SSBG

A worldview is a set of claims that purport to be based on ultimate reality.

Speculation is that Justice John Paul Stevens will retire in the near future.

Posted by ssbg on February 8, 2006

Reprinted from NewsMax.com

Jason Barnes and Jim Meyers      000stevens.jpg
Thursday, Feb. 2, 2006

Now that the confirmation of Judge Samuel Alito has given the Supreme Court another conservative voice, forces are gearing up for what could be the battle of all battles – over the next appointment to the high court.

Speculation is that Justice John Paul Stevens, the court’s most liberal member, will retire in the near future, possibly as soon as this year.

The appointment of a conservative replacement would definitely push the court solidly to the right – and likely touch off a furious fight from Democrats.

An analysis published in the Wall Street Journal found that conservative Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas agreed on court decisions 92.4 percent of the time. Stevens agreed with Scalia-Thomas on those 787 cases only 55.2 percent of the time, the lowest percentage of any justice. The score marks Stevens as more liberal than former ACLU counsel Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

As presently constituted, the Supreme Court is balanced, with four liberals (Ginsburg, Stevens, David Souter and Stephen Breyer) and four conservatives (Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts).

 

Anthony Kennedy defies a label, and thus becomes the swing vote on many issues.

The confirmation of a conservative to replace Stevens thus would give conservatives a clear majority on the court and have a far-reaching effect on future Court decisions.

Stevens has not made any formal announcement regarding his retirement, nor is he known to be in poor health. But he is 85 years old, and rumor has it that he hopes to have his replacement named by a Republican president.

“The buzz in Washington is that Stevens was appointed by a Republican president and he considers himself one that plans to retire under a Republican president,” Gary Marx, executive director of the conservative Judicial Confirmation Network, told NewsMax.

000court.jpg

“After seeing the type of highly qualified nominees that the president has chosen in Roberts and Alito, I would think that would give him a lot of confidence that the president’s not just picking ideologues to go up there, but he’s picking careful jurists that understand their role as justices.”

 

So Washington insiders say the court’s current term could very well be Stevens’ last.

Despite being nominated by a Republican president, Gerald Ford, Stevens is the court’s most liberal justice. He is a reliable vote in favor of abortion and gay rights and against federalism and property rights.

He even authored the court’s recent dalliance with unabashed collectivism in Kelo v. New London. His opinion upheld the constitutionality of a local government’s decision to take land from lower middle-class residents and give it to a development company under the power of eminent domain. The decision sparked outrage across the country.

The stakes in replacing Stevens with a conservative in the relatively near future could not be higher.

Roger Pilon, vice president of legal affairs at the libertarian Cato Institute, told NewsMax that all the “big issues” would be on the table, including federalism, property rights, affirmative action and abortion.

But the nomination of a conservative replacement would surely produce “fireworks,” Pilon predicted.

“Without question, there would be a filibuster, and then there would be the challenge proposed by the constitutional or nuclear option – depending upon your perspective.”

Marx, however, was not convinced a filibuster would be a sure thing. First, he said, Democrats have to resolve an intra-party squabble over judicial strategy.

“Their current strategy of smear and fear tactics has clearly not worked and has been a disaster,” he noted.

“But the liberal left-wing may look at the situation and say we don’t have a better option than to continue down this track that not only loses us judicial confirmations but also lowers our public perception in an important election year.”

It is questionable whether Democrats could rally the 40 votes necessary to uphold a filibuster.

The late and spectacularly unsuccessful filibuster led by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., against Alito could set a precedent for future nominations.

Pilon and Marx do find common ground in their view of past Democratic strategies.

“I reject the premise that the court should have an ideological balance,” said Pilon. “This has been put forward by the Democrats as a working premise to continue their imposition of an ideological litmus test on Republican nominees.”

 

In the meantime, observers will be waiting to see how the new “Roberts-Alito” court rules on several major issues.

Campaign finance reform, partial birth abortion and affirmative action have all been upheld by narrow 5 to 4 decisions by the court. The justice Alito replaced, Sandra Day O’Connor, voted with the majority in each case.

Campaign finance reform could be the first area of change. The new court will hear oral argument on February 28 in Randall v. Sorrell, a case challenging a comprehensive campaign finance reform law in Vermont.

Partial-birth abortion might not be far behind. In 2000, O’Connor cast the deciding vote in Stenberg v. Carhart, a case overturning a Nebraska law against partial-birth abortions. Two federal appellate courts followed that decision Tuesday in striking down a similar federal law passed by Congress in 2003.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court postponed a decision on whether to hear an appeal of a similar case from another federal circuit. With Alito’s confirmation and Tuesday’s decisions, the court will likely soon decide whether to hear an appeal. Four of the nine justices must agree before the court will take up a case.

Sen. George Allen, R-Va., said Alito would have a major impact on the Court.

“We have judges who strike down the Pledge of Allegiance because of the words ‘under God,’ or allow local commissars to take homes – not for a road of school but to derive more tax revenues,” Allen said.

“With Alito on the Supreme Court, we have a person who I know understands that the role of a judge is to apply the law, not invent it.”

But there’s no doubt the pivotal change in the court will come if and when Stevens retires.

“The next vacancy, depending on who it is, will really be the mother of all battles,” said Gary Bauer, president of the conservative group American Values.

Rush Limbaugh is looking forward to the fight.

“Bring on the next vacancy,” he said Tuesday. “We are on a roll.”

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