Tuesday, September 01, 2015
Current Weather
Loading Current Weather....
Published: Tuesday, 10/16/2012

Power of the court

During last week’s vice pres­i­den­tial de­bate, in­cum­bent Dem­o­crat Joe Biden men­tioned in pass­ing a crit­i­cal is­sue that has been largely for­got­ten in this year’s cam­paign: the power of the U.S. Supreme Court to bring fun­da­men­tal change to Amer­i­can so­ci­ety.

Mr. Biden brought up the fu­ture of the na­tion’s top court in the con­text of abor­tion and how Roe vs. Wade, the land­mark rul­ing that es­tab­lished a woman’s right to make de­ci­sions about her own body, might be over­turned by a Mitt Rom­ney nom­i­nee to the Supreme Court.

Four of the court’s nine mem­bers are in their 70s — An­to­nin Sca­lia, 76; An­thony Ken­nedy, 76; Ruth Bader Gins­burg, 79, and Ste­phen Breyer, 74. It’s a fair bet that the pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee who wins next month will make at least one, and maybe two, ap­point­ments to the Supreme Court over the next four years.

That could change the com­plex­ion of the court for a gen­er­a­tion. It could ce­ment its con­ser­va­tive ma­jor­ity, or put the court on a more cen­trist course.

Although Mr. Biden was speak­ing to his party’s abor­tion-rights sup­port­ers, this is­sue af­fects all vot­ers. The phi­los­o­phy of Supreme Court nom­i­nees is likely to af­fect many is­sues, not just this one.

Although he has been out of of­fice for four years, Pres­i­dent George W. Bush shaped the court when he nom­i­nated Chief Justice John Rob­erts Jr., 57, and As­so­ci­ate Justice Samuel Alito, 62. Pres­i­dent Obama has also made his mark on the fu­ture with his nom­i­na­tions of As­so­ci­ate Justices So­nia So­to­mayor, 58, and Elena Kagan, 52.

Although their in­di­vid­ual de­fend­ers will deny it, ac­tiv­ist judges come in both con­ser­va­tive and lib­eral fla­vors. In the next two pres­i­den­tial de­bates, Demo­cratic, Re­pub­li­can, and in­de­pen­dent vot­ers need to hear much more from Pres­i­dent Obama and Mr. Rom­ney about what sort of justices they would name to the Supreme Court, and why.

The fu­ture of the court, which will have a pro­found ef­fect on the na­tion’s well-be­ing, is not an is­sue to be ne­glected.

Recommended for You

Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. If a comment violates these standards or our privacy statement or visitor's agreement, click the "X" in the upper right corner of the comment box to report abuse. To post comments, you must be a Facebook member. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.

Related stories