Judicial Review

Democracy in Danger / Episode 15

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was on her deathbed when she told her granddaughter: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.” It was not to be. The Senate confirmed Judge Amy Coney Barrett this week by a slim margin — and over the intense objections of Democrats — to replace Ginsburg. Barrett becomes the fifth woman ever to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Photograph by Stephanie Kenner via Shutterstock.com

Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment to the Supreme Court on the eve of a presidential election has raised questions about Congress’s duty to check the power of the judiciary. Risa Goluboff, dean of the UVA Law School, offers Will and Siva some judicial — and judicious — history, and weighs the future. What will Justice Barrett do to the Supreme Court? How will it change her? And what’s with all the turtles carved into the court’s building? Well, Goluboff says, the pace of justice is slower than you may think.



About our guest

Risa L. Goluboff is a legal historian and the first woman to serve as dean of the University of Virginia School of Law. She is the author of the award-winning books Vagrant Nation: Police Power, Constitutional Change, and the Making of the 1960s (Oxford, 2016) and The Lost Promise of Civil Rights (Harvard, 2007). Goluboff also chaired the Deans Working Group, which made recommendations on how the university should respond to white supremacist rallies in 2017. Together with vice dean Leslie Kendrick, Goluboff hosts the legal affairs podcast Common Law. Follow her on Twitter @RisaGoluboff.

This episode was posted on Oct. 27, 2020.

What we’re reading

By our guest

Vagrancy laws — punishing petty crime, loitering, homelessness and so on — might seem like an obscure area of jurisprudence, but in Vagrant Nation Goluboff argues that they had outsize influence on the social landscape in the Civil Rights era.

Hailed as a profound shift in American life, the civil rights movement gave up many of its demands for economic justice along the way. Find out how and why, in The Lost Promise of Civil Rights.

Goluboff is also co-editor, with Myriam E. Gilles, of Civil Rights Stories, a narrative primer on some of the landmark cases shaping the movement.

From around the web

What is originalism and what does it mean to Justice Barrett? Vox’s Ian Millhiser tackles these questions in this piece.

Business Insider offers a quick look at the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her novel efforts — as a judge and an attorney — to promote gender equality under the law.

When conservative justices knocked down many of President Roosevelt’s New Deal policies, he fought back, threatening to pack the court — an unquestionably constitutional check on judicial authority. Learn how this “scandal” unfolded, in a recent account in Politico.

Legal scholars Ryan D. Doerfler and Samuel Moyn argue in The New Republic that it’s high time to scale back the power of the high court.

And in a report released in July, the nonpartisan Pew Research Center studied President Trump’s appointments to the federal bench, as compared with those of his recent predecessors. Short answers: his picks are more numerous, more white and, interestingly, more female — at least, than other Republicans’.


A transcript of this episode is available here

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