The recent unexpected death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has brought about rampant political turmoil. Justice Scalia died in his sleep due to natural causes at a Texas resort during the night between February 12 and 13, 2016.
Scalia was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan in September of 1986. Scalia was arguably the most conservative Justice on the court – the conservatives outnumbered the liberal justices five to four.
When someone is appointed to the Supreme Court, their seat is for life “during good behavior,” and so they do not campaign for office like a congressman, congresswoman or the President. To leave the Supreme Court, the Justice has to either retire or die while in office. However, once they are gone, it is the duty of the Executive and Legislative branches to nominate and appoint a replacement.
The Appointments Clause of the United States Constitution states that the President “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Judges of the Supreme Court.” This means that when a Supreme Court Justice either dies or retires from the Court, that it is the President’s constitutional duty to nominate and appoint someone to the Supreme Court, with the consent of the Senate.
This process is conducted by having the President nominate a candidate of his or her own choice, to seek the approval of the Senate. The Senate may permit a hearing for the candidate to see if they are qualified, or they may attempt to delay or block this hearing by performing one or more filibusters. If the Senate consents and confirms the nomination, the president writes a commision bearing the Seal of the Department of Justice, and then the justice shall take office.
Although the Supreme Court has acted more liberally in its more recent decisions and rulings (such as the ruling in June which lifted the bans off of same-sex marriages), it was still a dominantly conservative court up until the death of Justice Scalia. As unfortunate as his death may be, this event has brought up a major political opportunity for President Barack Obama and the Democratic party.
Senior Adriano Odello shared his thought on the issue, “Well, as you know, the death of a Supreme Court Justice leaves a vacant seat that must be filled. Whether Obama can nominate a candidate for that spot before he have office may determine if the new Justice will be more liberal versus possibly conservative following the next election.”
The past year or two has been rough for the Democratic party, as the Republicans have slowly gained more and more power in Washington. Up until Scalia’s death, the Republicans held the majority in the House of Representatives, the Senate and the Supreme Court of the United States. The Democrats will be in need of an additional liberal justice, especially since this is an election year.
Likewise, the Republican party has been attempting to use the fact that it is an election year as a way to block any nomination President Obama may give. They argue that since he is in the last 9 to 10 months of his presidency, he should not have the right to make a nomination, and he is unworthy regarding the amount of executive orders he has given out over his last two terms.
The Senate Judiciary Committee recently announced that they would not hold any hearings from the president, and that the replacement should be selected by the next president.
While the legality of this decision is being battled, the Senate is hoping that a Democrat will not be elected for President in November, which would backfire their plan. But we can only wait and watch through this intense political firestorm set to occur over the course of the coming months and beyond.
By Michael Eshnaur