Sunday, September 04, 2005

Rebalancing the Court

I found out this morning that Chief Justice Rehnquist died last night. For Many in America, this news means little. For those watching the goings on of the Court, Rehnquist's death was not unexpected. The Chief Justice has been suffering from a debilitating form of Thyroid cancer. The survival rate of this particular type of cancer is very low. Add to that Rehnquist's age, and all the signs pointed to the end of the Rehnquist Court.

Unfortunately, his death, while Congress is on their summer recess creates political concerns. First, who will be come the new Chief Justice. While the decision is up to the President, those in the running include Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy. While Thomas is the second lowest in the pecking order, his conservative bent satisfies the President's ideology. Scalia, now one of the ranking members of the Court, shares this ideology. Kennedy, on of the most liberal Justices, will most likely not really be in contention.

In terms of affecting the balance of the Court, the Chief Justice does little. It seems its predominantly a procedural position. Politically, though, a conservative appointment to Chief Justice may allow the President to appoint another swing moderate like former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Regardless, replacing two seats on the bench in an already charged political stage may do good and harm. John Roberts' confirmation may become easier to digest if the President decides to appoint a more controversial candidate. This will definitely be an interesting Congressional term leading up to the Christmas recess.


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