The Supreme Court convened on Monday for a new term with an old problem: 202 days after President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy left by the death last February of Justice Antonin Scalia, the seat remains open and the court remains evenly split between “liberal” and “conservative” factions.
Snubbed by the U.S. Senate’s Republican majority, which apparently prefers a deadlocked court and delayed justice to seating an Obama nominee, Garland, chief judge of the. U.S. Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C., has now waited longer than any high court nominee in the nation’s history for a hearing and a confirmation vote. And through it all, not a single senator has questioned his character or his qualifications.
The Senate’s inaction and the continued division among the eight remaining justices is impeding justice across the country. This term the court is signaling that it will take fewer cases and in particular fewer cases that present major issues than it would otherwise.
United States v. Texas, a suit challenging President Obama’s decision to revamp enforcement of immigration laws, illustrates the importance of a full court. After Scalia’s death, the justices deadlocked 4-4 on the case, putting Obama’s policy in limbo and guaranteeing more litigation and perhaps years of additional delay in settling the legal status of millions of immigrants.
On Tuesday, day 202 after the nomination, members of a coalition of organizations gathered on the steps for the latest in a series of protests over the delay. The crowd included James Obergefell, the plaintiff in last year’s historic case in which the court struck down barriers to same-sex marriage.
The demonstration underscored the court vacancy status as an issue in the presidential campaign, Republican candidate Donald Trump has defended the Senate’s inaction on Garland while Democrat Hillary Clinton has defended the nomination; polls say most Americans agree with Clinton that Garland deserves a hearing and a vote
Office: Common Cause National
Issues: More Democracy Reforms