Next President will shape the Court

Published 6:00 am Sunday, July 3, 2016

Following Justice Antonin Scalia’s death on February 13th, speculation quickly mounted as to the future direction of the court. Scalia had held the conservative coalition together providing the nation’s highest court with a 5-4 advantage. Prior to his unexpected passing, the Supreme Court was not the campaign issue it is now. In 2015 Justice Scalia was the guest at the home of my friend, Jim Carroll.

Jim shared the following comments with me recently…”When Justice Scalia visited in our home last year, we had a number of private conversations. He was a conservative.

But his main concern was judicial restraint. His concern was not whether a justice voted liberal or conservative, but whether they had the self restraint to keep their nose out of Americans’ business where possible. He believed that the country should not be ruled by 9 unelected justices, and he made a point that a 5-4 Supreme Court decision amounted to the country being ruled by one unelected justice.”

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In addition to the vacancy caused by Scalia’s death, it is highly thought that Justice Clarence Thomas will step down in 2017, thereby leaving two conservative openings.

Three other justices, Anthony Kennedy (80); Stephen Breyer (78); and Ruth Bader Ginsburg (83) are a good bet to also step down during the next president’s term. Therefore, the balance of the court could be significantly altered by the philosophy of the 45th president.

With the two recent decisions by the court (the University of Texas enrollment challenge and the deportation question), Americans were quickly reminded of the power the court has over our everyday lives. And with each new attack involving firearms whether by radical Islamic terrorists or other extremists, the future of the second amendment comes back into question.

According to the journal Injury Prevention, one third of Americans own the country’s 300 million guns. Alaska ranks number one among the states in gun ownership at 62 percent with Delaware the lowest at 5 percent. Neighboring state, Arkansas, where Jim Carroll has a residence is at 50 percent. With so many gun owners at possible risk should the second amendment ever be deleted, the possibility of this issue alone could swing the November election. In any event, states with a high percentage of gun ownership, such as West Virginia, the NRA will be highly visible lobbying for their endorsement of Donald J. Trump.

Just a few weeks ago, candidate Trump released a list of potential Supreme Court nominees should he win in November. It was rumored that Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions contributed significantly in gathering the names. Speculation is also mounting that Sessions could very well be the VP selection of Trump as the two have an excellent working relationship. Another rumor making its way around the political circuit board is that the election of Mrs. Clinton would lead to the nomination of President Obama to the high court. This could partially explain (if true) why the President is so focused on defeating the Donald.

Signs are ever mounting that the predictability of the 2016 presidential election is anything but a certainty. With Great Britain’s departure from the EU, the unexpected is now the norm. The American electorate seems primed to vote for the candidate this year who they believe will best protect their interest in keeping the government’s “nose out of their business.” And maintaining a majority conservative viewpoint on the high bench may assure this more than any other topic being currently debated.

Steve Vassallo is a contributing columnist and Oxford resident. He can be reached at