Protest at the Supreme Court as the 2016-17 Term Begins With Eight Justices
The Supreme Court’s 2016-17 term officially opened on Monday. And the 2016-17 term opened as 2015-16 term had closed–with one seat still empty. Justice Scalia’s seat has been vacant since his passing in February, despite President Obama nominating Judge Merrick Garland to fill that seat in March. Senate Republicans have not even managed to hold a Judiciary Committee hearing on Garland’s nomination in the 202 days since the nomination. Right now, the Senate is out on recess until after the November elections–meaning that by the time the Senate is back in session, Judge Garland will have been waiting for a hearing nearly twice as long as any other Supreme Court nominee in history has had to wait for both a hearing and a full Senate vote.
Activists gathered in front of the Supreme Court yesterday morning to call on the Senate to do their jobs and to highlight that the Supreme Court needs all nine Justices. Several speakers emphasized that the Supreme Court needs nine Justices to properly function, that the Senate has a constitutional duty to provide advice and consent, and that this type of obstruction is unprecedented. The last time that the Supreme Court had a seat empty on Election Day was in 1864, during the Civil War. The Supreme Court has never had a nominee for a vacancy that has remained pending for two terms. And there has never been a nominee for whom the Senate has refused to hold hearings for over two hundred days. The Senate is obstructing the judiciary’s ability to do its job in a historically unprecedented way.
Having only eight members on the Supreme Court hurts the entire country. Several major cases deadlocked in a 4-4 decision last term. Faced with the same dilemma this Term, the Justices may have declined to take more controversial cases for review. This means that circuit and district courts don’t get the answers they need on pressing issues. And women across the country don’t get the justice they deserve.