What Happens To Supreme Court In Obama's Second Term? | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

What Happens To Supreme Court In Obama's Second Term?

Play associated audio

There has been vigorous public debate this election cycle about the Supreme Court; from the Citizens United case to the Affordable Care Act.

As we look ahead to the next four years, it's not just Congress that will undergo change. Four of the nine Supreme Court justices are over the age of 70, meaning there's a real possibility for at least one new court appointment during President Obama's second term.

The two most likely justices, says NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg, are liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is 79, and Stephen Breyer, who is 74.

"If they were replaced by somebody President Obama would pick, it would not change the ideological makeup of the court dramatically," Totenberg tells Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered.

If one of the two conservative justices over 70, Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy, both 76, were to step down, however, you would likely see an intense battle over the appointment, Totenberg says.

"The court is split on so many issues 5-4, currently with the conservatives dominating," she says.

So who might be on Obama's short list for an appointment? Totenberg says if Ginsburg steps down, she doesn't see the president appointing a male to replace her; this would put the court back to a male-to-female balance of 7-2.

One woman mentioned often, Totenberg says, is California Attorney General Kamala Harris. But Harris also has some political prospects, and possibly a gubernatorial run.

Possibilities for male appointees are Paul Watford, on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Sri Srinivasan, who was nominated to the D.C. Court of Appeals, but has yet to be confirmed.

Whether or not any of those justices will step down during Obama's second term no one can know for sure, and the lifetime position of a Supreme Court justice is not something given up lightly, Totenberg says.

"These people love this work ... it's who they are," she says. "So in some ways, they view it as stepping down from their life, and the president's desires often don't come first."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

FX's 'The Bridge' Finds Authenticity In Spanish-Language Scenes

NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans visited the set of FX's cross-border crime drama, discovering the way the show's Spanish-language scenes help reveal new dimensions to the series' Mexican characters.
NPR

From Kale To Pale Ale, A Love of Bitter May Be In Your Genes

Researchers have found a gene that affects how strongly you experience bitter flavors. And those who aren't as sensitive eat about 200 more servings of vegetables per year.
NPR

Sen. Warren: We Need Regulators Who 'Work For The American People'

Elizabeth Warren says new recordings of conversations by Federal Reserve officials show that the same kind of cozy relationships that led to the 2008 meltdown have continued.
NPR

'Ello' Aims For A Return To Ad-Free Social Networking

Ello is the viral social network of the moment. Ad free, invite only and with the option of anonymity, it's generating tons of chatter as the latest alternative to Facebook.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.