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Monday, June 27, 2005

Supreme Changes?

Today will end the 2004-2005 Term at the Supreme Court. It may also be the day when Chief Justice Rehnquist steps down after 33 years on the bench. He has presided over an era of struggles over the Court’s faithfulness to the text and principles of the Constitution. If a vacancy does open up, one thing is for sure both the Left and Right are ready to battle. Organizations all over are geared up for the nomination battle. The media is hyping it like we are on the brink of Armageddonn. But as I glanced over SCOTUSBlog's voting statistics for this past term, I realized that there is not going to be a Supreme Change if WHR retires. WHR is as conservative as anyone on the court. In fact the voting statistics showed that WHR disagreed with the "Liberal Four" more than any one else.

Disagreed with JPS DHS RBG SGB Avg.

WHR 43% 37% 35% 30% 36.25%

CT 38% 35% 36% 32% 35.25%

AS 36% 31% 31% 28% 31.50%

AMK 31% 26% 24% 19% 25.00%

SOC 28% 24% 27% 18% 24.25%

So if WHR is replaced by a conservative justice, the right only maintains its position. It really has nothing to gain. However, if a AMK or SOC like justice is nominated and confirmed, then the left can gain some serious ground. The right knows this and will likely nominate a conservative justice to replace WHR. This means that the only real significant change we will see with WHR's replacement (if there is one) is that each term one more lucky law student will be a SCOTUS clerk (WHR only hires 3 clerks per term instead of 4 like every other justice).

Update: Even though WHR did not announce his retirement at today's session, he may still retire today as Lyle Denniston points out here in the more traditional off-the-bench press announcement.

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