The discussion of potential Supreme Court appointments is always inherently delicate considering that vacancies can sometimes occur, well, involuntarily. But Slate has tossed tact aside with its new handy, if grim, tool: The Supreme Court Justice Death Calculator.
The online gizmo allows users to determine the likelihood that any justice – or any combination of justices – will pass away during President Barack Obama’s tenure, based on average life expectancy data from the Centers for Disease Control.
While most speculation about potential vacancies focuses largely on Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, according to the calculator – which runs 10,000 scenarios simulations with each user selection – the justice must likely to die before 2017 is Justice Antonin G. Scalia (likelihood ranges from 18 to 19 percent), followed by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy (roughly 18 percent). Ginsburg’s likelihood comes up closer to 17 percent after several spins on the morbid predictor. The justices least likely to die (less than 2 percent likelihood) are Justice Sonia M. Sotomayor and Justice Elena Kagan.
But the chances of two justices dying are pretty slim – no more than 4 percent for any combination of two – according to the calculator.