Whoever wins next week’s presidential election may shape the Supreme Court for the next generation of Americans, highlighting how important Tuesday’s election is to the high court’s future constitutional integrity.
Justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy — both of whom were appointed by President Ronald Reagan — and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — a Clinton appointee — will all turn 80 before 2016. Ginsberg is 79 while Scalia and Kennedy are 76.
Even if the justices do not retire, they may vacate the bench via natural causes: “life expectancy at birth in the United States is now 76.3 years for males and 81.1 years for females,” but “a male who had already reached the age of 75 in 2011 has a life expectancy of another 11.0 years,” while a female “who had reached 75 had a life expectancy of another 12.9 years.”
Many of the most important cases brought before the Court have been decided by a 5-4 majority; future justices’ proclivity towards judicial activism or restraint will likely determine the outcome of cases dealing with national security, racial preferences, same-sex marriage, abortion, and privacy laws.