Election 2016

3 Questions About SCOTUS for Tonight's GOP Presidential Debate

The Supreme Court deserves more attention in the 2016 White House race.


The future of the U.S. Supreme Court is one of the most significant issues in the 2016 White House race. When the next president takes the oath of office in January 2017, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be 82 years old, Justice Anthony Kennedy will be 80, Justice Antonin Scalia will also be 80, and Justice Stephen Breyer will be a spry 78. Needless to say, any one of those justices might retire in the next four years, providing the next president with the opportunity to appoint one or more new justices who could go on to shape (or misshape) American law for decades to come. It's therefore imperative that all presidential candidates explain what sort of legal philosophy they favor and what sort of judicial candidates they hope to appoint.

To help this process along, here are three SCOTUS-related questions that I would like to hear asked and answered at tonight's GOP presidential debate.

1. Donald Trump has repeatedly praised the Supreme Court's 2005 eminent domain ruling in Kelo v. City of New London. Mr. Trump, do you stand by those statements? Other candidates, do you agree with Donald Trump that Kelo was correctly decided?

2. Sen. Rand Paul has repeatedly praised the Supreme Court's 1905 decision in Lochner v. New York, in which the Court struck down an economic regulation on the grounds that it violated the unenumerated right to economic liberty secured by the 14th Amendment. Sen. Paul, do you stand by those statements? Other candidates, do you agree with Rand Paul that Lochner was correctly decided?

3. In 2012 Chief Justice John Roberts invoked the doctrine of judicial deference in his opinion upholding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act from constitutional challenge. According to Roberts, "It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices." Candidates, do you agree with the chief justice's description of the Supreme Court's job?

Related: A Guide to Supreme Court Vacancies for GOP Candidates