COVID-19 in an Election Year—How 2020 will change the courts - The S.E. Farris Law Firm
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COVID-19 in an Election Year—How 2020 will change the courts

2020 has been a year for the record books so far, but the biggest impact may be yet to come. How will the presidential election affect the courts?  

2020 has been a tumultuous year at best. The Australian bushfires from January feel light years away and each month has dragged on and on like a never-ending Groundhog Day. Our world is drastically different from the world it was when we were all ringing in the new year and the court system is unfortunately no different. 2020 has changed the court system far and wide, but some of the biggest changes are yet to come.

In March, many state and local governments began enforcing shutdown regulations to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This resulted in our own office being closed and the courts ceased work as well. Although some of the Missouri courts have re-opened, the courts have changed their operational directives and there’s an extensive backlog of cases on their docket.

We know some of our own clients have been affected by this delay as well. It’s unclear on how the courts will continue to operate and what kind of regulations will be put in place moving forward, but COVID-19 isn’t the only factor that’s impacting their future.

Missouri had their primary election last month and there were some major upsets, one of those being the dethronement of Representative William Lacy Clay as the Democratic nominee for the House of Representatives for Missouri’s 1st Congressional District. Clay served as a U.S. representative for Missouri since 2001 and he lost his spot on the ballot to Cori Bush. Although Bush won the Democratic primary, it is yet to be seen who will win the seat in Congress.

While the primary election was already a big change, there are more yet to come. This year, the presidential election feels more important than ever. It could be the global pandemic we’re enrooted in, but according to recent data, 64% of registered voters indicate that supreme court appointments is an important issue to them in the 2020 presidential election. It is ranked the third-highest on the list of voter priorities, shortly under healthcare with the economy taking precedent. Even the coronavirus pandemic isn’t quite as important, coming in at fourth place on the list of priorities with a total of 62%. Why are Supreme Court appointments ranked so high?

Because it may change everything.

As of now, the Supreme Court is relatively balanced in terms of partisanship. However, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, an associate judge of the Supreme Court, is not expected to serve on the Supreme Court much longer given her age and health condition. Her retirement would leave a seat open and, if filled by someone more right-leaning, would disrupt the current balance of partisanship amongst the 9 justices, making precedents and rulings more likely to become partisan.

Elections impact the courts because elected judicial figures such as the Supreme Court justices are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. In the state court system, judges are selected in a variety of ways. In Missouri, judges of the Missouri Supreme Court and Courts of Appeals are appointed, whereas judges of Circuit Courts can either be appointed or elected in partisan elections.

What does this mean for the future?
The future at this point is unpredictable. But while we cannot predict the future of this pandemic or the results of the 2020 general election, we can assure you at least one thing will not change. We are as dedicated as ever to our clients. We will continue assisting you with your case needs no matter how that is. Our firm will continue to offer video chat sessions as long as they are necessary, and we will continue fighting for you.