Bipartisanship and The Courts

The announcement of Justice Ginsberg’s cancer on Thursday rather prominently raised the issue of the future of the Supreme Court. The ages of the liberal justices make it likely that President Obama will have the opportunity to appoint one or two justices over the next four years, both of which will need to be fairly liberal to maintain the court’s current ideological balance. Perhaps more importantly, he will have the chance to shift the ideological balance of every one of the Circuit Courts of Appeals. This causes me a certain amount of concern.

The President’s performance in the stimulus debate has been disappointing, especially in his attempt to preemptively negotiate with Republicans by offering a weaker bill than most Democrats would have supported. A similar strategy for a court appointment could be a disaster – picking a moderate to preemptively mollify conservatives.

Given the current make up of the Senate, I fail to see how any of his nominees would not be approved, given the lack of obvious scandal or professional deficiency. Equally, the risk of a filibuster should be dramatically less, especially if the Republican members of the ‘gang of 14’ have any intellectual honesty. However, the worrying question I have is will the President’s commitment to bipartisanship sacrifice the courts for Republican good will?

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