The Supreme Court: The MOST Crucial Issue In The Presidential Election Of 2012!

Plenty of attention is being paid to economic and domestic policy in the Presidential campaign of 2012.

Also, now with the Middle East crisis that erupted this week, foreign policy is, suddenly, being given tremendous emphasis.

It is right that attention is being paid to both areas of national policy, as they really matter!

But an area which still is NOT being focused on adequately, if in fact at all, is the effect of the election on constitutional matters, which are determined primarily by the Supreme Court of the United States, along with the federal circuit courts.

First, the circuit courts consistently have vacancies, even in a one term Presidency, which can have a dramatic effect on constitutional law. Also, it must be remembered that the tradition has been to appoint Supreme Court Justices from this level of the judiciary, although that was certainly not the norm in the long history of the Supreme Court.

Ultimately, however, it is the Supreme Court which is the final arbiter of the Constitution, as the nine members of the Court, once they have made a determination, rule the day, unless a constitutional amendment can be passed to overrule a Supreme Court decision, or the members of the Court, through changes of personnel, decide to revisit areas of controversy already decided by an earlier Court.

After a decade of no changes on the Court, from 1995 to 2005, suddenly, in a period of five years, from 2005-2010, there were four changes on the Court–Chief Justice John Roberts in 2005 and Associate Justice Samuel Alito in 2006 under President George W. Bush; and Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor in 2009 and Associate Justice Elena Kagan in 2010 under President Barack Obama.

Now in 2012, there are four Justices in their 70s, who are seen as possible or likely retirees from the Court over the next four years—Associate Justice Antonin Scalia (76), appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986; Associate Justice Anothony Kennedy (76), appointed by Reagan in 1988; Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg (79), appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993; and Associate Justice Stephen Breyer (73), appointed by Clinton in 1994.

By the end of the next term, if none of these four Justices left the Court, they would range in age from 77 to 83!

It seems certain that one or more will retire, or unfortunately, die, in the next four years, and who is appointing their successors, is all important for the future of constitutional law!

If Obama makes one to four appointments, it will, at the least, keep the present balance, slightly toward the conservative side, but if Mitt Romney makes the choices, it could make the Court more conservative, more to the right, than it has been since at least the 1920s, if not the Gilded Age of the late 19th century!

This is NOT a minor matter, considering the areas of criminal justice, affirmative action, abortion, gay rights, and the constitutionality of laws passed under the New Deal of the 1930s and the Great Society of the 1960s, and recent actions on health care, campaign fund raising, and many other touchy, controversial areas of policy, and of civil rights and civil liberties!

The Court could turn back a century of political, social and economic reforms, if it turns in the direction of the far Right, a danger with Mitt Romney in office!

We can expect that by 2020, if not 2016, all of the members of the Court will be those appointed in the previous 15 years, with the possible exception of Associate Justice Clarence Thomas (64), appointed by President George H. W. Bush in 1991, and stating he would not retire or leave the Supreme Court until he breaks the all time record of Associate Justice William O. Douglas, appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939, and serving 36 years on the Court under seven Presidents, until he left in 1975!

So this issue needs to be addressed in the Presidential debates in October, as it is an issue for voters to consider, and to recognize its significance!