Gavel Grab

Commentary: Courts Ignored by Presidential Candidates

In the final days before Nov. 6, additional scholars and analysts are remarking on the great impact the next president could have on the Supreme Court and lower federal courts, while this important topic has hardly been debated in their campaigns.

In the Los Angeles Times, Erwin Chemerinsky, dean and professor of law at the UC Irvine School of Law, wrote an op-ed saying there is great public interest about hot-button issues that may ultimately be decided by justices chosen by the next president:

“So why are the candidates ignoring this issue? Their advisors probably have told them that voters don’t care, or at least that it is unlikely to matter to the crucial undecided voters. But this may well be creating a self-fulfilling prophecy because voters won’t care unless the candidates choose to make the composition of the courts an important election issue.

“But I have seen that audiences do care greatly about the future of abortion rights, the corrosive effects of money in politics, the rights of gays and lesbians to marriage equality and so many other issues that are decided by the courts. All this and so much more will turn on who picks the next Supreme Court justices.”

At the Opinionator blog of the New York Times, Linda Greenhouse asked how the high court could have gone from “preoccupation to invisibility, less worthy of attention than a Jeep factory in China,” in a period of weeks or months since the Republican primary, when then-candidate Newt Gingrich attacked the courts in a lengthy “screed.” She also noted that the court was in the forefront of public attention when it decided a challenge to the Affordable Care Act in June.

“One thought, suggested to me by Nathaniel Persily, a public opinion expert at Columbia Law School, is that the Supreme Court has become so politicized in the public mind that there’s almost nothing left for politicians to say about it, no base that remains open to mobilization or inspiration,” Greenhouse observed.

At Huffington Post, meanwhile, Democratic state Sen. Jamin Raskin of Maryland, a law professor at American University, wrote a commentary that was headlined, “The Frightening Prospect of a Romney Court.”

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