February 14, 2016
Scalia’s Death Opens Division
Justice Scalia was in Texas at a luxury resort doing some hunting. At least he died of natural causes and wasn’t shot by Dick Cheney. It is a 30,000 acre ranch. He attended a private party with about 40 people and went to bed. When he didn’t show up for breakfast, someone from from the ranch went to check on him and found him dead in bed. It is assumed that he died of natural causes.
Changed Supreme Court Dynamics
This will definitely change the Supreme Court even before someone is nominated and approved. If there is a 4-4 tie, the lower court ruling stands. There are a number of cases before the Supreme Court where this could make a difference. Although, it won’t have an impact for a while since most of the cases early in the term tend to be less controversial and are less likely to be close votes from what the close followers of the Supreme Court say.
Scalia’s Conservative Viewpoint
Scalia felt that all Supreme Court decisions should be made from the viewpoint of the founders and writers of the Constitution and not interpret in a way that makes sense in today’s world. He was also strongly against abortion, gay marriage, and affirmative action. Although he had a quick wit, it was a very sharp acerbic wit. But his views were so strong and unrelenting that he often alienated other justices instead of creating a coalition to get the results he wanted.
He changed the Supreme Court in oral arguments. He was much more assertive and asked many more questions than had been asked in the past. He would sometimes verbally attack lawyers presenting one side of a case.
But, wow, it didn’t take long for his death to start the political jockeying. The Republicans and conservatives of any stripe even if they aren’t Republican are hoping to hold off the nomination of a new justice until a new president is sworn in. The Democrats are expecting the nomination process to happen immediately.
President Obama has said that he will nominate someone to the Supreme Court to take Scalia’s place. He expects the Senate to do its job and confirm that person in a timely manner.
However, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader had a completely different view. He said that no decision should be made until a new president takes office. He said that the American people should be able to make that decision. That is one of the more blatantly partisan, political things we have heard in a while. He obviously is hoping for a Republican to win in November and appoint a conservative justice to replace Scalia. But to wait a year to fill a Supreme Court post seems a bit incredible, unless of course you are Mitch McConnell or a number of other Republicans who have jumped on the band wagon.
It is going to make the Presidential election process even more interesting.