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Monday, February 15, 2016

THE FUTURE OF THE SUPREME COURT


I once had an office a block away from the Supreme Court, for three years.  That's about as close as I ever got to their proceedings.  The Supreme Court of the United States:
  • Goes into session on the first Monday of October, and generally does not go into recess until late June or early July.
  • There are 10,000 requests each year, but the Court only hears 80.
  • Has 9 members, minus 79-year old Antonin Scalia, a conservative who passed away this weekend.
  • Members are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate.
  • Each earns $244,400/year, with the Chief Justice, now John Roberts, getting $255,500/year.
  • Justices can serve for life.
  • While historically the average length of service was around 15 years, since 1970, as people now live longer, the average has increased to 26 years.
    • Anthony Kennedy  (79)       28 years   Conservative, but
    • Clarence Thomas (71)         25 years   Conservative
    • Ruth Bader Ginsburg (83)   23 years   Liberal
    • Stephen Breyer (77)            22 years   Liberal
    • John Roberts (61)                11 years   Conservative    
    • Samuel Alito (65)                10 years   Very Conservative
    • Sonia Sotomayor (61)           7 years   Liberal, first Hispanic
    • Elena Kagan (55)                  6 years   Liberal

Interestingly enough, in a country founded by Protestants, comprising 48% of the U.S. population, there is no Protestant on the Supreme Court. With 2% of the population, there are three (33%) Jewish associate justices (Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan) and six (67%) Catholics (22% of U.S.).  The odds are high that the next associate justice will not be Jewish, nor Catholic, and probably liberal, which would significantly shift the nature of the court.

The Supreme Court has been Conservative for more than 40 years, since the Nixon years:


Was the Conservative Court responsible for Bush over Gore in 2000?  On the other hand, Chief Justice Roberts has shown an independent streak with his leanings towards Obama-care.
However, now, with the court sort of at 4-4, a liberal replacing a conservative will significantly shift the philosophy of this body.  There is a 95+ chance that President Obama will nominate a liberal  The wild outside pick for the sake of progress would be Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, but I can't imagine this happening, for the next President will most probably be Democrat Hillary Clinton.  

Chances are that the U.S. Senate still will do everything possible to delay making a decision, hoping that Hillary will be defeated.  The downside is that Republicans will then confirm that they  definitely are obstructionists, and that will hurt them in the Fall elections.

In any case, the Republican Party is in trouble, for their leading candidates for the presidency are essentially false Messiahs for a variety of reasons.  Then now to be saddled with a Congress that will be dominated by all the negative publicity from the Senate.  Hillary could well sneak away with one of the houses shifting away from a Republican majority.

Who will be our next Supreme Court Associate Justice?  Well, USA Today almost three years ago published:


A few notes:
  • Born in India 46 years ago to a math professor who went on to teach at the University of Kansas, and mother who taught in the Kansas City Art Institute, then later in the University of Kansas Computer Science Department.
  • Went on to Stanford for all his college schooling, including both law and MBA degrees.
  • Served as a clerk to Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
  • The U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed him as the first new judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit since 2006 (remember, this was 2013).
  • Has argued 25 cases before the Supreme Court, and, is said to have brought with him to the podium his first time a sheet of paper, so he would not appear to be overconfident.  The paper was blank.
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