Presidential race may leave lasting imprint on Supreme Court

Future appointments by Obama or Romney could be pivotal on issues of gay rights, gun laws, abortion and money in politics.

The Supreme Court is not on the ballot in November, but its future direction on issues such as abortion, gay rights, gun rights, voting laws and the role of money in politics depends on who is elected president for the next four years.

Clint Bolick, a lawyer for the Goldwater Institute in Phoenix, is not rooting for an Obama victory, but he agrees the election could have a lasting effect on a closely split court. “The average justice remains in office nearly 25 years — more than six presidential terms. Supreme Court nominations are one of most enduring legacies a president has,” he said.

Obama’s two appointees — Justices Sonia Sotomayor, 58, and Elena Kagan, 52 — have generally liberal voting records. Sotomayor was in the minority in the 5-4 decision in the Citizens United case, which freed corporations and unions to independently spend unlimited sums on campaign ads, and Kagan opposed the move when she served as solicitor general.

Given one more liberal vote, the court would likely switch directions on campaign money and uphold laws that limit election spending and require the full disclosure of donors. With an extra conservative vote, however, the justices on the right are likely to go further and free big donors — including corporations — to give money directly to candidates and parties.

The law on abortion could also switch with a change of one justice. With an extra vote on the right, the six Republican appointees would likely uphold strict regulation of abortion, and possibly a criminal ban. With an extra vote on the left, however, the liberal bloc could strike down state or federal regulations that limit abortions or restrict abortion doctors.

To read this incisive report by David Savage in the L.A. Times please click here.

And if you are thinking of not voting or making a symbolic futile vote, just think of what another activist conservative Federalist Supreme Court Justice can do to influence the next 25 years,