The idea that the three branches of government are autonomous has, over the years, been thoroughly debated. The relationship between the judiciary and the executive will be reviewed as per the requirements of this assignment. Whereas the constitution provides that the two stated branches of government are independent, there have been cases and instances where the executive has been accused of interfering with the workings of the judiciary.
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Bruff suggests that presidents (the heads of the executive) have cunningly appointed Supreme Court justices who would easily serve their interests (19). It is also interesting to note that the GOP presidents have nominated the highest number of Supreme Court justices in the country. Despite this, the tide in the judicial system has not changed since 1969 (Bartels). This essay looks into whether the executive truly influences the judiciary. The essay will prove that today, the level of polarization and the increase in the politicization of the judicial system has changed the freedom of autonomy the judiciary once enjoyed.
One can argue that initially, presidents and the executive branch of government did not have much influence over the Supreme Court. Indeed, presidents made their selection of Supreme Court nominees based on their political agenda. However, this did not translate into favors after the actual swearing-in of these justices. An example can be given to explain how presidents have tried to get their preferred nominees into the Supreme Court, and how these nominees have changed allegiances once they got the position.
Ronald Regan appointed three judges to the Supreme Court. The three were O’Connor, Scalia, and Kennedy. Whereas they got nominated based on their close affiliation with the GOP, they arguably did not translate this affiliation to the Supreme Court. Both O’Connor and Kennedy have been described to offer “swing justice” in their positions (Bartels). This means that they would make a judgment based on the law with no affiliation to either party.
One can also argue that presidential nominations are often about ensuring a unified government. Unified refers to the fact that both the Senate and the presidency are held by one party (Bruff 21). Indeed, it would be easier for the nominated candidates to do their jobs and realize their objectives if the government they are serving at that time was unified. As stated, in the past, such nominations especially to the judiciary were not affected by political affiliation. However, today, there is so much political polarization in the Supreme Court that one can state that the branches of government are not independent (Bruff 21).
The Supreme Court is tasked with listening to some of the most important cases in the country, including cases against a president. The case of Brett Kavanaugh can be used to highlight how polarization and increased politicization have affected the Supreme Court today. Kavanaugh was President Trump’s first nominee for the Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. In this position, he would oversee and listen to cases that involved the president, including indictment cases.
However, as Rizzo notes, Kavanaugh has on various occasions stated that he strongly believes that a sitting president cannot be indicted. Such a strong stance would suggest that Kavanaugh would refuse to listen to any cases that involved the indictment of the president. Rizzo argues that this is the main reason why he was selected as a Supreme Court nominee. As the president, Trump, would not have to worry about indictment at any point of his tenure. The same applied to the nominations of the Solicitor General. One can state that the judiciary would not be divided if the Solicitor General and the Supreme Court judge were both from the same party.
Indeed, there have been many cases where presidents have been accused of trying to intimidate and directly influence the Supreme Court. It can be that presidents feel the need to manipulate the judiciary as they are the ones who nominated the judges. One way that presidents have tried to manipulate the judiciary is through offering better positions, business opportunities, and also blackmail. Bruff confirms that members of the judiciary can also be intimidated using the media (24).
This also applies to congress, where members of congress might be intimidated by the president and the executive to influence a policy. There are several things Congress, the Supreme Court, and even the public can do to avoid being intimidated by the president of the executive. One such action is impeaching the president. One of the reasons Congress can impeach the president is the abuse of power. There should be enough evidence for such a drastic measure. Secondly, the media can be used to highlight any type of intimidation or manipulation.
In conclusion, it is important to note that the three branches of government should work independently to function well. The fact that Kavanaugh was supported by the president to become a judge of the Supreme Court goes to show how polarization has affected the autonomy of the judiciary. The president of the US defended his selection despite the accusations made against Kavanaugh. All this so that the Republicans could have a preferred judge in the Supreme Court. Such a political link is important, in this case, due to Kavanaugh’s stand on never listening to any president’s indictment cases.
Bartels, Brandon. “It Took Conservatives 50 Years to Get a Reliable Majority on the Supreme Court. Here Are 3 Reasons Why.” The Washington Post, 2018. Web.
Bruff, H. Harold. Untrodden Ground: How Presidents Interpret the Constitution. University of Chicago Press, 2015.
Rizzo, Salvador. “Does Brett Kavanaugh Think the President is Immune from Criminal Charges?” The Washington Post, 2018. Web.