By Matthew Koch
Educational background, Vanderbilt University Department of Political Science, Nashville TN MA, PhD candidate August 2010 – Present ● Conducted research concentrating on political theory, international relations and public law • Researched differing definitions of Justice in Western and Islamic legal traditions • Completed full core graduate course load in econometrics and statistics • Completed full graduate course load in methodologies of humanistic research design Vanderbilt University Law School, Nashville TN JD Vanderbilt University Divinity School, Nashville TN MTS August 2005 – May 2010 • Specialized in resolving conflicts between religion and law, especially concerning Islamic, Jewish and Catholic financial and domestic law Dartmouth College, Hanover NH BA cum laude September 2001 – June 2005 ● Majored in Ancient History with a special interest in the influence of Greek and Roman Law on the development of subsequent legal systems • Thesis “Constructing Cyrus” – An analysis of the influence of the Cyrus Cylinder on European legal thought
If Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed on the Supreme Court it is likely to have a significant impact on politics in Wisconsin by making it more difficult for Democrats to gain control of the legislator in the future. Wisconsin has one of the most gerrymandered legislators in the United States. Many voting districts are drawn up along political lines in order to help the Republicans maintain a majority. Recently, Circuit Judge Kenneth Francis Ripple, joined by District Judge Barbara Brandriff Crabb, held that the Republicans’ 2011 redistricting was unconstitutional; forcing the legislator to redraw the electoral map in a manner more favorable to Democrats. Kavanaugh, if confirmed, may reverse this decision.
Kavanaugh’s confirmation has the potential to upset recent rulings on gerrymandering. Earlier this summer the Supreme Court dismissed the case of Gill v. Whitford. The court held that the plaintiff lacked standing, a technical term meaning that he was not personally damaged, to bring the case. The case left the Wisconsin case untouched the decision left the issue of the constitutionality of gerrymandering open for debate.
There are two schools of thought among lawyers about the constitutionality of gerrymandering. Conservatives think the practice is constitutional and the liberals do not. Conservatives see gerrymandering as constitutional arguing that it is protected by the system of dual-federalism. Dual federalism is the idea that states maintain some aspects of sovereignty after their incorporation to the union. Conservatives say that it is unconstitutional for the Federal Government, including the federal courts, to interfere with the makeup of state legislators because federal control over state legislators hampers the sovereignty of the state. Liberals believe that the Due Process Clause and the constitutional guarantee to the republican form of government trump state sovereignty in these cases.
Kavanaugh’s appointment is likely to have a decisive impact moving the court to a more conservative position. A ruling on standing often the court’s inability to reach a definitive holding on the merits of a case. Thus, Gill probably indicates that the Court is deeply divided on the issue of gerrymandering. A right-leaning change in the compassion of the court is likely to endanger Judge Ripples 2011 decision and could have a significant impact on Wisconsin politics. If Kavanaugh is more conservative than Kennedy as expected Republicans may have an opportunity to cement their control over the Wisconsin legislature.
In short, Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court has a special significance for Wisconsin. The makeup of our legislature will probably change if Kavanaugh is confirmed because Wisconsin has a heavily gerrymandered legislator. Lower federal courts have held this to be unconstitutional. However, the Supreme Court has been ambiguous on this issue. Kavanaugh, if elected, will likely move the court to the right overturning lower court decisions on the unconstitutionality of gerrymandering; handing permanent control of the legislator to the Republicans.