On Tuesday, November 4th, Professor Robert Power
spoke about the potential impact of the election on the composition of the Supreme Court as part of the Policy and Pizza in the Pit Series.
Professor Power opened his presentation with a consideration of what each presidential candidate had said about his philosophy for selecting judicial nominees. Of Obama, Professor Power noted, “He said he would appoint people with compassion and empathy, and that’s generally seen as looking for justices who are aware of the real effects of their rulings and interpretations of law.” Discussing Senator McCain’s philosophy, Professor Power said, “Senator McCain brought out a different answer. It was the more typical answer of Republican candidates, and that is; no judicial activists, and strict constructionists only for the Supreme Court.”
The two most common ways that a President can make appointments to the Supreme Court are when a Justice either retires or dies in office, so, as Professor Power articulated, the ultimate impact of the election on the composition of the court might be better measured by which Justices are likely to leave. He invited audience participation to show which Presidents had appointed which Justices and then talked about which Justices were most likely to retire. After citing Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the most likely to leave based on their age, Professor Power concluded that an Obama presidency would not likely shift the balance of the court while a McCain presidency could shift the court in an even more conservative direction.
Professor Power finished up by talking about some of the Appeals Court judges that might make likely appointments for each candidate and then took questions from the audience. Policy and Pizza in the Pit Series: