New nominee could bring big changes to U.S. Supreme Court

Updated: Jul. 9, 2018 at 6:23 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - By nominating conservative to the US Supreme Court, President Trump will change not only the faces but likely the way cases are heard and settled.

When Justice Kennedy was on the bench, he was oftentimes a swing vote between the four more liberal and four more conservative justices.

In order to woo Justice Kennedy to their side, the justices would often argue narrowly in order to get his support.

Many recent cases were decided on narrow grounds setting up a showdown on the broader issues in the future.

Gerrymandering was one of those issue.

But now, a more conservative court doesn't have to do that anymore. With a secure fifth vote, it's likely the court can make more sweeping decisions on abortion, civil rights, civil liberties, gerrymandering, religion and the like.

"It can have a tremendous impact on our lives," said Barbara Bergman, Director of Advocacy and Law Professor at the University of Arizona.

"In order to get to five, you had to get Justice Kennedy," she said. "So you had to draft opinions that you could get five votes on."

Those tended to be narrow decision such as the Colorado Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling which did not rule on the broader question of whether the owners had the right to deny baking a cake for a gay couple's wedding.

Partisan gerrymandering cases from Wisconsin and Maryland were left to future court cases.

"You're not likely to have narrow decisions because they have five votes without having to craft a very narrow decision," she said.

But that's generally guesswork. Although thoroughly vetted, sometimes justice turn out a bit different than first anticipated.

"There are some justices when they get to the bench it changes them," Bergman said. "Because this is the U.S. Supreme Court."

Justice David Souter was one of those, a disappointment to many conservatives because he voted more liberally than anticipated.

"They don't always turn out the way expected," she said. "but by and large they generally have."

Which, because these are lifetime appointments, a shift to the right for decades is expected.

"I think it's generally going to be more conservative," Bergman said. "I think that's a fair assumption."

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