The coming partisan battle over who will fill the seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia is certain to fuel growing public perceptions that the Supreme Court is becoming more of a political body than a neutral forum for deciding cases based on the law.
The court has long tried to maintain the image of being distinct from the expressly political branches of the government. Although legal scholars disagree about how much the justices’ political views determine their decisions, the justices themselves have taken pains to insist that they don’t.
But repeated political battles over confirmations and the partisan forces that have swirled around Congress and the White House have all but eroded that sense of distinctiveness.
An election-year power struggle between a Democratic president and a Republican-controlled Senate is in many ways the worst nightmare for Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.
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