Justice Scalia: A Legacy in Dispute

Z Goodman, Staff Reporter

On February 13, 2016 Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died due to natural causes at the age of 79. Scalia was born in 1936 and grew up in the Queens borough of New York City. Justice Scalia was nominated to be Supreme Court Justice by former president Ronald Reagan in 1986 and he served until his unfortunate death. He was the first Italian-American Supreme Court justice and  he was known for his strong conservative voice in the courtroom. (NY Times)

Justice Scalia was one of the major advocates for constitutional originalism or interpreting the constitution just as it was written. This means that ignoring civil right, reproductive rights, and gay rights because the original writers of the constitutions did not have these issues on their radar. Many people disagreed with this interpretation of the constitution and described Scalia to be “extreme and out of step with the mainstream”. Justice Scalia sought to ignore abortion issues and outlaw gay sex in states.

Scalia did not believe that the constitution addressed discrimination by sex, therefore attempting to ignore those issues. He was known for his obvious and outspoken sexism, racism and homophobia. (The Guardian) The justice was also under fire for is racist comments pertaining to the education of black students. Scalia said, “There are those who contend that it does not benefit African Americans to get into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a slower-track school, where they do well.” This statement was then denounced by the The Congressional Black Caucus and many others as “racist and insulting.” (LA Times).

Although the death of Justice Scalia was very abrupt and clearly sad for his family, the bigger part of the matter is that there is an open seat in the Supreme Court. One plaguing question is who will replace him? Should the current President Obama be able to replace him even though this is his last year in office? Others believe he shouldn’t due to the fact that it is not only his second term but an election year. Presidential Candidate Marco Rubio does not think so. The candidate said “There comes a point in the last year of the president, especially in their second term, where you stop nominating, or you stop the advice and consent process.” (PolitiFact)

Many people do not agree with this because it also a presidential election year. However, in the past late-term presidents have nominated justices during election years. These presidents include President Ronald Reagan in 1987 who nominated Justice Anthony Kennedy when former Justice Louis Powell announced his retirement. In February of 1932 former president Herbert Hoover nominated Benjamin Cardozo to replace Oliver Wendell Holmes.(SCOTUSBlog) Former presidents have done this with little opposition so why is there a dispute when it comes to President Obama’s nominations?

Justice Scalia was a big proponent of the conservative movement, and was not afraid to share this with the world. Donald Trump said that the death of Antonin Scalia was a “setback” for the conservative movement.(Breitbart). With a new justice elected there may be shift in the conservative vs. moderate balance in the courts. To avoid this shift GOP Senators are taking extreme measures by refusing to meet with any of President Obama’s justice nominations. (Huffington Post).  The senators “didn’t see a purpose” to meeting with them; the largely Republican Senate has filibustered or ignored many more of Obama’s nominations than any other sitting President in history.

Despite the disagreements on who should appoint the next justice, the fact is that many cases may be affecting my this. At this point there are only eight justices in a seat right now leaving the possibility of there being a tie. Nine justices are nominated to avoid this. Cases such as the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, this case pertains to two abortion laws in Texas. According “How Antonin Scalia’s Death Could Affect the Outcome of These 5 Case” by Jordan Phelps   these regulations are “ 1) a requirement that abortion providers have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital; and 2) a requirement that abortion facilities comply with the requirements for ambulatory surgical centers. The plaintiffs argue that if these laws go into effect, the number of clinics in Texas will drop to under 10.”

Another case is Fredrichs v. California Teacher Association, “This case asks whether public-sector employee unions can require nonmembers to pay mandatory dues to cover their “fair share” of the union’s collective bargaining activities” (ABC News) Without Scalia these cases along with others could possibly reach a 4-4 vote. A tie from the Supreme Court means that the lower court ruling (which Friedrichs lost) would be the final decision on that case.

Regardless of the disagreements that both parties may have or the disputes over who should replace the late justice.

Emily Martinez, local resident from Fort Drum said, “the death of the justice was very upsetting but he was loved by his family and friends.” Antonin Scalia lived a long, famous life but it is now time to open a new chapter in the Supreme Court.