Does the Supreme Court matter for the 2012 election? It certainly should.
A President’s ability to appoint Supreme Court justices is a lasting legacy that can shape the course of our country for years in the future. The Supreme Court may appear to be a group of robed academics, but the justices tackle issues that impact the everyday lives of citizens, including whether the Second Amendment protects an individual right to own firearms, Miranda and other safeguards afforded to criminal defendants, what role race may play in college admissions, and whether Congress can force Americans to engage in commerce.
The next President may have the opportunity to appoint three justices—and possibly more. And the addition of even one new justice can shift the direction of the Court for decades. Five justices have been on the Court for nearly 20 years. Over the past 50 years, the average length of service is around 19 years.
And each one of the nine votes is crucial. In fact, per SCOTUSBlog’s annual Stat Pack, roughly 35 percent of cases from 2005 to present have been decided 5–4 or 6–3.
The public should scrutinize whether the presidential contenders will nominate constitutionalist judges in the next four years. As legal writer Gregg Nunziata recently wrote:
It is vital that the next president appoint justices committed to the original, enduring vision of the Constitution. To do so, he must select individuals with long track records demonstrating that commitment—and be willing to fight for their confirmation if opposition develops. “Stealth” candidates will not do.
Moving into the fall, all eyes may be on the economy, but Americans should consider whether our country is better served by judges who would legislate from the bench, straining the text to recognize new rights or derive new meanings, or by those who would apply the Constitution as written.