A New Year for SCOTUS and the Jewish People

October 5, 2016Max Antman

This year, the first day of Rosh Hashanah coincides with the start of the Supreme Court’s 2016-2017 term, a rare occurrence. The Supreme Court opens its term on the first Monday in October with its first oral arguments, and it is rare that Rosh Hashanah begins in October.

The new Jewish year is a catalyst of each of us to take time, to reflect and to prepare for the new year. It is hard to think about the successes – and the setbacks – of the past year from a social justice perspective without thinking about the role of the Supreme Court.

But 5776 – and 2016 – has been a particularly unique year for the Court. The vacancy left by the untimely passing of Justice Antonin Scalia has heightened national conversation about the High Court and its role in our society.

At the start of this new SCOTUS term, it will have been 201 days since President Obama nominated Chief Judge of the D.C. Circuit of Appeals, Merrick Garland, to replace Justice Scalia. Since 1949, every nomination to the Supreme Court has received a hearing within 82 days, and Garland has already waited more than twice that long. The record for longest time between nomination and a vote – 125 days – was held by Louis Brandeis until Chief Judge Garland’s nomination surpassed that on July 20, 2016.

Jewish tradition teaches that as Moses was setting up the Jewish people’s first judicial system, those appointed were to “judge the people at all seasons” (Exodus 18:22). Many of the Torah's commandments and rabbis' teachings specifically deal with the importance of a fair judicial system. These lessons in the importance of a fully functioning judicial body inspire our belief that a delay in filling the open Supreme Court seat would inhibit the delivery of justice and undermine our nation’s judicial system overall.

As we begin the year 5777 and the Supreme Court begins its term, take action by reminding your senators of their constitutional responsibility to consider every nomination and submit the questions you would like Merrick Garland to answer during a hearing. The RAC has also created several fun graphics that convey the message of being incomplete without nine of something. To see the graphics, visit our Facebook page. When you share them on social media, use the hashtag #WeNeedNine, and be sure to tag us @theRAC.

Shanah Tovah!

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