If you think that the U.S. Supreme Court functions as the Founding Fathers might have envisioned it – an august body, removed from the input of ordinary Americans, part of the system of checks and balances, and impervious to the day-to-day winds of political climate change – think again.
This week, the Supreme Court has come down with two decisions that are certain to lead to lively discussions and debates. Yesterday, as they struck down the District of Columbia’s right to regulate gun ownership and upheld the right of private citizens to own guns for self-defense, the close 5-4 decision was split along familiar lines of liberal vs conservative justices, with Justice Anthony Kennedy joining to form the majority, with Justices Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas. In another decision, presented earlier this week, the court again ruled 5-4, with Justice Kennedy again joining the majority – only this time with the four judges on the other side of the ideological split, Justices Bader Ginsburg, Breyer, Stevens and Souter. That decision prohibited – as cruel and unusual punishment – the institution of the death penalty when the accused was found guilty of raping a child. Earlier in the month, Justice Kennedy again joined with the liberal bloc to form the majority opinion that the inmates at Guantanamo have the constitutional right to bring their case for release into federal courts. Clearly the Supreme Court has demonstrated its active role in addressing many of the issues important to the American public today.
Interestingly, both presumptive Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama have come out in support of the Supreme Court decisions, although Congressmen and Senators have taken sides for and against. So what does all of this mean to you as Sandwiched Boomers? Issues of great importance to you and your families are likely to be brought before the Court in the next several years and with four of the Justices already over 70 – Justice Stevens is 88!- it is almost certain that at least one new Supreme Court Justice will be nominated by the new President and considered for confirmation by the Senate. So get informed and involved in the coming election. Learn about the candidates and their policies. Make choices about whom you want to represent you and your family for the next four or six years. Your votes could affect the make-up of the Supreme Court as well as that of Congress and the White House.