The appointment of a Supreme Court Justice is an event of major significance in American politics. Recent appointment to the nine-member Court is of significance given that the countdown for US presidential elections has begun. One should study the difference between Indian and US Supreme court judges appointments.
- Procedure of Election of US supreme court judges and comparison with India
- Is US procedure a political process?
- In news
- The Senate voted 52-48 to confirm the Judge Amy Coney Barrett who is Supreme Court nominee by Trump.
- Ms. Barrett, who was nominated to replace liberal justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, will be the first mother of school-aged children and the fifth ever woman appointed to the Court.
- With her appointment, six of the nine judges of the Supreme Court will be Catholic.
- With Ms. Barrett’s appointment to the Court, Democrats are expected to consider term limits for Supreme Court justices as well as increasing the number of justices in the court.
- Amy Coney Barrett has taken the first of two oaths she needs to officially join the Supreme Court.
- Second oath, known as the judicial oath, will be administered by Chief Justice John Roberts.
Procedure of Election of US supreme court judges and comparison with that of India:
- Unlike in India, where the judiciary is integrated, Federal and state courts in the US are separate, and the 9-member US Supreme Court is the apex forum of the federal system.
- The US Constitution provides that federal judges – including Supreme Court “justices”– are to be nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate (the upper chamber of the US Congress).
- Currently, the Republican Party controls both the Senate and the presidency.
- In India, judges appoint judges under the Collegium system, and not elected politicians.
- The CJI along with the ‘larger collegium’ of 4 other senior-most judges virtually unknown appoint other judges in the SC and the CJI along with the ‘smaller collegium’ of two other senior-most judges, virtually appoint the High Court judges.
- In India, judges have a fixed retirement age – 65 for the Supreme Court and 62 for High Courts.
- In the US, federal judges can serve for life – their terms only ending if they resign, pass away or if they are impeached and convicted by Congress.
- The US Constitution lays down no requirements for Supreme Court justices. The 9-member Bench can typically consist of previous circuit court judges, distinguished lawyers, law professors and even politicians.
- India strictly follows the ‘seniority rule’ in the appointment of the CJI. E.g. present CJI SA Bobde was sworn in as the CJI, upon the retirement of the then CJI Justice Ranjan Gogoi, on 18th Nov 2019.
- The US-SC does not follow the system of appointment of the senior-most judge as its CJI. E.g. Justice John G. Roberts, was sworn directly as the CJ of the US-SC in Sept 2005, when he was not even an associate/sitting judge of the US-SC and hence was the junior-most appointee amongst all the 9 judges of the US-SC at the time of his appointment.
- In Indian Supreme Court, judges sit in benches of two, but in the US-SC, all 9 judges sit and hear all cases together as a part of one single bench.
Is US procedure a political process?
- The procedure for appointing a Justice in the US is provided for by the Constitution in the “Appointments Clause” (Article II, Section 2, clause 2) which states that the President “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Judges of the supreme Court.”
- Though the process of appointing Justices has undergone changes, its most basic feature, the sharing of power between the President and Senate has remained unchanged.
- Political considerations typically play an important role in Supreme Court appointments.
- It is often assumed that Presidents will be inclined to select a nominee whose political or ideological views appear compatible with their own.
- The political nature of the appointment process becomes especially apparent when a President submits a nominee with controversial views.
- Sometimes there will be sharp partisan or ideological differences between the President and the Senate.
- On rare occasions, Presidents also have made Court appointments without the Senate’s consent, when the Senate was in recess.
- Such “recess appointments,” however, were temporary, with their terms expiring at the end of the Senate’s next session.
- Explain the Procedure of Election of US supreme court judges. How is it different from that followed in India?
Approach to the answer:
- Write why it is in the news?
- Write the procedure in US
- Compare it with that of India