What's at Stake? Our Supreme Court

We're not alone in our belief that the greatest impact the 2004 President will have is in picking Supreme Court Justices. The Boston Globe reports that the new President will select up to four new Justices.

Few believe the present court can hold together for another four years, pointing to seats held by two liberals, a conservative, and a frequent swing voter. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 71, has battled cancer since 1999. Justice John Paul Stevens is 84. Chief Justice William Rehnquist, 79, and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, 74, are said to have eyed retirement for several years. Because this court reaches many decisions by 5-to-4 or 6-to-3 votes, the next president may be able to transform its delicate balance into a solid ideological majority that will control American law for the next generation.

It is imperative to us that Bush be replaced so that his attempts to pack the federal courts with right-wing ideologues and judicial activists be stopped. And so that he can't wreak further havoc by putting unacceptable replacements on the Supreme Court.

At the liberal People for the American Way, executive director Ralph Neas argues that a court majority with that perspective would overturn 75 years of jurisprudence, gutting environmental regulations, abortion rights, and a host of civil rights.

As we wrote in December, 2002, this will be a horrible legacy to leave our children:

Packing the Supreme Court with conservatives will be one of Bush's longest lasting legacies. The judicial and criminal justice systems will change markedly. Protections we have taken for granted since childhood will disappear.

There will be no reason for every child over the age of 9 to be able to recite Miranda warnings or know a cop has to have a warrant if they want to come in the house or search. They won't know these things because they won't have seen them a hundred times on tv on the cop shows. They won't be referred to on the cop shows since there won't be any more Miranda or 4th Amendment rights to speak of--the exceptions to these principles will become the rule. Exigent circumstances, good-faith exceptions, the inevitable discovery doctrine, just wait till you see what they will think of next.

Since the Justices are appointed for life, we fear we won't see the pendulum swing back again in our lifetimes. What a legacy to leave our children.

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