Obama Will Leave Deeper Mark on Top Court

Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer May Hope To Leave

Help Wanted? President Obama greets Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Will the ailing judge resign now that Obama has won reelection?
getty images
Help Wanted? President Obama greets Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Will the ailing judge resign now that Obama has won reelection?

By Reuters

Published November 08, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

President Barack Obama’s election victory on Tuesday may give him the opportunity to deepen his liberal imprint on the U.S. Supreme Court.

A Harvard law graduate who taught constitutional law, Obama, a Democrat, named two liberals to the high court during his first four-year term.

With his re-election, the retirement of one or more justices in the next four years could preserve the present ideological balance or, more significantly, move the bench to the left.

The court’s nine justices are selected for life and their appointments can rank among a president’s most enduring legacies.

Four are in their 70s. Two - Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 79, and Stephen Breyer, 74 - are liberals. Two - Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy, both 76 - are conservatives. The biggest shake-up would come if either of the last two stepped down.

A swing in the liberal direction could foster a new receptiveness to campaign finance regulation. The five-justice conservative majority, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, has ruled against such regulation, most notably in the 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission dispute.

The chance of more muscle on the left in the future could influence conservative justices today, tempting them to be more forceful or, alternatively, more willing to compromise with liberals.

“I would bet on the shoot-the-moon option,” said Harvard law professor Mark Tushnet, predicting that conservatives would be more aggressive knowing their chances to prevail could diminish if Obama made new appointments.

Washington lawyer Michael Carvin, who argues regularly before the court, including last term against the Obama healthcare law, said the possibility of a leftward shift was unlikely to affect conservatives’ votes but could prompt them to seek to resolve hot-button cases sooner rather than later.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.