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Our Current Supreme Court Justices And What They Stand For

The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has thrown the court into a delicate balance as four conservative justices and four liberal justices teeter over the remaining cases of the current term. If the court reaches a 4-4 split on a decision, the ruling would either go to the lower court, and no federal precedence would be set, or the case would be put on hold until Scalia’s replacement has been nominated and confirmed.

With the conservative majority at stake for the first time in decades, pressure is building between President Obama and Senate Republicans who are threatening to block any liberal candidate that the President nominates. Their goal is to hold the president at bay until the November election in the hope that a new republican commander-in-chief will take the reins and nominate a Scalia-like Justice.

Ted Cruz perfectly captured the conservative state of mind over possibly losing their majority in his CNN Town Hall at Greenville, South Carolina on February 17.

We are one liberal justice away from the Supreme Court striking down every restriction on abortion that’s been put in place the last 40 years. We are one liberal justice away from the Supreme Court writing the Second Amendment out of the Constitution. We are one liberal justice away from the Supreme Court ordering Ten Commandments monuments to be torn down, ordering veterans memorials to be torn down, and undermining our fundamental religious liberty.

There is no telling how long the court will remain in this judicial limbo, and all the while, top-shelf cases wait for the court’s attention including the first abortion case in ten years as well as a dispute involving President Obama’s attempt to impact immigration policies.

While this news continues to make headlines over the presidential race coverage, it occurred to me how little I actually know about the current Supreme Court Justices and their rulings on the key issues of our time. I decided to do a bit of investigating, here’s what I found:

 

Justice Clarence Thomas
Born in Savannah, Georgia in 1948. Justice Thomas received his formal education from Yale Law School in 1974, was nominated to the Supreme Court by President George W Bush and took his seat on October 15, 1991.

On The Issues:

Abortion:
He contended in past cases that the Constitution does not address abortion, and therefore, abortion is not a protected right in the United States. He took the stance that while a state may allow abortion, there is nothing constitutionally that says they must.
Gay Rights:
He believes that these are issues for states to decide for themselves.
Equal Protection & Affirmative Action:
The Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the consideration of race, this includes race-based preferential treatment such as affirmative action. He is quoted as stating, “the government cannot make us equal; It can only recognize, respect, and protect us as equal before the law.”
Drugs:
He believes medical marijuana is not addressed in the Constitution and should therefore remain a state issue.
Capital Punishment:
He defends the death penalty, claiming that it is a clear part of the Constitution and can’t be considered unconstitutional.
Gun Control:
He has stated that interpreting the Commerce Clause to ban guns is unconstitutional, and that the right to gun ownership is individual, not collective.

 

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.
Born in Buffalo, New York in 1955, Justice Roberts is a concluded his formal education at Harvard Law School in 1979. He was nominated to the Supreme Court by President George W. Bush and officially took his seat on September 29, 2005.

On The Issues:
Abortion:
He voted in support of the constitutionality of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, and wrote a Supreme Court brief that stated “Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and should be overruled.”
He also supports limiting funding for abortion clinics.
Free Speech:
Roberts authored a case ruling that students openly advocating drug use within public schools are not protected from school disciplinary action under their right to free speech.
Gay Rights:
He contends that the Constitution says nothing about marriage or gay marriage, and therefore, the federal government did not have the authority to legislate a national law for it one way or the other. He said the majority opinion on legalizing gay marriage was, “an act of will, not legal judgement. The court invalidates the marriage laws of more than half the states and orders the transformation of a social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia, for the Kalahari Bushmen & the Han Chinese, the Carthaginians & the Aztecs. Just who do we think we are?”
Healthcare Reform:
He voted to overturn a portion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that attempted to penalize states that chose not to participate in the new program by taking away their current Medicaid funding.

 

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy
Born in Sacramento, California in 1936, Justice Kennedy received his formal education from Stanford University and Harvard Law. He was nominated for the Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan, and he took his seat on Feb 3, 1988. After the recent death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016, Kennedy became the most senior Associate Justice on the court.

On The Issues:
Abortion:
He supports the constitutionality of abortion rights under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. However, he also supports restrictions such as parental notification for minors and a ban on partial-birth abortion.
Gay Rights:
He voted against the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, during the case of United States v. Widsor.

He supports the constitutionality of gay marriage under the Fourteenth Amendment, and likewise, maintains that the LGBT is a protected class.
In Obergefell v. Hodges, Kennedy wrote on the topic of gay rights saying, “The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning.”
Capital Punishment:
He supports the court’s decision to deny capital punishment to any case where the criminal(s) are not charged with intentional first-degree murder.
Gun Control:
He voted against the ban on handguns which was proposed in District of Columbia v. Heller due to the Second Amendment’s clear protection on the right to keep and bear arms. However, the decision left room for an expansion on gun regulation.

 

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1933, Justice Ginsburg received her formal education at Harvard Law School and Columbia Law School. She was nominated for the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton and took her seat on August 10, 1993.

On The Issues:
Abortion:
She strongly advocates for women’s right to choose.
She stated her justification on the record: “As long as the government paid for childbirth, the argument proceeded, public funding could not be denied for abortion.”
Gay Rights:
She concurs with the majority decision to define gay marriage as a constitutionally protected right. Additionally, she recognized the LGBT community as a protected class.
Capital Punishment:
She supports the constitutionality of the death penalty, however, she believes that any mitigating evidence should be cause to consider life imprisonment as an alternative.
Drugs:
She views the use of police roadblocks with drug-sniffing dogs as a violation of the Fourth Amendment’s proscription against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Gun Control:
She believes that congress has the right to regulate fire arms in schools under the Commerce Clause, owing to the constitutional interpretation that gun ownership is collective, not individual.
Health Care:
She supports the opinion that the individual states should rule on their own insurance issues, not the federal government, due to the fact that the states have authority to protect patient rights.
Homeland Security:
She is against torture in all of its forms, stating that it “makes us like our enemies.”

 

Justice Stephen G. Breyer
Born in San Fransisco, California in 1938, Justice Breyer received his formal education for Harvard Law School. He was nominated for the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton and took his seat on August 3, 1994.

On The Issues:
Abortion:
He supports abortion as a constitutional right, believing the original understanding of the Constitution can only take us so far, and in the case of abortion, it must be interpreted as a living document according to the context of our modern age.
Gay Rights:
He supports the constitutional protection of homosexual right to equal marriage opportunity.
Capital Punishment:
He believes that all mitigating evidence should affect the decision to rule in favor of the death penalty over life imprisonment.
Gun Control:
He claims that congress has the right to regulate firearms in schools due to the Commerce Clause, owing to the constitutional interpretation that the right to gun ownership is collective not individual.

He also denies that citizens have the right to carrying loaded guns in “crime-ridden cities.”
Health Care:
He believes that the federal government possesses the right to decide insurance issues, not the states.

 

Justice Samuel Anthony Alito, Jr.
Born in Trenton, New Jersey in 1950, Justice Alito received his formal education from Yale Law School in 1975. He was nominated for the Supreme Court by President George W. Bush and officially took his seat January 31, 2006.

On The Issues:
Abortion:
He strongly condemns the Roe v. Wade decision allowing abortion as a constitutional right. He accepts that the case is now an important precedent but denies that it is a “settled” case, maintaining that it can be reexamined and overturned in future.
Gay Rights:
While he takes the stance that any derogatory speech about homosexuality is constitutionally protected as free speech, he also supports the application of a modern context to the privacy elements of the Constitution, which would protect all private sexual acts between any consenting adults.
Gun Control:
He believes that the right to gun ownership is individual, not collective, and that Congress does not possess the authority to prohibit the sale of automatic weapons.
Homeland Security:
As a strong proponent of limited government, Alito believes that all domestic surveillance and espionage must have a clear reason.
He also supports maintaining the balance of power by making sure the President is held accountable when failing to uphold the laws passed by Congress.

 

Justice Sonia Sotomayor
Born in Bronx, New York, in 1954, Justice Sotomayor received her formal education from Yale Law School in 1979. She was nominated for the Supreme Court by President Barack Obama and officially took her seat in 2010.

On The Issues:
Abortion:
She states that it is constitutional that the government (of Mexico City) can spend public funds on either a pro or anti abortion position.

Gay Rights:
She voted with the majority in favor of the constitutionality of gay marriage

Capital Punishment:
She holds that capital punishment is a constitutionally protected sentence in appropriate situations and has voted against cases that challenge a state’s right to exercise the death penalty.

Gun Control:
She issued a statement while overseeing a case, Maloney v. Cuomo stating that gun control is an individual right, not collective, and while the federal government is expressly prohibited from limiting a citizen’s right to bear arms, a state is not.

 

Justice Elena Kagan
Born in New York, New York, in 1960, Justice Kagan received her formal education from Harvard Law School in 1986. President Barack Obama nominated her for the Supreme Court, and she officially took her seat on May 10, 2010.

On The Issues:
Abortion:
She is pro choice but supported a compromise to ban late-term abortions in order to appease republicans and prevent the abortion legislation from being help up in congress.

Gay Rights:
She voted to end the ban on gay marriage and opposed “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the ban on gays serving openly in the military so fervently that, while Dean of Harvard Law School, she refused to give military recruiters an office to conduct interviews with students for potential military service.

Homeland Security:
Despite her banning military recruiters, she is openly pro military, which she claims is the reason for her holding them to a higher moral standard than what they display through their gay rights policies.

She also supports the detaining of enemy forces without a trial during times of war.

Heath Care:
She supports ObamaCare and aided officials in coordinating its legal defense.