There is one Supreme Court vacancy waiting to be filled by the next president of the United States, but perhaps three more openings are looming in the next four years.
Justice Stephen Breyer is 78 years old, Justice Anthony Kennedy is 80 years old and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 83, creating perhaps heightened importance on the race for the White House and the Senate. While Breyer and Ginsburg tend to lean left, Kennedy is considered a "swing vote" on the court's many 5-4 decisions.
Hillary Clinton is leading Republican nominee Donald Trump in most general election polls, but her potential victory does not mean the she will stay with federal courts judge Merrick B. Garland, President Barack Obama's appointee to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia. In fact, the Democratic nominee has yet to even say Garland's name while Senate Republicans have stalled on his vote.
Having been pressured by Sen. Bernie Sanders to lean more to the left during the primaries, Clinton may consider finding a more liberal choice than Garland, who has received praise from both sides of the political aisle. Clinton has already stated she would choose a judge who would favor abortion rights, immigration and overturning Citizens United v. FEC, which loosened campaign finance rules.
It's unclear how Garland would vote on Citizens United, or if a scenario arises in which the Citizens United can be overturned.
Clinton has not mentioned possible appointees, but has promised “a bunch of litmus tests.”
Trump, on the other hand, released a list of 11 potential judges in May and had sought recommendations from the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation, two staunch conservative groups. According to the New York Times, Trump's list earned the approval of Ed Whelan, a former clerk to Justice Scalia and a conservative legal commentator.
“The replacement for Justice Scalia will be a person of similar views and principles. This will be one of the most important issues decided by this election,” Trump said in his convention speech.
Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson has virtually no chance of winning the election, but has interesting views on the Supreme Court. In September, Johnson's running mate, former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, said he would appoint judges similar to Breyer, but Johnson backed off that statement.
Breyer, who is part of the left side of the court, was part of the majority in Kelo vs. City of New London, an eminent domain case in 2005 that allowed a city taking private property to sell for public use. It's a case that conflicts with Libertarian principles. Johnson has stated that the Kelo is a case that "really does stand out."
The fate of the Court remains unclear despite the age of the justices. Ginsburg has yet to make any type of decision about her future on the high court, but may have tipped off the press in July when she stated, "[Clinton is] bound to have a few appointments in her term."
President Obama filled just two Supreme Court vacancies in nearly eight years, with Sonia Sotomayor in 2009 and Elena Kagan in 2010. Former President George W. Bush also appointed two justices, Chief Justice John Roberts in 2005 and Samuel Alito in 2006.