After the first presidential debate and again after the debate between the VP candidates, I lamented the fact that the candidates and moderators had almost completely ignored judicial nominations. This is one of the areas where presidents have their biggest impact, and there are big differences between the two parties on a variety of major constitutional issues.
Unfortunately, the issue was ignored yet again in tonight’s debate. The only reference to courts that I could find in the transcript was a brief mention by Obama in discussing the Lily Ledbetter case; and he didn’t even say whether the Court had interpreted the law correctly or whether the case had any implications for the kinds of judges he plans to appoint. In any event, the Lily Ledbetter case is hardly even in the top 50 most important Supreme Court decisions of the last decade.
The final presidential debate is going to focus on foreign policy, so it isn’t likely that judges will come up. The courts have much less influence on foreign policy than on domestic issues. However, the moderator should at least ask the candidates about the Supreme Court’s War on Terror decisions and about the role of international law in interpreting the Constitution. These have been and will continue to be important legal issues that divide the two parties and their likely judicial nominees.