This article picked by a teacher with suggested questions is part of the Financial Times free schools access programme. Registration/details here.


  • AQA Component The judicial branch of government

  • Edexcel Component 3A: Section 4: US Supreme Court and civil rights

Background: what you need to know 

This article highlights the political nature of senior appointments to the judiciary in the US. Donald Trump used his power of appointment as president to create a conservative majority on the Supreme Court. Joe Biden may be able to make his own mark as older justices choose to retire.

The oldest member of the Supreme Court is now the liberal Stephen Breyer (82). Biden would certainly replace him with another liberal if he chooses to step down, and is likely to enhance the diversity of the Court; he has already indicated that he favours the appointment of a black female judge. It is politically important for Democrats to maintain liberal representation on the Court, as so many issues, from healthcare to financial regulation, are at stake.

Click to read the article below and then answer the questions:

Retiring judges give Biden chance to make his benchmark

and follow this link to an earlier article on Trump’s appointments:

How Trump has already transformed America’s courts

Depending on the examination board you are following, plan an answer to one of the two following questions:

  • Question in the style of AQA Politics Paper 2

Explain and analyse three ways in which the US Supreme Court acts as a political rather than a judicial body. [9 marks]

  • Question in the style of Edexcel Politics Paper 3A

Evaluate the view that the composition and conduct of the US Supreme Court have been politicised in recent years. You must consider this view and the alternative to this view in a balanced way. (30)

TIP: Whilst a case can be made that the Court has behaved in an increasingly political manner, which can be linked to the way in which its members are appointed, you should also bear in mind the evidence on the other side. The Court’s role is to interpret the Constitution and it must publicly justify its rulings.

Graham Goodlad, St John’s College

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2023. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window) CommentsJump to comments section

Follow the topics in this article