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Experts Analyze Obama's Effects on Supreme Court

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With talk that several Supreme Court justices may retire in a few years, Americans are curious as to what changes President-elect Barack Obama may make to the Supreme Court. KSMU’s Kristian Kriner spoke with one individual whose behind-the-scenes experience gives her a unique perspective.

The Supreme Court is the highest judicial body in the United States.

It consists of nine justices who have the final say in major court rulings.

Among Supreme Court experts, there is speculation that three justices may step down within the next eight years.

If that happens, President-elect Obama will choose three new justices to fill the open seats.

Allyson Ho is the former law clerk for Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

She says one of the president’s most lasting legacies is choosing Supreme Court justices.

“The American people generally expect their president to nominate well-qualified jurists, who will apply the law as written and do so fairly with respect to all litigants and parties before the court,” Ho said.

Ho says the Supreme Court is narrowly divided, with four liberal justices, four conservative justices and one justice in the middle.

The three who may step down are on the liberal side.

Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter are in their seventies and eighties.

She says even a one vote switch could make a difference on some major cases.

“Even if all three of those justices were to step down, that would not change the current balance on the court by all that much. But of course there’s always the chance that a more conservative member of the court could step down and obviously an appointment there could possibly have a greater impact on the balance of the court,” Ho said.

Ho says if Obama does get the chance to appoint a few justices, then issues that were lost or won by a one vote margin could potentially be overturned during his term.

For KSMU News, I’m Kristian Kriner.