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Context for SCOTUS Nominations

If you think that Supreme Court nominations shouldn’t be a factor in this year’s elections, here’s an interesting way to look at the future of any issue you care about that could face serious court challenges:

…the fact is that Supreme Court nominations matter more than ever, for several reasons.

First is the soaring value of lifetime tenure. When our republic was created, the average age of Supreme Court nominees was older than average life expectancy. That has changed dramatically with increased human longevity. And presidents are catching on, naming ever-younger Justices.

The result is that the average term of a Supreme Court Justice today is nearly twenty-five years – spanning more than six presidential terms. Ronald Reagan last appeared on the ballot seven elections ago, yet two of his appointees (Anthony Kennedy and Antonin Scalia) still serve on the Court. If Clarence Thomas remains on the Court until the retirement age of his predecessor, he will have served for forty years. If Elena Kagan remains on the Court until her current life expectancy, she will serve until the year 2045. …

We have not had a significant change in the Court’s philosophical balance since Thomas replaced Marshall more than two decades ago. In the six subsequent appointments, liberals replaced liberals or conservatives replaced conservatives. But in the next administration, the president may well have the opportunity either to shift the Court’s majority from conservative to liberal or to reinforce the conservative majority. And given the number of years most Justices now serve, the majority created or reinforced in the next administration may endure for a generation.

That’s freakin’ scary to think about what a long-term difference each of the candidates can make. I mean I emphasize to people that state elections matter more during census years because of redistricting that impacts politics for a decade.

Go read the entire article at by Clint Bolick. It’s quite an interesting look at the lasting impacts of modern court appointments.

3 Responses to “Context for SCOTUS Nominations”

  1. Rob Hill says:

    Just as the court has to balance personal freedom with other interests, the system that decides the makeup of the court itself is a balance between stability and change. The article cited asserts that that balance has shifted toward stability because the justices are living longer. I can’t help but wonder what the author’s solution to this might be. Evidently there is none, so it suggests we need more justices that he/she agrees with. The problem of long lived justices ceases to be a problem if they all agree with your personal philosophy. After all, “if it ain’t broke why fix it?”

  2. AZRon says:

    Until the recent Thomas/Obamacare decision, I considered the Supreme Court to be the last great bastion of freedom and honor in spite of the wise Latina and the other pig-faced traitor.

    Henceforth, if they legislate me a criminal, then a criminal I shall be. I grew up understanding what the Constitution meant. No power on heaven or earth can turn wrong into right.

    I doubt that it’ll happen in my lifetime, but the hand is fixin’ to get bit.

  3. anon says:

    SCOTUS Nominations: Glenn Reynolds, Eugene Volokh.

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