Scalia dies

A piece reveals the death of Justice Scalia, “Justice Antonin Scalia, the longest-serving member of the current Supreme Court and an intellectual leader of the conservative legal movement, died Saturday, and his death set off an immediate political battle about the future of the court and its national role. Scalia, 79, was found dead at a hunting resort in Texas after he did not appear for breakfast, law enforcement officials said. A cause of death was not immediately reported”.

The report adds “President Obama, who disagreed with Scalia’s jurisprudence, nevertheless praised him as “a larger-than-life presence on the bench” and a “brilliant legal mind [who] influenced a generation of judges, lawyers and students, and profoundly shaped the legal landscape.” Obama said he would nominate a successor, even though the Senate’s Republican leadership and its presidential candidates said an election-year confirmation was out of the question”.

Pointedly the piece writes “Scalia’s sudden death casts a cloud of uncertainty over a Supreme Court term filled with some of the most controversial issues facing the nation: abortion, affirmative action, the rights of religious objectors to the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act, and the president’s powers on immigration and deportation. An eight-member court could split on all of those issues. It would seem to assure that the Supreme Court, often far down the list of voters’ concern when choosing a president, would become a prominent issue in the campaign”.

The piece adds that “Liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, soon to be 83, is the oldest member of the court, while Justice Anthony M. Kennedy is the same age as Scalia. The jurist’s death leaves the court with three consistent conservatives — Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. — and Kennedy, like Scalia a Ronald Reagan appointee but one who often sides with the court’s liberals on social issues, such as same-sex marriage. The court has four consistent liberals: Ginsburg plus Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Despite their sharp ideological differences, the justices nevertheless often proclaim their personal affinity for one another, and it seemed especially true regarding Scalia”. 

Crucially the piece notes “Although the fate of Scalia’s successor seems likely to consume political Washington, the outcome of the many controversies will be complicated by an eight-member court. If the court ties in deciding a case, the decision of the appeals court remains in place, without setting a nationwide precedent. For instance, the court already was working with one less justice in a case involving the use of race in an admissions case at the University of Texas. Kagan sat out the case, presumably because she worked on the issue when she was Obama’s solicitor general. That means only seven justices would decide whether the appeals court was correct to uphold the program. The court is scheduled to hear in April arguments about Obama’s plan to shield more than 4 million illegal immigrants from deportation”.




One Response to “Scalia dies”

  1. Order and Tradition Says:

    […] A piece in the Washington Post notes that today, President Obama has formally nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court to fill the vacancy left by Antonin Scalia. […]

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