Group to sponsor lecture on election, high court

Appointees could alter the balance of power

September 18, 2000|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

Continuing its tradition of disseminating nonpartisan information, the League of Women Voters of Carroll County is sponsoring a talk tomorrow to discuss "The Most Important Thing in 40 Years that No One Is Talking About: The Effect of the Presidential Election on the Balance of Power in the Supreme Court."

Steve Boyan, an associate professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, will speak on the topic at 7 p.m. at the Learning Resource Center of Carroll Community College in Westminster.

A constitutional law expert, Boyan will speak on the effects of past presidential Supreme Court appointments on everyday freedoms and examine the possible impact of each presidential candidate on the high court.

With the court divided along ideological lines on issues such as abortion, affirmative action and school prayer, one or two new justices could make a difference. Although no seat on the court is vacant, retirement or death of one or more justices within the next presidential term is possible.

Advocacy groups on both sides of those issues are lobbying voters about the importance of the presidential election on the high court.

Boyan said the heath care and prescription drug debate would have been out of the question before Franklin D. Roosevelt's Supreme Court appointees helped change the doctrine on interstate commerce. Roosevelt's appointees reversed a position that state and federal governments could not regulate the economy. Without that reversal, Boyan said, the United States would not have NAFTA, child labor laws, the minimum wage or Social Security.

"I am not a Supreme Court wonk or anything, but the more I got into this, the more I was fascinated by it. As Steve [Boyan] told me about this and as he was laying out this history, my mouth was hanging open," said Jeri Eaton, a former member of the league who was among a group of Carroll residents that invited Boyan to speak. "It simply never occurred to me that these things just didn't always exist.

"People need to make up their own minds [about the presidential election], but what they are owed is the fullest amount of information they can get so when they look at each of the candidates they have a sense of, `Oh, this what this person could mean to the Supreme Court, and this is what this person could mean to me.'"

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