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Editorial Commentary: Ken Ciboski

Ciboski: The Importance Of The Court


The confirmation process in the Senate for Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court is much closer to beginning in earnest. Kavanaugh has submitted a large number of pages of information about himself that was requested by the Senate judiciary committee. Appointments to the Supreme Court are fraught with politics and controversy since the Court’s decisions have great influence on the politics and culture of American society.

Kavanaugh’s belief in robust executive authority is likely to receive close scrutiny. More and more Americans now realize that presidential elections are not just about candidates and their stances on current issues. For example, former speaker of the House John Boehner said the 2016 election decision for president was easy to make. He said that it was not so much about the political process in general - or the legislative process, which he said would be largely unaffected by the winner. What really mattered was who would be making appointments to the Supreme Court for the next four or eight years. He emphasized that appointments to the Court are the biggest impact that a president can have. This is important because the Constitution is what the justices say it is. The Court also can consider the impact of its decisions on the political environment in making a decision.

I asked the late retired Justice Tom Clark when he visited Wichita State a few years ago if the justices paid attention to the political environment in making decisions. “Oh boy, do we,” he said. “Take that 1954 decision of Brown versus the Board of Education of Topeka. The Court knew long in advance what it was going to do about the 'separate but equal doctrine' of segregation in the schools, but the political environment was not right yet.”