The Issues: Supreme Court

What’s at stake:In the next presidential administration, the Supreme Court will likely be facing a number of social issues that could shape the country, such as abortion, marriage rights, the right to bear arms and affirmative action, said Jim Riddlesperger, professor of political science.

Riddlesperger said the decisions of justices to step down during the next administration might depend on which candidate wins.

“Supreme Court justices can retire whenever they want to,” Riddlesperger said. “If a president is elected who they feel comfortable replacing them, they’re more likely to retire than a president who makes them uncomfortable.”

For example, Riddlesperger said, if McCain is elected, Antonin Scalia may feel comfortable retiring and if Obama is elected, John Paul Stevens, the oldest member, may step down.

If McCain is elected president, Riddlesperger said, his appointments likely face a tougher confirmation than Obama’s, because the Democrats are expected to keep a majority in the Senate.

“The simple reality is that the Supreme Court appointment process has become contentious, even when it is a relatively friendly Senate to the president,” Riddlesperger said. “Their appointments are so scrutinized that it’s hard to know even if you have a president and Senate of the same party whether the confirmation process is going to be easy.”

Obama says:

Obama also said at the same debate that he would not have litmus tests.

“I will look for those judges who have an outstanding judicial record, who have the intellect, and who hopefully have a sense of what real-world folks are going through,” Obama said.

McCain says:

In the Oct. 15 presidential debate, John McCain said he would not have a litmus test for judges.

“I will find the best people in the world – in the United States of America – who have a history of strict adherence to the Constitution, and not legislating from the bench,” McCain said.