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Obama win creates new chance to mold court

WASHINGTON — Barack Obama, the first president to appoint two female justices, may have a chance to name a third during his second term in office and deepen his imprint on the Supreme Court.

With four justices 74 or older, actuarial tables alone suggest Obama will have another vacancy or two to fill before he leaves the White House. The oldest of the court’s nine members, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 79, has indicated she might retire in the next few years.

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Names of possible successors are already circulating in Democratic circles. California Attorney General Kamala Harris, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Assistant US Attorney General Virginia Seitz, and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan are high on the lists.

A new justice would join a court now split almost evenly on questions of abortion, race, religion, gun rights and campaign finance. Obama’s first two appointees, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, have joined Ginsburg in voting to uphold the president’s health-care law and calling for reconsideration of the 2010 ruling allowing unlimited corporate election spending.

Another Obama appointment would solidify that wing of the court, even if the balance doesn’t tip. Because a new justice would potentially serve for decades, Obama’s appointees would be in position to shape US law long after he has left the White House.

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