2016: The Supreme Court Election

Just thinking a bit about the context of the upcoming Presidential election. For those that don’t know, I tend to write a good bit about such events, largely doing such writing as an (unpaid) job for the last 3 of them.

Certain themes arise around them, and a friend of mine, I think, struck the bass chord of this one….it’s about the SCOTUS.

For those unfamiliar with the term, let’s get introduced. SCOTUS stands for Supreme Court of the United States. SCotUS, if you are a stickler for capitalization, but that looks weird and is also hard to type, so SCOTUS, is often used as an abbreviation.

Here are the current Supreme Court Justices and their ages…

John G. Roberts: January 27, 1955 : 60 yrs.
Antonin Scalia: March 11, 1936: 79 yrs.
Anthony M. Kennedy: July 23, 1936: 78 yrs.
Clarence Thomas: June 23, 1948: 66 yrs.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg: March 15, 1933: 82 yrs.
Stephen G. Breyer: August 15, 1938: 76 yrs.
Samuel Anthony Alito: April 1, 1950: 65 yrs.
Sonia Sotomayor: June 25, 1954: 60 yrs.
Elena Kagan: April 28, 1960: 54 yrs.

Now comes the kicker….via google (and it’s one of those common answers)…

78.7 yrs. According to a 2006 study conducted by the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Supreme Court justices are retiring later and later. Before 1971, the average age of retiring Supreme Court justices was 68.3.

Even at 79 years…that puts three justices over that range *at the start* of the next President’s term (and one right on the cusp). Scalia and Ginsburg are on opposite ends of the spectrum, Kennedy is often a swing vote.

So it’s a 2-1 or 1-2 split on the “old guard” judges, if you will, pushing the limits of what the human mind can endure. The next President is likely to shift that to a 3-0 split, one way or the other, in finding their replacements.

This turns a court that has been on the 5-4, 4-5 knife’s edge for the last 20 years into a 6-3 machine that can decide some law….one way or the other.

There is, to my eyes as a consistent watcher, a MASSIVE DIFFERENCE in the ideologies that drive the important decision making in our political parties. From voting rights to access to healthcare to women’s rights to foreign wars to regulating Wall Street to accepting established science to…seriously…freaking science…to many other things…there are just soo many differences.

And these differences show up in legal theory. The SCOTUS is one-third of our government, it’s a BIG DEAL. It’s not very often that we get such a clear and straightforward VOTE in which direction it goes.

This Presidential election we do. We get to decide the Supreme Court.

I’ll be coming back to this theme, again and again and again, one would assume, but I do think it is terribly important. That’s what this election is about, to me.

The personalities are somewhat secondary, although endlessly entertaining/frustrating. It’s just important to keep sight of what is important in the chaos, and in this election, what’s important is the Supreme Court.

This will surely help them stay objective (as will the half-mil Thomas’ wife got to lobby against the law)

Scalia And Thomas Party With Obamacare Challengers On Day Court Takes Up Case – Forbes http://www.forbes.com/sites/rickungar/2011/11/15/scalia-and-thomas-party-with-healthcare-opponents-on-day-court-takes-up-healthcare-challenge/

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that just hours after the United States Supreme Court huddled to decide whether it would take up the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas were honored at a dinner sponsored by the very law firm that will argue for the challengers in the case.

Among the sponsors of the fundraiser for the Federalist Society, a conservative group long favored by Scalia and Thomas, were Bancroft PLLC, the law firm that will argue that the insurance mandate provisions of the ACA is an overreach of Congress’ powers under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution and, therefore, unconstitutional. Also listed as an event sponsor was law firm Jones Day, the lead counsel in a separate case challenging the law brought by the National Federation of Independent Business.

We already know how these guys are going to rule, I think there’s only one justice that is a question.

NOTE: I covered AFP’s $500,000 payouts to Ginni Thomas in this post.  Funny how Clarence forgot to report that income for a decade.

Supreme Court Expands Corporate “Person” Rights, Cuts Down Real People’s Privacy

This Roberts Supreme Court of Bush’s is the most corporate friendly piece-of-crap I think I’ve ever seen.   This is a court where one of the Justices is getting straight-up kickbacks vis his wife, and lavish gifts from wealthy friends who run big companies.

Is it any surprise at all they feel these corporate “people” have rights that trump actual, living, breathing people?    Is it any surprise at all that when it comes to the steps living, breathing, people have to take to keep living, and breathing, not sharing that information is  *actually* a violation of the rights of the corporations?

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)–The Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a Vermont law that barred the sale of doctors’ prescription data to drug companies, ruling the law interfered with the pharmaceutical industry’s First Amendment right to market its products.

Data companies such as IMS Health Inc. gather information from pharmacies on which medicines doctors are prescribing and how often. Drug makers buy the data, using it to refine their marketing pitches and measure which salespeople are the most effective.

A 2007 Vermont law effectively banned the practice in the state. It said data-mining companies can’t sell the prescription information for marketing purposes, and drug makers can’t use it, unless the prescribing doctor consents. Vermont lawmakers said the measure would protect the privacy of doctors and patients and help to control health-care costs on expensive brand-name drugs.

The Supreme Court, in a 6-3 opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, said the law was an unconstitutional restriction on drug makers’ free speech rights.

[full story]

Said it before, and I’ll say it again, we need a new constitutional amendment that protects the privacy of living, breathing, citizens.   The current interpretation of the 4th Amendment is so woefully lacking, it’s barely worth considering at this point in this context.

Souter tells American to grow up (re: Constitution)

Interesting take on things from the former Justice.

Souter took pains to reject the idea that the plain meaning of the Constitution is always clear, lurking there “in the Constitution, waiting for a judge to read it fairly.” We can all agree that much of the Constitution is not at all clear. (What does “cruel and unusual” mean?) But Souter went on to show that certain provisions of the document are in tension with others. “The Constitution is no simple contract,” he explained, “not because it uses a certain amount of open-ended language, but because its language grants and guarantees many good things, and good things that compete with each other and can never all be realized, altogether, all at once.”

This is a much more nuanced take than the “strict costituionalist” vs “activist judge” fulcrum these issues are usually weighed against.     We have a very complex system of laws, rights, checks and balances that, eventually, have to come to a specific point.  Given a changing landscape (nothing in the original Constitution about space rights) and an evolving morality (nothing in the original constiution about women voting or blacks existing), I think his take is quite a bit more based in reality (and its liberal bias).

The Pretzeldent Loses Again, Lesson: Don’t Mess With Texas

Supreme Court overrules Bush, OKs Texas execution – CNN.com

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Texas can execute a Mexican murderer being held on its death row. The case pitted President Bush against his home state in a dispute over federal authority, local sovereignty and foreign treaties.


The case decided by the Supreme Court on Tuesday pitted President Bush against his home state, Texas.

At issue was whether the state had to give in to a demand by the president that the prisoner be allowed new hearings and sentencing.

Bush made that demand reluctantly, after an international court concluded Jose Ernesto Medellin was improperly denied access to his consulate before his original prosecution — a violation of a treaty signed by the United States decades ago.

The 6-3 vote means the pending execution of Medellin can proceed. He faces lethal injection for two slayings.

And especially don’t mess with Texans.  They don’t like that.

Medellin was 18 when he participated in the June 1993 gang rape and murder of two Harris County, Texas, girls: Jennifer Ertman, 14, and Elizabeth Pena, 16. He was convicted of the crimes and sentenced to death.

Medellin’s lawyers argued he was not informed upon his arrest of his right to contact Mexican consular officials. Those officials were not able to meet with him until after his conviction.

The Mexican government filed an appeal against the United States with the International Court of Justice in January 2003, alleging violations of international law. Medellin filed his own federal and state appeals based on similar complaints as well as a claim of ineffective counsel. Medellin has the support of the European Union and several international human rights groups.

Texans don’t like people messing with them, and the U.S. don’t like nobody messing with them.  Medellin is screwed in at least two ways.

Personally, I like the way we deal with this on the high seas.  It’s a curious thing when “man overboard” elicits a cheer of praise from the scaliwags.