Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement, which was officially announce June 27, 2018 and set to take effect July 31, 2018, gives President Trump a rare opportunity to shift the political alignment of our nation’s highest court.Justice Kennedy has long been the swing vote of the Supreme Court, which is otherwise relatively polarized between four conservatives and four liberals.Although Justice Kennedy was himself considered a conservative, his tendency to vote with liberals on many controversial issues such as abortion and gay marriage, often made him the deciding vote.His retirement gives President Trump the opportunity to replace Justice Kennedy with someone who can be relied upon to vote conservative, which was not always certain with Justice Kennedy.Any such nomination by President Trump will, however, be subject to the system of checks and balances prescribed by the United States Constitution.

While the nomination of Justice Kennedy’s successor will be up to President Trump alone, the nominee will have to be confirmed by a Senate majority vote. Currently, Republicans holds the Senate Majority by the slim margin of 51 out of 100 votes.The midterm elections coming in November could result in a change in that majority, giving Democrats the ability to block President Trump’s nominations, and thereby giving Democrats more leverage to demand someone more moderate replace Justice Kennedy.Considering this, along with the level of recent political divide, it makes sense that the Republicans want to move fast to confirm a nomination before the midterm elections, while Democrats want to wait until after the midterm elections in the hopes that they will take enough Senate seats to claim the majority and oppose any of President Trump’s nominations. Thus, by leveraging the system of checks and balances, whoever controls congress when the nomination is presented will ultimately possess the means to influence the selection of Justice Kennedy’s replacement, despite that selection being up to the President.

While there is no predicting exactly how power will be redistributed following Justice Kennedy’s replacement and the upcoming midterm elections, this situation does provide a good example of how the system of checks and balances, which was designed by America’s forefathers to prevent too much power from being distributed to any particular group or branch of government to ensure tyranny does not replace democracy, does just that by giving each branch of government the means to limit the conduct of the others.With the United States’ 242nd Independence Day approaching, it is especially appropriate to take a moment to remind ourselves why such checks and balances were implemented to begin with and why they remain important today.