Should Supreme Court Justices be Elected or Appointed?

Nick Shelton, Reporter

In the United States, it has long been the responsibility of the President to appoint Supreme Court nominees and for the Senate to confirm or deny them a spot on the court. However, after the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett, some have called this system into question. Sources have offered that the current system be scrapped in exchange for an election to be held for Supreme Court justices such as is currently done with Circuit Court judges. 

Those arguing for an election system to be put in place for Supreme Court judges argue that it is precedent in Circuit Courts to elect judges, but it is also a precedent in every other court to appoint judges from appeals judges to district judges to Supreme Court justices. 

The idea behind moving to an election based system for Supreme Court justices is to help depoliticize the courts and ensure that one party does not load the court by appointing like-minded judges during its rule so that each judge would instead have to run for election. 

The problem with the election based system is that if judges and justices have to run for election, then the court would become far more politicized than ever. A study conducted by Charles Guyh, author of the book “Who is to Judge”, found that if a judge is subject to election then they “tend to make decisions with an eye toward those who control their future.” He also found that “judges who are not subject to election—most notably judges in the U.S. Supreme Court and circuit courts—are less dependent on the preferences of others but can be more influenced by their own ideological preferences, especially in close cases.” 

The studies show that if a judge/justice faces elections and re-elections then they are more likely to make their decisions not based on interpreting the constitution but on pleasing the voters. Judicial independence and the Constitution are both at the center of the job of a Supreme Court justice. By having an election for judges and justices, they would lose their judicial independence because they would no longer be able to provide equal and fair justice because they would instead focus on making decisions that would be beneficial to their own reelection. Article II Section 2 of the Constitution states that the president “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the Supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided.” Therefore if a Supreme Court justice is to be an arbiter of the law and guardian of the Constitution then it is essential that the statutes of the Constitution be followed in their appointment. 

Appointing justices is the most reliable, most trustworthy, and most effective way of assigning justices to the Supreme Court. Therefore, I believe that it is not the job of the public to elect Supreme Court justices but that it is the President’s responsibility and duty to appoint Supreme Court Justices.