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Local Praise for Ruth Bader Ginsburg & Caution for Rushing to Fill Supreme Court Vacancy

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Reactions to the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg quickly switched from condolence and praise for her landmark career to political posturing over whether a replacement nominee should be rushed through before November’s Election.  Reactions from Both Syracuse political experts and New York elected officials show they want the people’s voice to be defended.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is being called a resolute champion for justice and a trailblazer for women’s rights by U-S senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.  Ginsburg passed away Friday from complications of pancreatic cancer.  Syracuse University Professor and Director of the Tully Center for Free Speech Roy Gutterman has a photo of Ginsburg in his office. 

“Justice Ginsburg’s judicial legacy rests in her defense of equal rights and civil rights. In First Amendment and cases touching on free speech rights, she supported free speech rights, joining opinions in several recent cases including rights for internet users, video games, even offensive protesters. She also sided with the vociferous dissent in Citizens United."

Gutterman recalls meeting her and seeing her in oral arguments, showing a firm grasp on issues surrounding technology and free speech.    

But as praise for Ginsburg’s career flooded in, so did political statements about trying to nominate and confirm her replacement. 

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York said in a release, "The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president." 

He was actually reiterating a statement made by Senate Leader Mitch McConnell when a vacancy came up in the final year of Barrack Obama’s presidency.  McConnell now is saying he’ll rush through a Trump nominee before the election or the end of term.  He’s calling McConnell a hypocrite, saying the postponement of the Obama nominee, more than six months before the 2016 election, should be mirrored here.

"A basic principle of the law — and of everyday fairness — is that we apply rules with consistency, and not based on what’s convenient or advantageous in the moment," he wrote in a statement.

Syracuse Political Science Professor Thomas Keck, an expert in constitutional law, says court selection should follow public sentiment.

"For most of the Supreme Court’s history, the process of presidential appointment and Senate confirmation has ensured that the Court’s views broadly track those of the American public. That electoral connection has been sundered in recent decades, as Democrats won the popular vote in six of the past seven presidential elections, while Republicans maintained a lock on the Court."

Keck says rushing a nomination before the November election is more than political.

"When Justice Scalia passed away in February 2016, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared that Supreme Court vacancies should not be filled during a presidential election year. He has already indicated that he has no intention of honoring that “rule” this year, but a rushed nomination and confirmation process would severely harm the Court’s legitimacy with the public.”

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.