Constitution Day Panel Examines Supreme Court Appointment, Approaching Elections

A former Time magazine journalist and a Howard University law professor said Wednesday democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama would create a nonpartisan U.S. Supreme Court.

“You can not find a starker contrast in approach to who should staff the Supreme Court, and the sort of rulings that might result from the staffing, then you’ll find between John McCain and Barack Obama,” said Jack White, of Time magazine.

White and Professor Lisa Crooms spoke to a crowd of Howard students during a panel recognizing Constitution Day. They said voters will decide which presidential candidate will establish an unprejudiced high court that interprets and enforces the Constitution.

“I would appreciate [the] judiciary much more if there was integrity and consistency,” said Professor Lisa Crooms. “Rather then adopting one ideology or another-engaging in judicial interruptions for the matter of convenience.” The president has the power to nominate judges to the Supreme Court. After Congressional approval, they take their seats. Each judge receives a lifetime appointment. Crooms said the current court is a “result driven judiciary.” She added that democratic candidate Obama, more then republican candidate McCain, would pay attention to judicial temperament when nominating judges to the Supreme Court.

“The impact of it is that it may end up excluding black people in one of the key states,” White said. White said a July Michigan Supreme Court ruling that upheld existing voter ID laws which require state-issued ID to be shown before casting a ballot, was discriminatory. He added, though the ruling is not overtly exclusionary, it has discriminatory implications, and can subversively cause disenfranchisement of black voters. According to a 2008 report by the John W. Pope Civitas Institute, Justice Robert Young, who ruled with the majority in the 5-2 Michigan ruling, said showing photo ID at the polls is “nondiscriminatory” and is “designed to preserve the purity of elections and to prevent abuses of the electoral franchise.”

Crooms said crack cocaine and death penalty laws are among current regulations that indirectly discriminate against blacks.

“The people who tend to get the short end of the stick are the people whose interest don’t often coincide with the interest of the people who are driving the vote,” Crooms said.

“What I would expect from a McCain administration would probably be candidates who would be more polarizing,” Crooms said. She said Justice Antonin Scalia, appointed during the Regan Administration, believes the Constitution should be interpreted the way it was written by those who drafted and ratified it, and is willing to compromise. He can be unfavorable, Crooms said.

White suggested that Obama would appoint Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) to the Supreme Court. “Obama on the other hand, there’s a possibly that he might appoint someone like Hillary Clinton, which would be a very interesting appointment if that came to pass,” White said. “She certainly would be a force on the court.” Howard School of Communications Dean Jannette Dates ended with a charge to the students in attendance. “As students at Howard University, the torch has been passed to you,” Dates said. “We need you.”