Election’s High Stakes for Supreme Court; Judicial Vacancies’ Toll

voting-boothSTAKES FOR SUPREME COURT ARE HIGH ON NOV. 8: With the presidential candidates due to debate about the Supreme Court on Wednesday night, commentary on this major election issue is heating up.

Senate Republicans’ unprecedented blockade of Chief Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination to the court “has ensured that the future of the Supreme Court is at stake on Nov. 8,” former solicitor general Donald Verrilli Jr. wrote in a TIME column. And “something even more profound is on the line in this election: the public’s faith in the Supreme Court as an institution of law and not politics,” he added.

In The Atlantic, Russell Berman wrote, “Why the Supreme Court Matters More to Republicans than Trump: Conservative justices might be the party’s final bulwark against a changing electoral landscape.” A Washington Post editorial, meanwhile, disapproved of the way both candidates are discussing Supreme Court picks, saying, “Every step closer to accepting ideological litmus tests developed in the heat of political campaigns as the basis for judicial selections — every step toward putting court rulings to a vote — erodes the foundations of the judicial branch.”

‘TOLL’ OF JUDICIAL VACANCIES: Looking beyond the Supreme Court vacancy created by the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, the Associated Press reported, “[M]ore than 90 vacancies in the federal judiciary are taking a toll on judges, the courts and Americans seeking recourse. [President] Obama has nominated replacements for more than half of those spots, including 44 nominees for the district court and seven for the appeals court. Yet the Senate has confirmed only nine district and appeals court judges this year — and only four since Scalia died.”

FLORIDA DEATH SENTENCE RULINGS: The Florida Supreme Court ruled in two associated cases that “death sentences must require a unanimous jury and struck down a newly enacted law that allowed a defendant to be sentenced to death as long as 10 of 12 jurors recommended it,” according to The Associated Press. And in other state court news, The American Prospect blogged about a recent study from Lambda Legal, “Report: Judicial Elections Fuel Anti-LGBT Bias.”

GINSBURG BACKTRACKS: According to Reuters, “U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday called her criticism of National Football League player Colin Kaepernick ‘inappropriately dismissive and harsh’ and said she should not have commented on his protest against racism and police brutality in the United States.”