Since the controversial moments leading to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment back in October, Democrats have been awaiting his first move. President Trump chose a nominee who aligned with his own conservative values, a decision that will impact the judicial system, long after Trump’s term ends.
The Supreme Court upheld its’ reputation of having a swing vote in landmark decisions. Former Justice Anthony Kennedy had been the Court’s swing vote through his tenure. However, when Kennedy announced his retirement in June 2018, that left a seat vacant for Trump to fill. That would mean that Trump would have the opportunity to install a strong conservative majority on the Court. As NPR’s Colin Dwyer notes, “it’s worth a look back on some landmark 5-4 rulings that were likely decided by a single vote — his”. The collection of cases mentioned below and more exemplify how former Justice Kennedy’s decisions were often ‘close calls’, for either side.
Decisions in which Kennedy cast the deciding vote included the 2015 decision affirming gay marriage, a couple of abortion decisions that affirmed Roe v. Wade, and cases involving affirmative action. Emily Cochrane of the New York Times laid out major cases in which Kennedy’s vote was decisive. Most notable of the abortion decisions was Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, in which Justice Kennedy was a “crucial vote in the 2016 case that reaffirmed and strengthened constitutional protections for abortion rights, striking down parts of a restrictive Texas law that could have drastically reduced the number of abortion clinics in the state, leaving them only in the largest metropolitan areas.” Most of the decisions Cochrane highlighted affected the lives of many minority groups, where the court was continually split.
To state the obvious, Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh’s appointment gave many liberals fear, given that Conservatives would now have a decisive majority, given them control over critical decisions in the Supreme Court. In the recent case of Apple Incorporated v. Pepper, however, Kavanaugh shook the nation in his decision to rule 5-4 against Apple siding with the four liberal Supreme Court Justices. For those who are not entirely sure what this ruling means, here’s how it affects you.
Apple was challenged by the Respondent, Robert Pepper who alleged that Apple was getting away with unfair and unlawful practices by not allowing users to purchase or decide the apps on their phones from any other store other than Apple’s own store, where Apple takes 30% of the purchases in retail. In the opinion of the decision, Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh cited the Sherman Antitrust Act, which was the first law that outlawed monopolistic business procedures back in 1890. This case was actually brought up on two other occasions back in 2007 and 2011, where Apple got away with using previous precedents in Illinois Brick Co. v. Illinois, 431 U.S. 720 (1977), provided by the summary in Oyez.
In this precedent, according to a Quimbee summary, “Illinois Brick Company (Illinois Brick) (defendant) was a manufacturer of concrete bricks operating in the Chicago area. Illinois Brick sold bricks to masonry contractors, who then submitted bids to general contractors for specific portions of larger construction projects. […] Illinois Brick moved for summary judgment on the theory that indirect purchasers were not eligible to sue under Statue 4 for overcharges. The court of appeals rejected the motion, and Illinois Brick appealed.” This monumental decision changes the political landscape of the judicial system.
What this could mean for future decisions and citizens like you:
- Kavanaugh has the power to affect more than just a major technology company. His next decisions could reverse the decisions Justice Kennedy made, especially ones concerning abortion and minorities.
- He could make a decision that might divide America further than the current atmosphere of tensions and hostility since Trump’s 2016 election.
- Kavanaugh’s recent appointment and young age provide years of continual protests and demands for when he does not swing to the liberal side of the discussion.
In the future, in light of the increased discussion around abortion and recent absurd laws, as I covered in my last article in Raging Chicken, Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh is poised to impact the nation for years to come. While many expect the abortion fight from state to state to eventually lead to the Supreme Court with the ultimate ban, Kavanaugh could change his mind at any moment in time. The judicial system may very well be in the hand of this 54-year-old man. His swearing-in ceremony was also quite controversial, as the Senate chose to believe him over Dr. Christine Blasey Ford back in November over sexual harassment allegations. Justice Kavanaugh holds the fate of many women in the balance and will continue to change the tides of the American judicial system as time goes on. The weight of such a decision is a wake-up call to the new power this one man has on the laws of the justice system. This feeling is unsettling, but all we can do is stay tuned.