Will the US Supreme Court influence 2024 presidential election?

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When it comes to deciding election matters, analysts warn that the justices could be subject to criticism because they have a majority of conservatives on the bench.

A city in the state of California — During the beginning of the primary season for the presidential election in the United States, the Supreme Court is anticipated to provide its opinion on a number of high-profile issues that have the potential to affect the outcome of the race.

On the other hand, experts believe that this places the court in a vulnerable position. As a result of the fact that Donald Trump, the leading candidate for the Republican nomination and a former president, is currently involved in various judicial actions, the court may be compelled to confront the boundaries of its impartiality.

Depending on the circumstances, certain justices might even be required to publicly evaluate the behavior of the former president who nominated them for the position. In the end, it is believed that Trump is responsible for the current conservative supermajority on the Supreme Court, as he appointed three justices during his time in office.

According to Michael Gerhardt, a professor of jurisprudence at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the cases involving Donald Trump would serve as “a test for whether or not the court can somehow put aside their political preferences and biases.”

Donald Trump steps out of a black SUV vehicle, wearing a blue suit and red tie.

Testing the limits of presidential immunity

There is a good chance that one of the issues that will be heard by the Supreme Court will involve Trump’s extensive claims of immunity for actions he conducted while he was in office.

Over the course of his final days in office, federal prosecutors, led by special counsel Jack Smith, have alleged that President Trump participated in a plot to change the results of the 2020 election. The legal team for Donald Trump, on the other hand, has requested that the allegations against him be dismissed on the grounds that, as president, he is exempt from being prosecuted for criminal offenses.

At the beginning of this month, an appeals court heard arguments in the case. If he is unsuccessful there, it is highly possible that Trump will file an additional appeal with the Supreme Court.

According to Gerhardt, however, the case for Trump’s immunity will be difficult to sell. When it comes to immunity, Trump’s argument is really feeble. To be honest, it’s not even good. In addition, I find it difficult to believe that any court would agree with his argument under any circumstances.

However, Gerhardt cautioned that it is possible that the Supreme Court will not take the case at all, which would mean that the decision of the federal appeal court would be the last word. “It is quite unlikely that they are eager to participate in any way. The immunity case most likely provides the court with a wonderful opportunity to simply avoid becoming involved in the situation.

A courtroom sketch of Donald Trump sitting at a table before a federal appeals court, his lawyer standing and speaking to the panel of judges.

‘Insurrection clause’ on the docket

Within the context of another lawsuit, the Supreme Court has previously been asked to step in and decide whether or not states have the authority to remove Trump from their primary ballots.

As a result of the activities that Trump’s supporters took on January 6, 2021, when they stormed the United States Capitol in an attempt to prevent Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 election, the states of Colorado and Maine believe that Trump is not qualified to enter their ballots.

Both states referred to the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution, which has a provision that prohibits persons from holding public office if they take an oath of allegiance and then participate in an uprising.

Trump had addressed the gathering of rioters prior to the attack on the Capitol in 2021, during which he reiterated the bogus accusations that the election had been stolen and urged the audience to “fight like hell.”

Among all the issues that the Supreme Court might hear in 2024, the decision about whether or not Trump’s name can be removed from state ballots is the one that, according to experts, has the potential to have the most significant influence on the outcome of the election.

A decision regarding the so-called “insurrection clause” has never been made by the Supreme Court previously. This is the first time in the history of the clause that it has been invoked against a presidential candidate, and the acts of the states reflect this momentous occasion.

For their part, the attorneys for Donald Trump claim that it is not clear whether the law extends to the office of the president, and they have framed Trump’s statements as coming within the bounds of free speech.

Attorney Eric Olson stands behind a podium in a wood-lined courtroom. Behind a raised panel table before him sit a row of judges.

A likely win for Trump

The court is expected to begin hearing arguments in the case on February 8, which is in advance of the primaries in Maine and Colorado, which are slated to take place on March 5. Each primary vote contributes to the decision of which candidates will obtain nominations from major parties.

An attorney named Mark Graber, who teaches at the University of Maryland School of Law, stated that the justices of the Supreme Court will want to get the matter resolved as quickly as possible in order to avoid any uncertainty among the voters.

“They are likely to weigh in fairly quickly, in the sense that they will realize that this is something that ought not to be left hanging,” Graber said of the justices. “They are likely to weigh in fairly effectively.”

“As of this moment, he [Trump] has not been removed from any ballot in any of the primary elections that appear to be taking place right away.” On January 23, a vote will take place in New Hampshire, marking the beginning of the primary election season.

Based on her experience as a professor of presidential studies at the University of Virginia, Barbara Perry anticipates that the Supreme Court, which is dominated by conservatives, would ultimately rule in favor of Donald Trump.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, she stated, “I believe it is highly likely that they will.” Generally speaking, political scientists have discovered that the majority of the time, between seventy and eighty percent of the time, justices have a tendency to adhere to the ideology of the president who appointed them.

Graber described the case as “very challenging” for the justices of the court, particularly in light of the political leanings of the justices individually.

“Given the nature of the case, it is going to be very difficult to avoid the appearance of bias,” he replied when asked about the situation. When it comes to abortion, everyone believes that their position is the neutral position, and anyone who decides differently is obviously prejudiced.

A portrait photo of all nine US Supreme Court justices, dressed in black robes and arranged in two lines, some seated, some standing.

Bias on the bench

In recent years, the Supreme Court has become increasingly concerned about the issue of judicial bias. Since the beginning of time, the Supreme Court has been portrayed as an institution that is independent of politics and is only accountable to the law.

However, this image has been shattered as a result of the court being confronted with doubts regarding its trustworthiness.

Recent events have resulted in an unprecedented decline in public perception of the Supreme Court. In 2023, the Pew Research Center discovered that only 44 percent of Americans had a positive perception of the court. This was the first time since 1987 that the majority of Americans voiced displeasure of the court.

There were ethical failures and problematic judgments about abortion and affirmative action in higher education, according to Perry, which contributed to the low approval ratings.

A conservative judge named Clarence Thomas, who has been called upon to recuse himself from cases involving President Trump, is one of the justices who has been at the center of the recent scandals that have engulfed the Supreme Court.

It has been reported in the United States media that his wife, Ginni Thomas, an activist, has asked officials to reject the results of the 2020 election, which showed that Trump was defeated by Democrat Joe Biden. Additionally, according to these allegations, Thomas may stand to gain financially in the event that Trump is re-elected.

However, experts like as Perry are skeptical that Thomas will step away in the event that he is in a crucial election case.

“He typically does not recuse himself,” said Perry, pointing out that the burden for policing their own ethics mostly resides with the justices themselves. It is up to the justices to decide on that matter.

Clarence Thomas and Ginni Thomas, dressed in black for a funeral, hold hands as they walk down cathedral steps.

Searching for unity at the court

On the other hand, the high court is facing a significant challenge. It is possible that public confidence in the justices, whose decisions determine how the law is read, might be further undermined if there is a perception of prejudice during an election year that is fiercely contested.

“That is when the court is most in danger — when it is viewed as being partisan, and when it is down in the muck and the mire of everyday politics,” said Perry. “That is when the political climate is at its worst.”

According to the experts who talked with Al Jazeera, Chief Justice John Roberts would most likely seek a unanimous ruling from all nine judges in this year’s high-profile election cases in order to prevent the backlash from the general public.

If everyone were to agree on something, it would be a sign that “Gee, this is not politics.” “Everyone is in agreement with it.” On the other hand, Graber stated that the more opinions that are divided along political lines, the more people are likely to believe that it is nothing more than politics.

“The worst possible outcome for the court would be if it decided in favor of Trump by a vote of six to three,” said Perry. It is at that point that it will be considered to be the most partisan.

The last time the Supreme Court played such a large role in a presidential election was in the year 2000, when it issued a ruling to stop a vote recount in Florida, effectively anointing George W. Bush the victor of the campaign.

Graber stated that the year 2024 marks a significant turning point in the history of the United States, despite the fact that it is not unheard of for the Supreme Court to weigh in on an election.

“At this very moment, a vast number of places that are generally considered to be well-established democracies are falling under attack. And there are a lot of individuals who believe that Donald Trump is a threat to democracy,” he declared.

In addition to this, he noted that the decisions made by the Supreme Court have already had an impact on the approaching election. “They have allowed gerrymandering, they have weakened the Voting Rights Act, and there are a lot of other ways in which I believe they have weakened democracy in the United States,” the speaker said.

A professor at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill named Gerhardt, on the other hand, predicted that this election year would be a time when no branch of the federal government would be immune to scrutiny.

Specifically, he stated that “every institution, including the Supreme Court, Congress, and obviously the presidency, is going to be challenged.” It is for this reason that I believe we should fasten our seatbelts and prepare ourselves for a rough ride.

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