Journalism in the Public Interest

Reading Guide: Where Romney and Obama Stand on the Supreme Court

It’s a topic voters won’t necessarily hear about – despite the long-lasting consequences.


We take a look at where President Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney stand on the Supreme Court. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The Supreme Court has remained a largely unspoken topic on the campaign trail — even though the Court plays a critical function in Americans' lives. (This past June's Affordable Care Act ruling, anyone?)

The next president could very well appoint one or two new justices. And who steps down first could also depend on who's elected.

Mitt Romney hasn't said much about the Supreme Court, apart from expressing disagreement with the Court's ruling on Obamacare. But his website states the candidate would nominate judges "in the mold of" the Court's conservatives — Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts (the last two of whom a then-Sen. Obama voted against confirming). It also says Romney would like to see Roe v. Wade overturned.

President Obama, of course, has appointed two liberal justices, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, the nation's first Hispanic justice. His past remarks indicate a preference for nominees who bring "common sense" and "pragmatism" to the table, who'd blend constitutional analysis with "a sense of what real-world folks are going through."

Legal challenges to such key social issues as same-sex marriage, gun rights, immigration and separation of church and state are likely to be heard by the Supreme Court in the coming years. One justice is all it may take to tip the scale in these cases.

So what exactly have the candidates said, and why hasn't the Supreme Court been a bigger issue? Let's take a look.

Mitt Romney

Romney has spoken out against the president's first-term Supreme Court picks.

In April, Romney told the National Rifle Association that he's opposed to judges "who view the Constitution as living and evolving, not timeless and defining."

"In his first term, we've seen the president try to browbeat the Supreme Court. In a second term, he would remake it," Romney said. "Our freedoms would be in the hands of an Obama Court, not just for four years, but for the next 40. That must not happen."

Romney has occasionally embraced recent Supreme Court decisions. He praised the Court's unanimous January 2012 ruling in a religious liberty case that allowed for a "ministerial exception" to employment discrimination laws. He favorably cited another unanimous March 2012 ruling that made it easier for property owners to challenge compliance orders from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The candidate has been vocal about abortion. In June 2011, Romney wrote that he felt Roe v. Wade was a "misguided ruling that was a result of a small group of activist federal judges legislating from the bench." Early this year, Romney repeated that position, and again in April during an interview with ABC News' Diane Sawyer.

His running mate, Paul Ryan, also touched on the Court's role when it comes to abortion. "We don't think that unelected judges should make this decision; that people, through their elected representatives and reaching a consensus in society through the democratic process, should make this determination," Ryan said in the vice-presidential debate.

As Vice President Joe Biden pointed out during this debate, one of the people heading Romney's panel of advisers on judicial appointments is Robert Bork, a Reagan Supreme Court nominee who failed to win Senate confirmation in 1987 over fears he would vote to strike down a range of issues, including Roe v. Wade.

(Biden, then the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, helped lead the opposition. The vacancy to which Bork was nominated eventually went to Justice Anthony Kennedy, typically the Court's swing vote.)

On another note, Romney would have a deep bench from which to select judicial nominees, given Republicans' vigorous focus on this area. (CNN has compiled a list of likely nominees, including former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement — who argued the Affordable Care Act challenge — and an assortment of conservative federal appellate judges.)

"Romney would appoint people with a more conservative judicial philosophy, who are not transforming the Constitution, not sticking up for the rights of any particular group and are very neutrally interpreting the law," said Curt Levey, president of Committee for Justice, an organization that promotes conservative judicial candidates.

President Obama

If Obama is reelected, there is strong speculation that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Court's oldest member at 79, will retire to make room for a replacement. In that event, argue some, the president would likely nominate another woman (two other justices are also approaching their late 70s: Scalia and Kennedy are both 76.)

"[Obama] would place value on racial and ethnic diversity, but it wouldn't be determinative," said Tom Goldstein, co-founder and regular contributor to SCOTUSBlog, which provides news and analysis of the Court's decisions. "President Obama hasn't really pushed for very liberal nominees."

Back in 2008, Obama shed light on his thoughts about the subject.

In remarks to the Detroit Free Press, then-Sen. Obama said he would seek Supreme Court nominees who recognize "that one of the roles of the courts is to protect people who don't have a voice," for instance, "the vulnerable, the minority, the outcast, the person with the unpopular idea, the journalist who is shaking things up."

That same year, Obama, who taught constitutional law at University of Chicago Law School, praised former Justice David Souter and current Justice Stephen Breyer — both considered liberal votes — as "very sensible judges."

"They believe in fidelity to the text of the Constitution, but they also think you have to look at what is going on around you and not just ignore real life," he said.

Obama has made clear he supports Roe v. Wade, which has been narrowed in the face of new challenges.

In 2010, shortly after Justice John Paul Stevens announced his retirement, Obama told Senate lawmakers he'd apply no "litmus test" to potential nominees.

"But I will say that I want somebody who is going to be interpreting our Constitution in a way that takes into account individual rights, and that includes women's rights," the president said, eventually nominating Kagan for the vacancy.

In February 2011, Obama spoke out against the Defense of Marriage Act, which seeks to impose a definition of marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman, and instructed the Justice Department to stop defending the law in court. (A second federal appeals court recently struck down the law as unconstitutional; some predict the issue could next be headed to the Supreme Court.)

Although the president has been criticized for taking his time with judicial appointments in the lower federal courts — a gateway to the Supreme Court — he's also named more ethnic minorities to the bench than any of his predecessors.

More Discussion?

So, why hasn't there been more discussion about the Supreme Court on the campaign trail? It's a question that's been raised again and again, especially since justices, who are appointed for life, serve on average about 30 years.

One possible explanation is that the Supreme Court strategically took itself out of the political calculus earlier this year when it narrowly upheld the health care law.

"[The issue] would have played out a little differently if the Supreme Court had struck down the health care act," SCOTUSBlog's Goldstein said. "It's really hard for the president to run against the Court that has just upheld his signature legislative achievement by a whisker."

But the silence could also just convey a perceived lack of interest among the public.

"I think the candidates realize that the Supreme Court doesn't move independent voters," said Goldstein, even though "the president makes a radical difference in the composition of the judiciary."

Will Mitt Romney appoint a Mormon for Supreme Court or even worse will the Elders demand it and does Mitt obey his oath to follow the elders that he has never assured the voters that he has rescinded is allegiance to the elders.

Read this book published in 2010 by Kay Burningham Esq who is an exMormon and knows the Mormon leadership only too well.

The Mormon leadership depends on the cash cow of the tithing and they have lost more than one million followers after the people read on the internet that the socalled “prophet ” Joseph Smith Jr was a fraud.  They have a name for it “Lying for the Lord” and their entire 180 year history is full of whitewashing this “prophet” and in 1996 they solved their conundrum by emphasizing a new prophet but never renouncing the old scoundrel. They changed their logo with an emphasis on a new prophet that they just embraced only lately: Here is that logo:
              The Church of
            JESUS CHRIST
            of the Later.Day Saints

Does this mean Mormons are Christians?  Hardly—The real Christian is indeed Barack Obama.  he celebrates the inspiration of Christ and not a phony, hypocrite and con artist like Joseph Smith.

clarence swinney

Oct. 26, 2012, 2:45 p.m.

OBAMA—- 26
BUSH I——-27

I started laughing when I got Reading Guide: Where Romney and Obama Stand on the Supreme Court in my e-mail inbox.  I already know where Romney and at least five of the Supreme Court justices stand:  Wherever the Koch brothers damn well tell ‘em to.

clarence swinney

Oct. 26, 2012, 4:33 p.m.

1945 -1980 we taxed high incomes and estates to pay down WWII debt.
In those years we had fabulous economic growth.
The Middle Class had much economic growth.
Now, it is payoff time.
We need to pay down the Republican Tax Cut Debt.
Our income is $14,000 Billion.
The 2013 budget calls for $2900B in revenue and a $900B deficit.
It is a disgrace that we will not pay our way instead of leaving it for our kids to pay.
We rank 4th on Inequality in OECD nations. Richest on earth. Yet! We rank third as Least taxed in OECD nations. Only Chile and Mexico tax less of GDP than America. Yes! We rank number two on taxing our corporations even though our top rate is highest.  Obviously, something is crazy in America.
Since 1980, our tax rates have been cut cut cut to favor the wealthy.
In 2008, the top 50% got 86% of all individual income and paid 12..5% tax rate.
That ratio has been similar for years.
70,00,000 workers took home 14%.

We Must return to taxing Wealth and high incomes. Would a higher estate tax hurt the ONE family which owns more wealth than 90% of our families. Romney wants to zero it not raise it to help balance our budget and pay down some of the debt that helped him get very rich.

We CAN balance our budget. We CAN pay down our debt. The rich will fight any change.
The Middle Class needs help to regain a good Standard Of Living. Help them. Clarence Swinney mitt=moreincometaxtricks

gudrun quenzler scott

Oct. 26, 2012, 5:56 p.m.

We have Jews and Catholics both have a thousands of years tradition and now we might get somebody on the Supreme Court who follows a 180 year old “religion” invented by a known con man and indoctrinated into the young men by taking them on a so called “mission” for two years away from their family and friends , forbidden to communicate ,were all they read this this garbage here below:  It is a cult and it is corrosive and it is difficult to deprogram—this might explain why Mitt is so weird referring to women in binders and acting so stiff and lying so readily and having no center of his own authenticity:

If you are opposing Romney because he is a Mormon, you are opposing him for the wrong reason. You should oppose him because of the pledge he made to one individual, Grover Norquist, to enact Constitutional amendments sending our wives and daughters to prison in the event they are raped and seek an abortion. You should oppose Mr. Romney because of the other amendment he has pledged on gay marriage, completely ignoring the constitutional rights of the individual states to make such determinations. Both of these measures are clearly motivated by hate, fear and self-reighteous intolerance. Finally, we should all oppose the disturbingly regressive republican agenda because its ultimate end can only be tyrany.

If you don’t like mormons, that’s OK. But let’s not pretend that the hypocracy of the right wing republican base is in any way connected with a particular religion - especially not one so often derided by right wing extremists.

Nice summary. As little as this is being discussed - other matters of the judiciary are mentioned even less. Now that judicial selections and elections are being seen as a more partisan act, it’s probably time for people to pay attention more.

Anybody who signed that pledge to Grover Norquist after taking the oath of office - the oath of loyalty to the American people and the Constitution - committed treason.

Anybody who signed it before taking office is not bound by it.

clarence swinney

Oct. 27, 2012, 11:59 a.m.

Obama missed big chance to bury Mitt in first lethargic debate
“Governor, has not your stock portfolio increased dramatically since I have been president?
My predecessor had it s high as 14,.000 and it was 8000
after the Great Recession when I took office. It is now over 13,000.
That sir is success for millions of investors such as pension funds.

Why did he miss this one?

clarence swinney

Oct. 27, 2012, 3:31 p.m.

David Stockman on Romney
“Mitt Romney was not a businessman; he bought, sold, flipped, and stripped businesses.
He did not build enterprises the old fashioned way—our of inspiration, perspiration, and a long slog in the free market fostering a new product, service, or process of production. Instead, he spend his 15 years raising debt in prodigious amounts on Wall Street so that Bain could purchase pots and pans and castoffs of corporate America, leverage them to the hilt, gussy them up as reborn “roll-ups,” then deliver them back to Wall Street for resale—the faster the better.”
David Stockman—Former Director of the Office Of Management and Budget for Reagan 1981-1985

Any takers on a bet how SCOTUS would vote if Congress voted to chisel the Prophet Mohamed from the relief on the front of the 1930’s New Deal Supreme Court Building?

What question of law would have to be posed and answered?

What are the constitutional issues for and against?

@john young:  Wouldn’t that - the SCOTUS’ position - depend upon the Koch brothers’ position?

John Young—the image of Mohammed on the US Supreme Court building is in honor of the Muslim world contributed to law as explained by Justice Rehnquist in the late 20th century and he refused to sandblast the image off the building and also saying it has nothing to to with idolatry of his image which Islam mulahs say should not be depicted.

I read about it on Supreme Court building at Wikipedia—a good enough tool even if it can be amended by people.

Hope we keep up this tolerant view with the future Supreme Court .

Hmmmm….....a secret agenda intertwined in things including good and bad policies that can be biasedly manipulated by using the now unnecesary but yet purposefully maintained books of jargons of our old styled Supreme court professionals’ is no longer to be entertained here in this era of advanced and rapid information exchange technology.
I order to regain our pioneering position in the world stage, 2013’s Obamas and Romneys have to start soon working together like a new 3rd party or on a newer friendly platform of contemporary smart and non-violent ideas of all parties to remodel and thereby rebuilding Our Greater Noth-America to emerge as an ever-stronger world leader and a dominating power of economy again. And this time, the approach needs to be truly honest and more humanitarian. The top guys in our territorial Supreme courts hold the keys of the real power of facilitating positive change -which works indirecly just like those of a benevolent-dictators. For a fresh start, if the writings on international credit score board has to be wiped off clean, only a few groups of super wealthy global thugs will have to learn to live like ordinary rich or middle class guys but billions of hard working folks will enjoy the benefit from such positive change.


Oct. 30, 2012, 9:51 a.m.

Since the auto rescue, GM, Ford, and Chrysler are experiencing increases in sales of 10, 13, and 14 percent, respectively. Obama’s approach, which Romney vehemently opposed, helped save as many as 1.3 million jobs and the administration’s new fuel efficiency standards and incentives included in the 2009 stimulus are driving American-made cars to be become more competitive in an international market.

@Clarence Swinney, who emoted:  the administration’s new fuel efficiency standards and incentives included in the 2009 stimulus are driving American-made cars to be become more competitive in an international market

But that reduces global petroleum consumption and so makes Big Oil - which, needless to say, has owned a majority position in the Republicans since the latter switched their allegiance from the American people and the United States of America to Big Oil and the Islamic OPEC nations in the early 1970s - very, very unhappy.

And so yields only more “dark money” funding from Big Oil and its associated industries - such as refining, pipeline manufacturing and construction, distribution systems construction and operations, drilling equipment manufacturing, and so on -  for the Republicans and the right’s many and monstrous propaganda organs.

Which is all, by the way, why I urge people to support alternative energy research activities such as

My thinking is that once the Republicans no longer have the financial backing of Big Carbon, they won’t be able to fund the propaganda - the lies - required to fool sufficient of the American people to maintain a semblance of political power.

A fact that the right knows full well…an anticipated consequence of an increase in Republican power, of course, is the abolishing of as many fuel efficiency and pollution standards as they possibly can regardless of the dire - the deadly - consequences for all future generations of Americans…to include their own descendents.

Which, when you think about it, tells you that either greed is the most powerful force known to man or there really is such a thing as pure evil.

clarence swinney

Oct. 30, 2012, 3:57 p.m.

2000 TO 2008 (% OF GDP)
Spending=+33% =2 wars + Part D Medicare
Revenue=—29% = 2 tax cuts
This is why in 8 of Bush we increased Spending 90% and Debt 112%
The rich got richer as they were not hit with needed taxes to pay for added spending.
They are reasons we now rank #4 on Inequality in OECD nations and #3 as Least Taxed
less than all but Chile and Mexico

clarence swinney

Oct. 30, 2012, 5:22 p.m.


clarence swinney

Oct. 30, 2012, 5:47 p.m.

awesome list on Mitt

clarence swinney

Oct. 31, 2012, 12:41 p.m.

Fed fund campaign/election—6 months-3 primary 3 general-free equal tv time-
tv debate a week=12=adequate to evaluate candidates—no personal or any money used
by candidates. Keep them on the job not on the road. Burn Corporate Person.

Since there will be no need to raise campaign funds a law prohibits any federal employees from getting anything with a financial value.  A crime to offer it. This shuts down K St Bribery.

Progressive Tax System. Flat tax by group. Tax all income.
A shame we rank #3 as least taxed in OECD nations.
Puts us in a class with Chile and Mexico.
The site-—-  has superb info on corporation tax avoidance.

I wonder what Americans learn in Civics class in high-school.

That the governance of our nation is tripartite? That it consists of a Legislative, an Executive and a Judicial branch?

That this separation of powers is a foundation stone of any democracy? That this was borrowed by Jefferson and Franklin from a Frenchman by the name of Montesquieu who, in the Age of Enlightenment, thought up the idea.

Who also professed quite clearly that of the three branches, it was absolutely indispensable that the judiciary remain independent of any other political power. That for Justice to be impartial it must also be blind to appearances and consider only the arguments.

Then why in heaven’s name has the Roberts’ court betrayed this ethic by legislating from the bench? As they have done upon numerous occasions and most recently as regards opening the floodgates of electoral funding.

Have they taken leave of their senses? Can anyone imagine a wealthy person who did not give tremendous sums of money and expect nothing in return? That such campaign funding can be and is the primary rot at the heart of our democracy.

No, not really. Because the ends justify the means within a political ideology that is bent upon maintaining the status quo. And never ever will dogmatism want to rectify the reckless manner in which Reagan brought tumbling down compensation and capital gains taxation in our country.

Can’t believe that? Then just look at this info-graphic here:

Some good questions:
* See the inflexion downwards in the red-line (highest taxation rates). Who was president when that happened in the 1980s?
* Note the green-line and the inflexion upwards in our national debt. Who spoon-fed the M-I-C with high D-o-D budgets, having got elected by saying “We need to get the government off our backs”?
* That last phrase meant lower tax-rates for the upper income classes.

Question: What does lowering Income Taxes for the 10Percenters (of American householders) mean?

Answer: The Global Income Database at the Paris School of Economics demonstrates clearly that the share of Total Income of the Top 10% of American households increased from 31.5% to 46.3% over the past five decades commencing principally in the 1980s:
1960 – 33.8%
1970 – 31.5%
1980 – 32.9%
1990 – 38.8%
2000 – 43.1%
2010 – 46.3%

That’s nearly half the total income generated by the American economy! We 90Percenters are obliged to share the remaining 54% of income.

THAT is the meaning of Income Unfairness!

NB: Source of the above income share breakdown here:

Which is the work of two economists, T. Picketty and E. Saez.

@Lafayette:  You might appreciate Professor G. William Domhoff of the University of California at Santa Cruz who summarizes the wealth consolidation in America as (and I quote from

In the United States, wealth is highly concentrated in a relatively few hands. As of 2010, the top 1% of households (the upper class) owned 35.4% of all privately held wealth, and the next 19% (the managerial, professional, and small business stratum) had 53.5%, which means that just 20% of the people owned a remarkable 89%, leaving only 11% of the wealth for the bottom 80% (wage and salary workers). In terms of financial wealth (total net worth minus the value of one’s home), the top 1% of households had an even greater share: 42.1%.

Given the perspective of reality, the pseudo-American right’s claim that they are the victims of a “class war” is…ludicrous.

I’d note that it was only a couple of years ago that I first read Professor Domhoff’s summary…at the time, I believe that the bottom 80% had 15% of America’s wealth. 

Given Bush’s second round of voodoo economics - essentially telling those who can that they can keep more of whatever they can get away with taking - and his mortgage-backed securities pyramid scam…

Well, I’m not altogether surprised that the share of America’s wealth possessed by the bottom 80% has declined from 15% to 11% in just a few scant years.

It would be Romney’s job, of course, to accelerate that decline; that is why Republican political advertising is so well-funded; so…everywhere.  As Bush demonstrated, you can do quite a bit to an economy if you’re in a position to manipulate the oil markets..the value of everybody’s homes…the financial markets…and on and on.

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