Sanity prevailed today as the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) let stand what is known as Obama-care. This is a great day for us all. Now, the more important question in my mind is the age of SCOTUS. I guess I should qualify the phrase United States by saying the States are not all that united considering the state of our political divide.
I read an interesting article by Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times who quoted Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, known for delivering laugh lines, recalled how Justice Elena Kagan, 52, had suggested during an oral argument before the Supreme Court that people born before 1948 were old. Justice Ginsburg said, “Next year I will turn 80, God willing… I’m not all that old”.
This speaks to the current state of the Court. Justice Ginsburg is the eldest member of a court that includes four justices in their 70s, making it among the oldest courts since the New Deal era. Its decisions during this historic “flood season,” as Justice Ginsburg described the end-of-term rush, are likely to make the panel — and the tenure of some of the justices — a significant issue in the presidential campaign. This is the most significant reason to reelect President Obama because “If she dies or leaves soon and Romney wins, the Supreme Court will be the most conservative in history.”
Today, the court is announced its decision on President Obama’s health care law, one of the most consequential cases in decades, with an overwhelming affirmation – it stands. As good as this decision is for the president and the American people – it is not over yet. There is another major case looming this fall, the court will take on an affirmative action case that could end preferential treatment at public universities, and it might hear a case involving same-sex marriage.
The winner of the race for president will inherit a group of justices who frequently split 5 to 4 along ideological lines. That suggests that the next president could have a powerful impact if he gets to replace a justice of the opposing side.
It is, of course, impossible to predict when a vacancy will occur. (Justice John Paul Stevens spent 35 years on the court and retired at 90, while Justice Robert H. Jackson, who served in the 1940s and 1950s, died of a heart attack at 62.) A 2006 study in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy found that the average retirement age for justices was 78.7.
Justice Ginsburg, a stalwart of the court’s liberal bloc, has been treated for pancreatic cancer. Justice Antonin Scalia, the court’s most visible conservative, is 76. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, frequently the swing vote, is 75. And Justice Stephen G. Breyer, like Justice Ginsburg a Democratic appointee, is about to turn 74.
The New York Times provocative article mentioned an interview with Professor Kennedy who said the suggestion that a justice should retire for purely political reasons was “viewed as somewhat unseemly” by many of his colleagues. Those close to Justice Ginsburg say that while she may appear frail, she is in fact in good health.
Of course, Justices leave for a variety of reasons. Sandra Day O’Connor, for instance, left the court at 75 to take care of her husband. Professor Kennedy insists it was “not accidental” that, having been appointed by Ronald Reagan, a Republican, she resigned while George W. Bush was president.
What I want to leave you with is that the next president will have the opportunity to appoint at least two, maybe three, Justices. Only Obama will appoint sanity or dare I say Justices who will have the American people at heart. So this is the best reason to vote, and for the president. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…