We are in the midst of choosing the candidate from each party to run for President of the United States.
Hillary Rodham Clinton will easily be nominated by Democrats.
Right now, there are about four candidates who I believe have a real chance to be the Republican nominee.
These presidential primaries bring out all sorts of issues, debates, and non-stop reporting on every detail of each candidate. While I enjoy politics, the primaries can be exhausting for me.
However, there is one extremely important issue regarding the next president that may be “under the radar.”
There is a reasonable probability that the next president will get to make as many as four Supreme Court appointments.
With four justices over the age of 77, the next president could dramatically reshape the court. This would upend the Court’s delicate 5-4 balance, and transform the nation for good or bad.
On Inauguration Day 2017, these justices will be between the ages of 78 and 84: Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, now 82, Antonin Scalia and Kennedy, now both 79, and Stephen Breyer, 77. That means they’ll be 82 to 88 when the next president’s first term ends.
If the next president is elected for two terms, the ages will be 86 to 92.
Generally, theses justices align as follows:
Ginsburg – perhaps the most liberal justice;
Scalia – probably the second most conservative jurist just behind Clarence Thomas;
Kennedy – unpredictable “swing voter”, see below;
Breyer – a liberal jurist.
“Every election, people say, ‘This is about the future of the Supreme Court and the Constitution.’ This time it’s true,” said Georgetown University constitutional law professor David Cole.
Professor Cole is correct.
In general, the Court is now almost evenly split by ideology, with four conservative-leaning justices, four on the liberal side and one very powerful justice known as the “swing voter.” Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Reagan nominee, is the current swing voter. This means that he is in the middle and just as likely on almost any issue to side with either wing of the Court.
Kennedy has cast the deciding vote in a host of key controversial decisions, from the ruling extending same-sex marriage rights nationwide to cases upholding abortion restrictions.
Basically, the next president could exert more power over the makeup of the Court (and the country) than any other president in recent history.
Also, keep in mind that the nine members of the United States Supreme Court probably exert more power over what the government can do to you than the president or Congress.
The Court has the power to reach into our homes and communities by ruling on cases that deal with guns, abortion, search and seizure, marriage, immigration, and a host of other issues that directly affect Americans.
The only barrier to these future appointments would be the role of the United States Senate to “advise and consent.” These judicial confirmation hearings have been abused by both parties since Clarence Thomas’s hearings in the early 1990’s.
Instead of focusing on a nominee’s character and ability to be a Supreme Court Justice, these hearings are now entirely partisan. If the majority in the Senate is the same party as the president, the nominee will be successful. If one party controls the Senate while the other party controls the White House, gridlock and uncertainty will carry the day.
I hope that Americans will research the candidates’ view of how to interpret the Constitution.
This time, it matters more than ever before.
(Jason Swindle is a criminal defense attorney from Carrollton who also practices in Coweta County.)