Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Anthony Kennedy: The Most Interesting Man on the Supreme Court

Justice Anthony Kennedy
He doesn't always write for the Majority,
but, when he does, he's the most
interesting man on the Supreme Court
In 2008, President Barack Obama won his election by running partially against George W. Bush's record.  Well, in 2012, Bush may strike back.

Because of the people he nominated for the Supreme Court of the United States, Bush's band of loyal conservatives could be the group that invalidates President Obama's health care law.  That would be a huge blow to the President's first-term agenda, and it would set up a possible election where the President runs against the Supreme Court as much as running against Mitt Romney.

The stakes are, just like always, high in 2012.  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has not been in good health for a while and is 79.  Justice Antonin Scalia is 76.  Justice Anthony Kennedy is nearing 76, and Justice Stephen Breyer is 73.  While Scalia, Kennedy, and Breyer are in good health by all indications, it's conceivable that we might see a much different court in 2016 than we have right now.  The Court, as it stands now, is really the handiwork of Bush, however.

The biggest change came when Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, widely seen as a swing vote on the court, was replaced by the very conservative Justice Samuel Alito in 2006.  The court went from two "swing votes" to just one.  Since then, we've seen the four conservatives often vote in a block on things like Citizens United and the recent case that made strip searches for even the most petty of crimes (or anytime a person is arrested, guilty or not) a reality.  You have four conservatives and four liberals.  That leaves right-leaning Justice Kennedy as the fifth vote for either side.

Kennedy, himself, was nominated to the Court by Ronald Reagan.  By most accounts that I've heard, he is a thoughtful jurist that takes his job seriously.  His judicial nature seems to be tailor made for his role.  That role: he is arguably the most powerful man in the U.S. Government.

Who set the table for Kennedy's rise?  President Bush did.  By reducing the swing votes from two to one, he changed the Court.  That means that, in 2012, Bush might beat Obama if the health care bill is struck down.  Then again, many believe that a strike down of the health care bill might be the best thing that could happen to Obama.  I guess we'll see in June.

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