Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Post-2008 Court

Tom Goldstein has an interesting post over at SCOTUSblog about the importance of the 2008 election in determining the future of the Supreme Court. The three most likely to retire justices (according to Goldstein) are Stevens, Souter, and Ginsburg. Stevens is just too old to keep going past the 2012 election, Souter is a fiercely private person and seems to hate the Washington DC lifestyle, and Ginsburg is rumored to have health problems (but there is no hard evidence to back that up).

So, the next president will in all likelihood replace at least two of the liberal justices. If a Republican gets this opportunity, the Court will move a staggering amount to the right. There would be a conservative bloc of Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, Alito, and these two (and, of course, Kennedy somewhere in the "middle"). All sorts of Warren Court era decisions could be in jeopardy.

Unfortunately for us liberals, it doesn't seem that a Democratic victory in 2008 would allow for any significant shift to the left. A Democratic president would "play defense," so to speak, replacing liberals with liberals. Of course, most modern presidents win reelection, so if s/he does get reelected in 2012, s/he might get the chance to replace a conservative. But, none of them are really that old. Scalia and Kennedy will only be 76 in 2012, which isn't that old for Supreme Court Justices. Thomas will be 64, Alito will be 62, and Roberts will be 57.

Of course, the Democrats are likely to maintain control of the Senate after 2008, so a Republican president would not be able to get an ultra-conservative through, but even a moderate conservative could do considerable damage to "liberal" precedents.

Just one more reason to vote Democrat in 2008.

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