Election Update: Supreme Power Of Shaping The Courts

During the final days of the Presidential campaign, both sides are diligently working to spin recent news, motivate supporters to vote and prepare for lawsuits. Both candidates are using other political figures to boost their campaign.Former President Bill Clinton and musician Bruce Springsteen joined Senator John Kerry on the campaign trail. Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger has been campaigning with President George W. Bush. News that Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist underwent surgery for thyroid cancer sparked debates about possible Supreme Court nominations.Rehnquist was appointed by President Nixon in 1971 and was then selected as Chief Justice by former President Ronald Regan 15 years later. His 23 years in the court have been generally characterized by his conservative voice. Although the Chief Justice will return to work on Monday, there are lingering doubts about the date of his eventual retirement.Rehnquist’s recent hospitalization is not the only concern, as many of the justices are nearing possible retirement. For example, Justice John Paul Stevens is 84 years old and almost all of the judges are senior citizens. The Supreme Court is now often perceived as a political institution, and politicians have used litmus tests to determine which judge to appoint based on their political view.The current Supreme Court has four liberal justices, three conservative justices and two non-partisan judges. Replacing Rehnquist with a conservative judge would allow continuity, while a liberal replacement would alter the current balance of the Supreme Court. Neither candidate has clarified the type of justice they will appoint if given the opportunity. However, the political and social implications for a new judge are paramount. Key political issues such as affirmative action, abortion, school vouchers, the Pledge of Allegiance (“Under God”) and gay rights, have resulted in very close decisions. Kerry has made it clear that he will choose a judge who will uphold Row v. Wade, and his campaign has focused on abortion rights. Liberal interest groups have voiced concern over possible conservative nominations if Bush is reelected. However, much of these issues are untrue as Rehnquist’s retirement would either make the court more liberal or remain the same. Bush has said little on the subject, but has noted in the past that he supports federal judges that “know the difference between personal opinion and the strict interpretation of the law.”Over the next four years there is great potential for one – if not more– of the Supreme Court Justices to step down, which could have great implications for the future of the Supreme Court. Other events are also influencing the election in the few remaining days. News that the 380 tons of explosives are missing from a munitions stockpile in Iraq have caused both candidates to spin the information to their advantage. “This is a growing scandal, and the American people deserve a full and honest explanation,”Kerry said. Many, like Kerry, assume that the explosives were looted after the U.S. invasion of Baghdad due to poor military planning and limited troops. The Bush camp has countered that Kerry is the one who “jumps to conclusions.”In contrast, Bush has emphasized the possibility that the explosives were moved prior to the U.S. invasion, which would require many trucks and considerable labor. Furthermore, Bush explains that a full investigation is necessary before any conclusions can be drawn. With only days remaining before the election, the polls remain as close, if not closer than ever. In many states, lawyers for both sides are prepared to file lawsuits. In general, the Republicans have focused on the integrity of the system, while Democrats are working to make sure everyone’s vote counts. The Washington Post reported that there are 33 different possible ways for the election to end in an electoral tie, depending on how the battle ground states vote. The possibility that the next President will not win the popular vote is a strong possibility. It is likely that this election – like those before it – will end in the courtrooms.