should be expected that those in our government will uphold the law of the land.
The danger in classifying judges by their partisanship or appointment is that then citizens will begin to only respect the decisions of the judges that are appointed by politicians they like or support the same policies that they do. Had the recent Supreme Court cases been thrown out by solely judges and justices who were appointed by Democrats, it would not make their decisions any less sound, or the filings to overthrow the election any more warranted.
 Ariane de Vogue and Maegan Vasquez. “Supreme Court rejects Trump’s bid to overturn election.” (12 December 2020). CNN politics. https://www.cnn.com/2020/12/11/politics/supreme-court-texas-trump-biden/index.html.
 Sprunt, Barbara. “Supreme Court Denies GOP Bid To Reject Pennsylvania Election Results.” (8 December 2020). NPR. https://www.npr.org/2020/12/08/944230517/supreme-court-rejects-gop-bid-to-reverse-pennsylvania-election-results.
 Cummings, William. “US does not have ‘Obama judges’: Trump responds to Supreme Court Justice John Roberts’ rebuke.”(21 November 2018) USA Today. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2018/11/21/john-roberts-trump-statement/2080266002/.
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