Election to shape Supreme Court
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Lydia Wheeler of The Hill reports that this year’s presidential election will have a profound effect on the direction of the Supreme Court.
Given the decision by Senate Republicans to block any nominee from President Obama to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, the next president will almost certainly get to make a nomination that could swing the balance of the court (The Hill).
And the new president might have more than one seat to fill over the next four years, providing further opportunity to put their stamp on the bench (The Hill).
By the end of the summer, two of the nine justices will be in their 80s (The Hill).
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 83, and Justice Anthony Kennedy, known as the court’s swing voter, is turning 80 at the end of July (The Hill).
“We could have a dramatically different Supreme Court over the next four to eight years with the change in personnel,” said Elizabeth Slattery, a legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation. “Kennedy has been on the court the longest, but he’s given no inclination he wants to retire. He seems pretty happy in his role” (The Hill).
Obama has had two appointments in his eight years in office: Justices Sonia Sotomayor and, more recently, Justice Elena Kagan (The Hill).
The ramifications are well known by both parties as well as court-watchers (The Hill).
“The court is now balanced between Republican appointees and Democratic appointees that pretty consistently vote in line with the positions of the president that appointed them,” said Dori Bernstein, director of the Supreme Court Institute at Georgetown Law. “Whoever gets to chose the tiebreaker is going to be making a very influential appointment” (The Hill).
Ginsburg told The New York Times that she “can’t imagine what the country would be — with Donald Trump as our president” (The Hill).
“For the country, it could be four years,” she said. “For the court, it could be — I don’t even want to contemplate that” (The Hill).
Supreme Court justices generally refrain from making political remarks. Ginsburg later said she regretted her comments.
“Judges should avoid commenting on a candidate for public office,” she said in a statement. “In the future I will be more circumspect” (The Hill).
Trump called on her to step down from the high court. “Justice Ginsburg of the U.S. Supreme Court has embarrassed all by making very dumb political statements about me. Her mind is shot — resign!” he said in a tweet (The Hill).
In deciding to block Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the court, Senate Republicans said the decision of who to nominate should be made by the next president. That effectively leaves the decision to voters in this year’s election, making it even more critical in deciding the makeup of all three branches of the federal government (The Hill).
The decision also put more pressure on Trump, who has unnerved both establishment Republicans and some social conservatives with his rise (The Hill).
Trump is a businessman who has given money to candidates from both parties, and he has taken liberal positions in the past, including on abortion (The Hill).
As a GOP candidate, Trump has moved to the right on abortion but has kept more centrist views on other social issues such as gay rights. In an effort to sooth concerns on the right, the real estate tycoon has promised to appoint conservative jurists. In May, he released a list of 11 judges he would consider appointing. Several of his picks were appointees of former President George W. Bush (The Hill).
Some on the left say the list was able to appease the concerns of conservatives about the makeup of the court (The Hill).
“You don’t ever know what Donald Trump will do, but for issues around the court he will turn to the establishment to help him make that decision and they know that, and they know that’s worth having as opposed to whoever [Hillary] Clinton will put in place,” said Michele Jawando, vice president for legal progress at the Center for American Progress (The Hill).
The power to shift the balance of the court might even help him win supporters.
The court fight could also help Trump by bringing conservatives to his cause (The Hill).
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