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

  • AQA Component 3.2, Section The judicial branch of government

Background: what you need to know 

A very useful article which looks back on the latest term of the US Supreme Court. This has been a significant period since the appointment of conservative Amy Coney Barrett, near the end of Donald Trump’s presidency, to replace veteran liberal justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The Court now has a 6-3 conservative majority.

Rulings such as the one upholding allegedly discriminatory voting laws in Arizona have seen the Court demonstrating a right-leaning bias. But this is not the whole picture. Three notably conservative justices joined the three liberals, together with Chief Justice Roberts — often seen as the Court’s ‘swing justice’ — to dismiss a Republican challenge to Obamacare. This reminds us that the Court’s primary role is to interpret legislation in the light of the Constitution. It does not act in a consistently political manner.

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

US Supreme Court tilts to the right — but how far will it go?

Question in the style of AQA Politics Paper 1

  • The US Supreme Court acts as a political body as much as a judicial one.’ Analyse and evaluate this statement. [25 marks]

    TIP: In answering either question, you must show balance. Also, the article speculates in an interesting way on possible future decisions of the Court on abortion and gun control. However, in the examination, you would be best advised to stick to actual past decisions of the Court — good recent examples of which are given in the article.

Question in the style of Edexcel Politics Paper 3

  • Evaluate the view that the Supreme Court increasingly reflects the partisan divides of US politics. You must consider this view and the alternative to this view in a balanced way. [30 marks]

Graham Goodlad, St John’s College

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