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July 02, 2005

Sandra Day O'Connor Retires

Yesterday, as was predicted by Bill Kristol, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (and not William Rehnquist) announced her retirement upon the appointment of a successor. Described by many as a "moderate conservative", she was the key swing vote in many decisions in a court that was otherwise almost evenly split by conservative and liberal justices. With her retirement comes the first Supreme Court appointment for President Bush, and this is making many people happy, and many others very angry.

With a judicial system that is swinging wide to the left and abusing the living document of the Constitution, conservatives are hopeful that President Bush will appoint a conservative judge to help balance the branch. However, there is a lot of concern that President Bush will appoint Alberto Gonzalez. Even though Bush would be the first president to appoint a Hispanic justice, Gonzalez is seen as another O'Connor, as he was the swing vote in the Texas Supreme Court before being appointed to be President Bush's Attorney General. I suspect this might fail though; a number of Republicans will likely vote against his appointment, though this cannot be assured. A vote for Gonzalez might be harmful to a Senator's reelection bid in the coming years.

If that was not bad enough, liberals and Democratic Senators are all up in arms, threatening to stifle any appointment President Bush makes unless it is one they hand pick themselves. Many fear that a conservative justice could end Roe v. Wade. While I want that decision to be overturned, this first selection will not do it. The SCOTUS is split 6-3, favoring abortion, and such an appointment would only make it 5-4 (unless an experienced justice decides to swing the other way). These threats by leftist leaders could only disservice our country, ensuring that the Supreme Court would be one justice short for three years, or taking away the president's appointment power and placing it in Congress.

There may be only one choice in this situation. Both the White House and Congress (55 Senators and 231 Representatives) are controlled by Republicans. In the Senate, there may again be rumblings for the nuclear option should the Democrats filibuster the president's decision. I do not necessarily believe this is a good idea (it might come back and bite the Republicans in a few years), but if the Democrats continue to prove uncooperative, there may be no other choice. Knowing that Rehnquist and the even older Paul Stevens are not too far from retirement, we could have a real mess in our hands if decisions cannot be made. If the Democrats fight, the Republicans will force the nuclear option, and President Bush will get everyone of his appointments.

So, while I'd be happy with a shift in the composition of the Supreme Court, I would suggest that liberals and Democrats write their Senators and ask them to be cooperative in the decisions; otherwise, they will have no input in choosing the next Justice of the SCOTUS. And with a good list of conservative judges who could be picks for President Bush (a number of which could still give him the first Hispanic justice), I'm sure he'd have no problem getting by without them.