Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The politics of the Supreme Court

Thanks to Andrew Oh-Willeke for highlighting this.

But how conservative would a McCain presidency make the court—and how conservative is it already? The answers to these questions may be found in a new paper by Richard Posner, a judge who sits on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and William Landes, a law professor at the University of Chicago, that is now making its way through the academic community. In "Rational Judicial Behavior: A Statistical Study," Posner and Landes use a database that includes the political background and voting records of the past 70 years of Supreme Court justices—who appointed each justice and how the justices decided every case—to come up with a ranking, from most conservative to least conservative, of the 43 justices who have served on the court since 1937.

Their conclusion: Four of the five most conservative justices to serve on the Supreme Court since Franklin Roosevelt, including Roberts and Alito, are currently sitting on the bench today. Justice Anthony Kennedy, another current Republican appointee, is ranked No. 10.

John Paul Stevens is 88 years old. Ruth Bader-Ginsburg is 75 years old and a cancer survivor. If John McCain is elected president our already far-right Court is destined to take a frightening lurch even further to the right.

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