- Category: Volume 87 (Fall 2015 - Spring 2016)
- Published: 17 February 2016
- Written by BRENDAN GREVE | POLITICS EDITOR
The nation is healing from the loss of Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia, who passed away Saturday morning at the age of 79 years old.
Justice Scalia has served on the Supreme Court since he was nominated by Ronald Reagan in 1986.
President Obama addressed the nation on Saturday afternoon and said of Scalia, “He influenced a generation of judges, lawyers, and students, and profoundly shaped the legal landscape. He will no doubt be remembered as one of the most consequential judges and thinkers to serve on the Supreme Court.” He added, “Justice Scalia dedicated his life to the cornerstone of our democracy: The rule of law. Tonight, we honor his extraordinary service to our nation and remember one of the towering legal figures of our time.”
His passing was also addressed during the Republican debate in South Carolina Saturday night by the GOP presidential hopefuls. New Hampshire Primary winner, Donald Trump, said, “Justice Scalia was a remarkable person and a brilliant Supreme Court Justice, one of the best of all time. His career was defined by his reverence for the Constitution and his legacy of protecting Americans’ most cherished freedoms.” Senator Marco Rubio said, “Justice Scalia was one of the most consequential Americans in our history and a brilliant legal mind who served with only one objective: to interpret and defend the Constitution as written.”
Iowa Caucus winner, Ted Cruz, said, “Today our Nation mourns the loss of one of the greatest Justices in history - Justice Antonin Scalia. A champion of our liberties and a stalwart defender of the Constitution, he will go down as one of the few Justices who single-handedly changed the course of legal history.”
Members of the Monmouth University community are also paying their respects. Lecturer of political science and sociology, Gregory Bordelon, said, “It is a loss for not only the legal community, but for the country” and added “However some Americans feel about Scalia’s conservative attitudinal interpretations of some constitutional issues, there is no denying his ability to write succinctly and drive home his point, grounded in a sense of textualism and use of precedent that has been virtually unmatched in the modern era of the Court.” Although Justice Scalia had a strong conservative views and didn’t hesitate to dissent from the others, he was respected by many– liberal and conservative.
Professor Bordelon added, “I think Scalia saw that presumed confrontation as something positive, as something that would actually be better for the country, something that would encourage Americans to learn more about their democracy, study the intricacies of our institutions to make this great nation a better place.” Dr. Joseph Patten of the Political Science Department said, “He was the most consequential justice” and that, “He had the biggest impact of the direction of the court.” Patten also added, “He connected on intellectual and emotional levels.” Senior political science major at Monmouth, Steven Lang, said, “It will be interesting to see how the dynamic of the court changes after the loss of this man, but he is resting in a much better place now.”
However, the mourners of his death cannot prevent the political battle that will follow since there is now a vacant seat on the Supreme Court. Justice Scalia served as the biggest conservative presence on the Court. Professor Patten said, “It’s been a five to four court leaning Republican. This is why it is a political firestorm.” This is a problem for conservatives when it comes to Supreme Court decisions that are pending and will have to be decided by eight judges.
Professor Bordelon said, “For the majority of cases by the Court that are not decided five to four, that’s not an issue. The bigger controversy is what happens for those cases where provisionally, the vote was five to four with Scalia in the majority.” He explained, “In that case, the vote now is effectively four to four and unless there is further cajoling or persuasion to move the vote to get a five to three, then the tie effectively means a non-decision, with the decision of the lower court standing and no precedential value coming from that tie.”
The day of his death, the President said that he will nominate another Supreme Court Justice “in due time.” Who Mr. Obama appoints next will be crucial because it can throw off the dynamic of the court to the Democratic advantage. This issue will now become a major factor in the 2016 election. Republicans are going to do all they can to prevent this disadvantage. Republican Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, said, “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice” and that “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”
Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, said, “The Republicans in the Senate and on the campaign trail who are calling for Justice Scalia’s seat to remain vacant dishonor our Constitution. The Senate has a constitutional responsibility here that cannot abdicate for partisan political reasons.” While President Obama has the Constitutional right to appoint a new Supreme Court Justice, the Republicans will do all they can to block the nomination and hold off until 2017 when they can replace Scalia with another conservative if a Republican wins the election. They can do so by limiting Obama’s options by blocking his nominees in the Senate. Presidential candidate, Ben Carson, said in Saturday night’s debate, “I call on the Senate to stop any attempts to fill this crucial seat until we the people elect a strong constitutionalist this November.” All of the Presidential candidates and other Republicans are making the same argument.
Professor Bordelon said, “At this point, it will become a political chess match” and added, “Not only are we experiencing a deeply entrenched divided government with the Republicans controlling Congress and a Democrat in the White House, but we are also in the midst of an election year - a perfect storm for both sides to use a potential vacancy on the Supreme Court as a campaign lighting rod.” Nobody knows who President Obama will nominate to replace Scalia, but Professor Patten said, “This can be a game changer for the next twenty-five years.”