Saturday, February 13th, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Gregory Scalia, "Nino" to his friends, died at the age of 79, at home, in his sleep. The Supreme Court Justice served since his appointment by Ronald Reagan September 26th 1986. He was born in Trenton NJ, March 11th 1936. He is survived by his wife Maureen McCarthy Scalia, and their 9 children. Antonin Scalia was one of the Roman Catholics on the bench and also a Republican. He was cantankerous and had some lively opinions and reviled remarks throughout his career. I enjoyed reading some of his dissenting opinions, mostly for his use of language rather than his salient reasoning, which he did have on numerous occasions.
His untimely demise has left the country in a tizzy instead of mourning. See, this leaves a 9 person team short one. This also leaves the Supreme Court a bit too even for most people's taste. Not only can you stalemate 4 to 4, but you are more likely to do so since it is now more or less even politically as well. A new justice needs to be appointed and the sooner the better, unless you are the Republican party.
Throughout President Obama's tenure in office, the GOP (Grand Old Party) has tried to obstruct him at every turn. I do not say that lightly, it is obvious and has even been admitted to by party leaders. Now they want to prevent him from nominating a Supreme Court Justice. They have gone so far as to lie about it being a tradition for a lame duck president to not nominate. It's just flatly wrong.
Appointments are rare, since it is a lifetime position, if desired. To have a position vacant during the last year of a presidents career is even more rare, but not unheard of.
In 1912, Taft nominated Mahlon Pitney. Woodrow Wilson nominated Louis Brandeis and John Clarke in 1916 (both confirmed by the way). Herbert Hoover nominated Benjamin Cardozo in 1932. FDR nominated Frank Murphy in 1940. LBJ nominated Homer Thornberry and Abe Fortas in 1968, however neither was confirmed. Richard Nixon nominated Lewis Powell and William Rehnquist (whom Scalia succeeded) in 1971. Gerald Ford nominated John Paul Stevens in 1975. Ronald Reagan, the poster pin up for the GOP, nominated Anthony Kennedy in 1988.
The constitution is a bit light on requirements to fill a Supreme Court Justice seat. "The President shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint ... Judges of the supreme Court." It certainly doesn't say anything about election years or the last year of a presidency or any number of other false charges being leveled. It's the Presidents job to select a nominee, and then it is the Senate that confirms them.
Obama had this to say today on the issue:
I understand the stakes. I understand the pressure that Republican senators are undoubtedly under. I mean, the fact of the matter is that what the issue here is that the court is now divided on many issues this would be a deciding vote. And there are a lot of Republican senators who are going to be under a lot of pressure from various special interests and various constituencies and many of their voters to not let any nominee go through. No matter who I nominate. But that's not how the system is supposed to work. That's not how our democracy is supposed to work.
So... Let's get on with it. Our courts are backed up enough. All I know is that this has become another facet of the most exciting election year I have ever heard of. As to Nino, may he be justly rewarded in whatever finds him after this life, for good or ill, is not up to me.