I wanted to ask the community who is the next likely "vacancy" on the SCOTUS is. But then I figured, hell with it, I'll research it myself. (And no, little voice inside my head, it's not too soon.)
Despite my hyperbolic diary title, there are two ways from retiring from the best job on Earth*. Retire, or die. Since I can't really predict who will retire while the gettings are good, or die while they're not, I put together a list of the nine justices, their ages, and try to see if President Obama will get any more appointments during his second term based solely on life expectancy.
The death watch begins below the squiggly thingy.
As of this writing (posterity, hello!), the chief justice is John Roberts, and thus, this is his court. He's made a name for himself by promising broad consensus but delivering hotly contested narrow conservative victories (c.f. Citizens United). Recently, he earned the wrath from his otherwise beloved right wing by siding with the Obama Administration on the constitutionality of the ACA. It seems that posterity's worm eats through even the most cynical partisan. Let's begin the death watch with him.
Justice Roberts. Appointed in 2005 by George H. W. Bush. Age 57.
Samuel Alito. Appointed in 2006 by George H. W. Bush. Age 61.
Justice Breyer. Appointed in 1994 by Bill Clinton. Age 74.
Justice Ginsberg. Appointed in 1993 by Bill Clinton. Age 79.
Justice Scalia. Appointed in 1986 by Ronald Reagan. Age 76.
Justice Kennedy. Appointed in 1988 by Ronald Reagan. Age 76.
Justice Thomas. Appointed in 1991 by George G. H. W. Bush. Age 64.
Justice Sotomayor. Appointed in 2009 by Barack Obama. Age 58.
Justice Kagan. Appointed in 2010 by Barack Obama. Age 52.
Ranked from oldest to youngest, we have:
Roberts appears to have been a good choice for CJ based on his age. He's be the chief for a long time to come. I regret that he somehow got council on that choice, despite his best efforts to put an imbecile in the seat. If a super winger had gotten the seat, the supreme court's legitimacy would have been called into question. And thus the republic dodged a bullet.
Kagan, Sotomayor, Thomas, and Alito are young (by SCOTUS standards). They'll sit for at least a decade more.
If the supremes drop off or retire in order of age, Ginsberg, Scalia, Kennedy, and Breyer are next in line. 44% of justices have died in office (compared to 52% who either resigned or retired). All four of them are well past the SS retirement age. The average retirement/death/resignation of the last 10 justices to leave the bench is 74.4, so they're all ripe for the reaper.
This liberal would find Ginsberg or Breyer a loss, but Scalia an Kennedy wouldn't cost me any tears of sadness. I doubt though that Scalia would just retire like O'Connor did in 2006. He's gonna die on the bench.
Let's say that two of these four either die or retire. Then there's a 50% in the next four years that we can flip the 5-4 conservative bias of the court back to a liberal bias.
Worst case, the two liberals die/retire, and we have status quo. Best case, Kennedy and Scalia buy the farm and we 6-3. Maybe Thomas's heart will grow three sizes and he'll quit, too, thus improving the court by nineteen orders of magnitude (Long shot, I know).
I'm an atheist, so there's no point in any quid quo pro "pray for their death/asteroid strike" kind of talk. And cynically, if any conservative were offed by a rabid fan, the outcry to replace the fallen justice with some conservative teahadist would be just the kind of bait that the democrats are famous for swallowing. I'm hoping that the good life treats all these men (it's the men I want gone) well, full of wine and pork and other cardinal sins. I want them to bloat, then croak. Scalia looks ready to pop. So I toast his health.
So it looks like there a good chance that Obama will get two more appointments. Maybe more. To truly flip the court for the next generation, the Democrats will have to win in 2016 and 2020 as that will likely take care of Alito and Thomas. Then Roberts, while CJ,would be the sole "conservative" voice on then,
* I'm too lazy/tired/out-of-excuses to look it up, but it's something Robert Sapolsky said that stuck with me.