Sinnott, James

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia Passes Away, Leaves Vacant Seat.


Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia

Associate Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died February 13, he was 79 years old.

Justice Scalia served on the Supreme Court since 1986, racking up three decades on the highest court in the land. Justice Scalia was integral to many of the decisions of the Supreme Court, often writing the majority or minority opinion in whichever case the court was dealing with.


Scalia (second, bottom left), leaves the court with 8 Justices.

Justice Scalia, often branded as one of, if not, the most conservative judge on the court, leaves his colleagues with the difficult task of interpreting the law at the highest level with an even number of Justice’s, 8, leaving room for stalemates in the often polarized court. Which would require the case be kicked back down to whichever appellate court that it came from. Justice Scalia’s death signals the looming political battle over who will replace the venerable Justice.

Under Article II of the Constitution the President of the United States is required to nominate Supreme Court Justices, and the Senate confirms the nomination, after which, the President can Officially appoint the Justice. That Senate confirmation bit is where things get a bit muddled.

Washington D.C. often comes with comparison to traffic, or “gridlock” when it comes to talking about government. But the current political reality is more akin to a parking lot. If you’re in traffic, you eventually get where you want to go, albeit slowly. But in recent years, with a Democratic President, and a Republican controlled Congress. Governing has come to a standstill. Anything the President tries to get done, Congress blocks. Anything Congress tries to get passed, the President vetoes. It’s a two way street, but a two way street where basically nothing happens.

Senate Majority Leader from Kentucky Mitch Mcconnell

Senate Majority Leader from Kentucky Mitch Mcconnell

And with President Obama’s nomination still forthcoming, Senate majority leader Mitch Mcconnell has already pledged that he, and his republican allies will do everything they can to stop the President’s nomination. They may cite some so-called tradition about prior President’s not nominating Justices in their final year in office, but this has already been soundly debunked, so the reasons must be purely political.

Calls and emails to both the White House, and offices of Senator Mitch Mcconnell were not returned. However a clerk at the offices of the Supreme Court was able to direct me to a question phone line that I was put on hold for half an hour before I gave up. Local Congressman for the third congressional district of NY Steve Israel, magically, answered when called at his offices. When asked for his opinion on Justice Scalia’s death and the inevitable political battle to find his replacement, he answered, “Who is this? Who are you with?”. When pressed further, Congressman Israel declined to answer, and promptly hung up. For the people indeed.

While it is clear that Justice Scalia will have a lasting Legacy on this country and its laws, it is unclear when, or who will replace him. For more information try to get a hold of your Congressional representative, you can find their information here.