Is Eight Enough?

The U.S. Supreme Court begins a new term this week a bit shorthanded. With the prospects for Robert Bork's confirmation all but sunk, former Justice Lewis Powell's empty seat may stay empty for months. In some controversial cases, the eight Justices will be delicately balanced between left and right; with two wings of equal size, the court may wind up as a kind of judicial ostrich -- lots of flap but not much flight.

Shorthanded benches have occurred before.After the 1969 resignation of Justice Abe Fortas, a year elapsed before the Senate confirmed Richard Nixon's third nominee, Harry Blackmun. The Justices...

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