An interesting article in the New York Times last week focuses on what lies ahead for the U.S. Supreme Court. Specifically, it focuses on the future of the four left-wing justices individually and as a whole. After a relatively quiet season, these justices may face some tough times over the next few seasons.
The article first discusses the roles of the two newest members of the Court, Justices Sonya Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. The two female justices have voted the same way in 96% of the cases they have heard. With three female justices on the bench, the question becomes whether we will see more gender discrimination cases. If so, the three justices will need to persuade one of the male right-wing justices to strengthen the standard needed to restrict gender discrimination from its current position at the bottom of the spectrum. This task may prove difficult and will likely require heavy debate.
Next, the article discusses the role of the swing-vote, Justice Anthony Kennedy. The author takes language from some recent opinions written by Kennedy, and speculates as to which way he may vote on some of the upcoming issues. For instance, in Kennedy's opinion for the case involving the release of thousands of inmates from California prisons due to inadequate medical care, he states that the health care system in prisons was "incompatible with the concept of human dignity." This may be a hint on how he might rule on President Obama's Health Care Reform Act. To quote the author of the article, "So if prisoners are entitled to adequate care, you'd think the rest of us would be too."
There is also speculation as to whether Justice Kennedy might one day support same-sex marriage because of his opinion in the 2003 case which threw out the sodomy prosecution of two homosexual males.
The last topic of the article deals with President Obama and his ability to appoint federal appellate judges. Since he took office, Obama has yet to appoint any democratic federal appellate judges. This is odd to some liberals because of Obama's strong stance on constitutional rights. Many thought he would load the federal appellate bench with left-wing liberals. Instead, he has left the federal bench with at least 80 vacancies for more than two years.
It will be interesting to see how the Court will progress with the next season. It is sure to be an interesting one with hot-button topics such as the Health Care Reform Act, same-sex marriage, and abortion rights.
*Photo courtesy of Alex Wong/Getty Images North America.*