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  • AQA Component The judicial branch of government

  • Edexcel Component 3A: Section 4: US Supreme Court and civil rights

Click to read the articles below and then answer the questions:

Biden’s Supreme Court nominee emphasises ‘neutral’ approach to cases

US Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas under pressure over wife’s texts to Trump aide

Background: what you need to know

There have been two developments which underline the political nature of the US Supreme Court. President Biden’s nominee, Ketanji Brown Jackson, has been questioned by the Senate Judiciary Committee, as part of the ratification process for presidential appointments to the Court. If successful, she will replace another liberal judge, the retiring Stephen Breyer, thus strengthening progressive representation on the Court for the longer term.

This is important because Donald Trump’s appointments created a 6-3 conservative majority. Jackson would also be the first black female justice. In the hearings she has been at pains to emphasise her neutral approach to making judgments. It is likely that she will be confirmed with the support of Democrats and moderate Republicans, but some conservative senators have questioned her record on crime, underlining the politicised character of the confirmation process.

The second article casts doubt on the independence of the Court’s longest serving conservative justice. It appears that the wife of Clarence Thomas had been in contact with former President Trump’s chief of staff, asking him to seek to overturn the result of the 2020 presidential election. The revelations have led to criticism from Democratic senators, who linked the story to the fact that Thomas was the only justice to support withholding presidential records from the House committee investigating the 6 January 2021 storming of the Capitol.

Question in the style of AQA Politics Paper 2

  • Explain and analyse three ways in which the US Supreme Court has become a political rather than a judicial body in recent years. [9 marks]

Question in the style of Edexcel Politics Paper 3A

  • Evaluate the view that the US Supreme Court has become a political rather than a judicial body.

    You must consider this view and the alternative to this view in a balanced way. (30)

Graham Goodlad, St John’s College

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