With great death comes great responsibility
By Kaitie Christenberry | Echo
Saturday, Feb. 13, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away at the age of 79 at Cibolo Creek Ranch in Texas during the Supreme Court’s recess, according to LA Times. When they return the Supreme Court is expected to vote on hot topics for this upcoming year, such as abortion rights, the Affordable Care Act contraception standard and President Barack Obama’s immigration policy. With the presidential election a year away, and many items to vote on, Obama wishes to appoint a new justice.
In the interim the Supreme Court is split. As a conservative vote who balanced the court, Scalia’s death has many Republicans fearing their voice won’t be heard. Republican justices are pushing Obama to let the next president appoint a new member, as they fear his appointment of a liberal justice will usurp the balance created by Scalia. They consider the appointment unconstitutional under these circumstances, though Article II gives Obama the ability to bypass the Senate’s decision. He will announce his nominee next week, once the Court has returned from recess.
The Senate risks a setback in crucial cases during this upcoming year without the fifth vote. A tie on large cases maintains the lower court’s original opinion and sets no precedent for the rest of the country. In years following the lower court’s decisions, similar cases that come before the Supreme Court without precedent to bind them could cause the court to issue a contradictory verdict.
To avoid this, the Court could simply push back the hearings and verdicts until after the new president is sworn in, a new justice is appointed, or hold particular cases for later review in favor of cases that have strong polar votes. This seems unlikely to happen because the possibility of a tie requires a fifth vote. Former Justice Sandra O’Connor believes Obama should appoint a nominee, telling Fox affiliate KSAZ, “We need somebody in there to do the job and just get on with it.”
Potential replacements for Scalia’s seat are Merrick Garland and Sri Srinivasan. Garland is the Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Srinivasan, is a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. If accepted, Srinivasan will be the first South Asian in the Supreme Court, a huge step in diversifying the voices of minorities represented in the court.