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The Battle for the Courts: Three Supreme Court Justices May Retire, and Hearings for Federal Judge Nominee William Pryor Begin Tomorrow

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Nan Aron of the Alliance for Justice and James Swanson of the Cato Institute square off.

The battle for the Supreme Court has begun. Intense lobbying — including fund-raising, advertising and major research — is well underway. One vacancy and possibly two is expected in the next several weeks.

None of the nine justices have said they plan to retire now, but analysts say the time is right.

Their expectations are based on the age of several justices and the general recognition that this is President Bush’s last chance to name a justice before the presidential campaign begins.

The three oldest judges on the Supreme Court are 78-year-old Chief Justice William Rehnquist, 73-year-old Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and 83-year-old Justice John Paul Stevens. All three are Republican.

Abortion rights activists assert that Roe v. Wade could be overturned by a substantially refashioned court. Roe v. Wade is the 1973 decision recognizing that women have a constitutional right to choose to have an abortion.

The idea is that if justices are going to retire, they should do it in the next month or plan to hold on until after the 2004 elections, essentially committing themselves to two more court terms.

White House officials told the New York Times that Rehnquist and O’Connor are the likeliest to retire given the knowledge that a Republican President would choose their successor.

In December 2000, Newsweek reported that at an election-night party, when O’Connor heard the media reported Florida had gone to Al Gore, she exclaimed, “This is terrible,’’ and walked away. Her husband John then explained that she was upset because they had wanted to retire to Arizona, but had been waiting so that a Republican president could name a successor.

  • Nan Aron, president of Alliance for Justice.
  • James Swanson, senior fellow at the Cato Institute and editor of the Cato Supreme Court Review.


Alliance for Justice

Cato Instiute

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