by Suevon Lee ProPublica.
The Supreme Court has remained a largely unspoken topic on the campaign trail — even though the Court plays a critical function in Americans’ lives. (This past June’s Affordable Care Act ruling, anyone?)
The next president could very well appoint one or two new justices. And who steps down first could also depend on who’s elected.
Mitt Romney hasn’t said much about the Supreme Court, apart from expressing disagreement with the Court’s ruling on Obamacare. But his website states the candidate would nominate judges “in the mold of” the Court’s conservatives — Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts (the last two of whom then-Senator Obama voted against confirming). It also says Romney would like to see Roe v. Wade overturned.
President Obama, of course, has appointed two liberal justices, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, the nation’s first Hispanic justice. His past remarks indicate a preference for nominees who bring “common sense” and “pragmatism” to the table, who’d blend Constitutional analysis with “a sense of what real-world folks are going through.”
Legal challenges to such key social issues as same-sex marriage, gun rights, immigration and separation of church and state are likely to be heard by the Supreme Court in the coming years. One justice is all it may take to tip the scale in these cases.
So what exactly have the candidates said, and why hasn’t the Supreme Court been a bigger issue? Let’s take a look.
Romney has spoken out against the president’s first-term Supreme Court picks.
In April, Romney told the National Rifle Association that he’s opposed to judges “who view the Constitution as living and evolving, not timeless and defining.”
“In his first term, we’ve seen the president try to browbeat the Supreme Court. In a second term, he would remake it,” Romney said. “Our freedoms would be in the hands of an Obama Court, not just for four years, but for the next 40. That must not happen.”
Romney has occasionally embraced recent Supreme Court decisions. He praised the Court’s unanimous January 2012 ruling in a religious liberty case that allowed for a “ministerial exception” to employment discrimination laws. He favorably cited another unanimous March 2012 ruling that made it easier for property owners to challenge compliance orders from the Environmental Protection Agency.
The candidate has been vocal about abortion. In June 2011, Romney wrote that he felt Roe v. Wade was a “misguided ruling that was a result of a small group of activist federal judges legislating from the bench.” Early this year, Romney repeated that position, and again in April during an interview with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer.
His running mate, Paul Ryan, also touched on the Court’s role when it comes to abortion. “We don’t think that unelected judges should make this decision; that people, through their elected representatives and reaching a consensus in society through the democratic process, should make this determination,” Ryan said in the vice-presidential debate.