Battle over Scalia's seat feeds perception that Supreme Court is less neutral and more partisan

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. (Nati Harnik / Associated Press)

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 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.

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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.

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.

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.

“We don't work as Democrats or Republicans,” he told a law school audience in Boston.

Roberts also took aim at exactly the kind of partisan Senate confirmation process that is likely to emerge if President Obama makes good on his vow to quickly name a replacement for Scalia, who died over the weekend.

Roberts also took aim at exactly the kind of partisan Senate confirmation process that is likely to emerge if President Obama makes good on his vow to quickly name a replacement for Scalia, who died over the weekend.

Roberts also took aim at exactly the kind of partisan Senate confirmation process that is likely to emerge if President Obama makes good on his vow to quickly name a replacement for Scalia, who died over the weekend.

Roberts also took aim at exactly the kind of partisan Senate confirmation process that is likely to emerge if President Obama makes good on his vow to quickly name a replacement for Scalia, who died over the weekend.

Roberts also took aim at exactly the kind of partisan Senate confirmation process that is likely to emerge if President Obama makes good on his vow to quickly name a replacement for Scalia, who died over the weekend.

Roberts also took aim at exactly the kind of partisan Senate confirmation process that is likely to emerge if President Obama makes good on his vow to quickly name a replacement for Scalia, who died over the weekend.

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This is quite a contrast from decades past, when Republican appointees such as William Brennan and Harry Blackmun became among the most liberal justices, and conservatives included Democratic-appointed Byron White. Republican appointees such as Lewis Powell and Sandra Day O’Connor were moderates who became important swing votes, a role now played by Republican appointee Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.

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Obama’s two appointees — Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — replaced the last two liberal Republicans: Justices David H. Souter and John Paul Stevens.

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Obama’s two appointees — Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — replaced the last two liberal Republicans: Justices David H. Souter and John Paul Stevens.

Obama’s two appointees — Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — replaced the last two liberal Republicans: Justices David H. Souter and John Paul Stevens.

Obama’s two appointees — Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — replaced the last two liberal Republicans: Justices David H. Souter and John Paul Stevens.

Obama’s two appointees — Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — replaced the last two liberal Republicans: Justices David H. Souter and John Paul Stevens.

Obama’s two appointees — Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — replaced the last two liberal Republicans: Justices David H. Souter and John Paul Stevens.

Obama’s two appointees — Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — replaced the last two liberal Republicans: Justices David H. Souter and John Paul Stevens.

Obama’s two appointees — Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — replaced the last two liberal Republicans: Justices David H. Souter and John Paul Stevens.

Obama’s two appointees — Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — replaced the last two liberal Republicans: Justices David H. Souter and John Paul Stevens.

Obama’s two appointees — Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — replaced the last two liberal Republicans: Justices David H. Souter and John Paul Stevens.

Obama’s two appointees — Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — replaced the last two liberal Republicans: Justices David H. Souter and John Paul Stevens.

For those votes, he has been called “an absolute disaster” by Donald Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who formerly lauded the chief justice, now says he agrees with Trump.

For those votes, he has been called “an absolute disaster” by Donald Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who formerly lauded the chief justice, now says he agrees with Trump.

For those votes, he has been called “an absolute disaster” by Donald Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who formerly lauded the chief justice, now says he agrees with Trump.

For those votes, he has been called “an absolute disaster” by Donald Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who formerly lauded the chief justice, now says he agrees with Trump.

For those votes, he has been called “an absolute disaster” by Donald Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who formerly lauded the chief justice, now says he agrees with Trump.

For those votes, he has been called “an absolute disaster” by Donald Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who formerly lauded the chief justice, now says he agrees with Trump.

For those votes, he has been called “an absolute disaster” by Donald Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who formerly lauded the chief justice, now says he agrees with Trump.

For those votes, he has been called “an absolute disaster” by Donald Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who formerly lauded the chief justice, now says he agrees with Trump.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said it would be “seen as an infamous political action by the five Republican appointees on the Supreme Court.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said it would be “seen as an infamous political action by the five Republican appointees on the Supreme Court.”

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Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said it would be “seen as an infamous political action by the five Republican appointees on the Supreme Court.”

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Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said it would be “seen as an infamous political action by the five Republican appointees on the Supreme Court.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said it would be “seen as an infamous political action by the five Republican appointees on the Supreme Court.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said it would be “seen as an infamous political action by the five Republican appointees on the Supreme Court.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said it would be “seen as an infamous political action by the five Republican appointees on the Supreme Court.”

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