In the U.S. Supreme Court term just ended, an an individual right to possess guns was secured by just one vote. The legal underpinning of the Bush administration’s Guantanamo detention policy was shattered by one vote. And state efforts to expand the death penalty beyond crimes of homicide were rejected by one vote.

Modern attempts to make the Supreme Court a presidential election-year issue usually track the success of third-party presidential candidates. But as the 2007-08 term’s headline cases demonstrate in this election year, who sits on the Court and who appoints them matter.

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