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What's Next For The Supreme Court This Term


And we're joined now by NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg to talk about what she expects to see from Justice Kavanaugh and the Supreme Court in the months ahead. Hi, Nina.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: This has been such a bitter fight, and the Supreme Court takes pains to portray itself as a nonpartisan body. How do you think he will be received by his new colleagues?

TOTENBERG: Well, I think they'll all suck it up. He'll suck it up. They'll suck it up. And they'll all try to get along and put on a good show for the public and for each other. After all, they are going to live with each other, for all practical purposes, for the rest of their lives. I like to refer to this as a marriage of nine with no divorce court. And if you want to get anything done, if you want to do what the Constitution says you're supposed to do and get along with each other while you do it, then you have to figure out a way to make it work.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Let me ask this - have any of the justices said anything publicly about this?

TOTENBERG: Not per se. But Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan were at Princeton on Friday and asked about the whole notion of partisanship and the court. Here's what Justice Kagan said.


ELENA KAGAN: It's an incredibly important thing for the court to guard - is this reputation of being fair, of being impartial, of being neutral and of not being simply an extension of the terribly polarized political process and environment that we live in.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: This has not only divided Congress. It's divided the country. And it is now all centered - all eyes are on the Supreme Court.

TOTENBERG: Well, I guess it's somewhat fortunate that the only thing you see at the Supreme Court is the oral argument and the announcement of opinions. And I suspect that the court will try to keep a relatively low profile for the short-term foreseeable future - this term, maybe even next term. Sometimes, it can't avoid getting sucked into very big controversies. There is, for example, right now a case pending before the court testing the question of whether the employment section of the federal civil rights laws barring discrimination based on sex covers gay and lesbian employees.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Justice Kavanaugh replaces Justice Anthony Kennedy, who had been the court's swing vote. When Kennedy announced his retirement in June, you called it the end of the world as we know it. So what does the court's new world look like?

TOTENBERG: Closely contested cases. You will see a court that is more conservative than we've seen in this country probably for 70 years or so. And that has consequences way beyond abortion and gay rights and even gun rights. It has consequences for employment rights, for the environment, for the ability of the federal government to regulate, for the way the power is allocated in the federal government - whether the president has more and more power or not.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg. Thank you, Nina, so very much.

TOTENBERG: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Nina Totenberg is NPR's award-winning legal affairs correspondent. Her reports air regularly on NPR's critically acclaimed newsmagazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition.