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Supreme Court Nominee Sparks Questions, Concerns, Some Praise in Syracuse and New York State

Mandel Ngan
AFP/Getty images via NPR

President Trump’s appointee to the Supreme Court is sparking conversation among political observers here in Syracuse, as well as among the state’s elected officials. 

Professor of Political Science at the Maxwell School, Thomas Keck, says Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment means issues that had partisan debate in recent history would now be taking a consistently conservative bend. 

“I also have concerns about his impact on issues regarding voting rights, gerrymandering, and alike,” Keck said. “The court’s record is already pretty conservative on these issues so it might not be a dramatic swing but Kavanaugh would just be in a position to help cement the rightward turn.”

Keck says the President’s nomination represents only the most recent action in an ongoing, largely successful republican effort to place ideologically conservative justices in the nation’s highest court, an institution which is meant to be largely non-partisan.

“We have a political system that’s very closely divided. But the republicans have managed to keep a lock on the Supreme Court,” Keck said. “The last time there was a democratic majority on the Supreme Court was in the spring of 1970. If Trump’s nominee this year is confirmed, and he may well get another vacancy, there’s the potential for this republican lock on the Supreme Court to persist well into the 21st century.”

President Trump was able to start shifting the court to the right with the appointment of Justice Neil Gorsuch following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

Governor Cuomo believes it is a certainty that Justice Kavanaugh would vote in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade.  During a speech in Westchester today, he urged New York voters to ask their representatives in Albany to preemptively pass a state law protecting a woman’s right to choose.

“If you support a women’s right to choose, you call your Senate leader Mr. Flanagan and say ‘you want to go to Albany and you want to pass that bill because a women’s right to choose is in jeopardy,’” Cuomo said. “It’s yes or no. It’s black or white. It’s today.”


Senator Kirsten Gillibrand re-confirmed her pledge to vote against Justice Kavanaugh’s appointment.  Here's her entire statement:

"If Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed, he would tip the balance of the Supreme Court even more against workers’ rights, civil rights, and women’s rights for decades to come. I do not think he is the right choice for our country, and I am going to vote against him and urge my colleagues to do the same.

"This new judge could be the deciding vote in whether insurance companies can charge people more, or don’t have to cover them at all anymore, if they have preexisting conditions — and nearly half of all New Yorkers have a preexisting condition. He could be the deciding vote to uphold the disastrous Citizens United decision, which allowed corporations to pour unlimited money into our politics. And he could be the deciding vote in overturning Roe v. Wade

, which is what President Trump said he wanted his new Supreme Court Justice to do. 

"I strongly oppose Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination and I urge all New Yorkers to raise their voices and join me in opposing him. We need a justice who will protect the rights of all people in our state — not just some."  --Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

In her remarks, State Attorney General Barbara Underwood shared her perspective as a former clerk for Justice Thurgood Marshall.  Here's her statement: 

"The Supreme Court has the potential to move us toward a more just and equitable society — and it’s been an honor to be a part of that effort at various points in my career, including while clerking for Justice Thurgood Marshall and serving as U.S. Solicitor General. 

"Yet it appears that President Trump’s nominee has been chosen for his potential to move us backwards, upending decades of protections for women, racial minorities, LGBTQ Americans, workers, and other marginalized groups, and the fundamental principle of equal justice under the law. 

"Regardless of President Trump's ongoing efforts to undercut New Yorkers’ hard-earned rights, this office’s work will continue full speed.” --NY State Attorney General Barbara Underwood.

Meanwhile, Congressmember Claudia Tenney (R-New Hartford) offered praise for Trump's selection.  Here's her ful statement:

"I commend President Trump for his excellent choice of Judge Brett Kavanaugh as the next member of the United States Supreme Court. Judge Kavanaugh’s outstanding and diverse record on the compelling constitutional issues of the day proves that he is an intellectual leader on the bench and will be a superb member of our nation’s highest court. His strong commitment to constitutional originalism will enable the Supreme Court to restore its role in American government, ensuring the court decisions are not greater or more consequential than the other two branches of our Constitutional Republic. I urge my Senate colleagues to swiftly confirm him."  -- Congresswoman Claudia Tenney.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at