Thursday, September 13, 2012

Obama or Romney: A Key Civil and Women's Rights Supreme Court Decision

by Michael Handley

While there are many issues that should be considered when casting a vote for a presidential candidate, perhaps the most important issue is the Supreme Court. A president's term lasts for a maximum of eight years; a Supreme Court justice's term can span more than 30 years.

Three Supreme Court justices — Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy — will reach their 80s during the next presidential administration. Whoever wins in November will likely have the opportunity to appoint at least one and possibly up to three justices. And remember, it is the U.S. Senate that confirms the president's court appointments. So think about that before you skip the U.S. Senate ballot position, when casting your vote.

The average tenure of a Supreme Court justice today is 25 to 35 years — spanning more than six presidential terms. If the newest justice, Elena Kagan, serves for all of her current life expectancy, she will remain on the court until 2045. If extreme conservatives replace Justice Ginsburg and Justice Kennedy, the Supreme Court will have a solid 6-3 conservative to extremely conservative court advantage over progressive justices.

Women in particularly should care whether Obama or Romney make lifetime appointments to the Supreme Court. Your right of privacy to make your own health care and family planning choices is at stake. If Romney wins, he will certainly nominate extremely conservative justices to appeal to the Tea Party elements within his party. President Romney would appoint conservative justices who support Justice Scalia's position that women have no constitutional right of privacy to choose to use contraception or choose to have an abortion, even when her life is at risk from a pregnancy.

And the constitutionally of the Voting Rights Act at the hands of a solid 6-3 conservative to extreme conservative Supreme Court? Forget about it! How about the rights of individual citizens compared to "corporations are people, too," rights? No contest. And that old Brown v. Board of Education court decision? Welcome back "separate but equal."

The 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision turned life upside down in this country as it outlawed segregation in public schools and provided a road map for the civil rights assault on other aspects of the racist status quo. The 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut decision that women have a constitutional right of privacy to choose to learn about and use contraception is a fundamental cornerstone of women's rights.

The decision on whether the bloody battles over social, reproductive and civil rights, fought more than a half century ago, are again thrust upon us hang on this election. President Romney would without doubt appoint Supreme Court Justices who would turn back the clock to 1954!

Justice Date of Birth Appointed
by
Judicial
Philosophy
Sworn-in
Tenure
John G.
Roberts
1/27/1955
Age: 57
George W.
Bush
Strong
Conservative
9/29/2005
6 yr 11 mo
Samuel A.
Alito, Jr.
4/1/1950
Age: 62
George W.
Bush
Strong
Conservative
1/31/2006
6 yr 7 mo
Clarence
Thomas
6/23/1948
Age: 64
George H. W.
Bush
Extreme
Conservative
10/23/1991
20 yr 10 mo
Antonin
Scalia
3/11/1936
Age: 76
Ronald
Reagan
Extreme
Conservative
9/26/1986
25 yr 11 mo
Anthony
Kennedy
7/23/1936
Age: 76
Ronald
Reagan
Moderate
Conservative
2/18/1988
24 yr 6 mo
Stephen
Breyer
8/15/1938
Age: 74
Bill
Clinton
Moderate
Progressive
8/3/1994
18 yr 1 mo
Ruth Bader
Ginsburg
3/15/1933
Age: 79
Bill
Clinton
Progressive 8/19/1993
19 yr 0 mo
Sonia
Sotomayor
6/25/1954
Age: 58
Barack
Obama
Progressive 8/8/2009
3 yr 1 mo
Elena
Kagan
4/28/1960
Age: 52
Barack
Obama
Progressive 8/7/2010
2 yr 1 mo
Even this mixture of justices makes the current court
the most conservative in nearly a century.

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