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Justice Antonin Scalia: The End of an Era

February 17, 2016

Charlotte Abin ’19 – Inside Politics

The unfortunate passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia this past Saturday, February 13, not only left an empty seat on the highest court in the nation, but turned all political conversation to what would happen next. It has added pressures to Congress, President Obama, and added more heat to the already intense presidential race. The question running through everyone’s mind right now is what does this mean for the Supreme Court, which, as of now, no longer holds a conservative majority. In an article by the Huffington post, author Jonathon Cohn explains that appointing a new Supreme Court Justice during Obama’s tenure in office could “shift the ideological direction of the court more than any other appointment in the last 25 years.” Although the Republican dominated Congress has already stated they will not approve anyone nominated by President Obama, there still may be a chance that one nominee slips through the cracks. If President Obama fills that previously very conservative seat with someone who has more liberal views, it could have a huge impact in the way the Supreme Court would vote on certain cases. The last time a change of this caliber occurred was in 1991, when the highly conservative Justice Clarence Thomas replaced the very liberal Justice Thurgood Marshall.

What does this mean for the presidential race? First off, it has sparked yet another discussion between the current presidential candidates.  The reason behind this is because if President Obama does not manage to push a nominee through, it is assumed that the next president most certainly will. Whether the next president is Republican or Democratic, this will undoubtedly shine light on who will be deemed the new Supreme Court Justice. The United States has not had a liberal Supreme Court since the Warren Court which ended in 1969. Many of the very pressing topics that are discussed during the presidential race, some of which are being discussed in the Supreme Court right now, are being judged by a very split court. People are going to be looking at the potential presidential candidates as people who are going to be nominating the next Supreme Court justice. Cases regarding abortion laws and immigration are currently going through the Supreme Court right now and could face big changes. Ultimately, based on these ideologies, the next Supreme Court Justice will be the deciding vote in many of these cases.

Politics aside, and just as important, would be the legacy this great man has left behind. Justice Scalia was known to be a very outspoken and serious man. He also was described by one of his previous clerks to be one of the “greatest legal thinkers, analysts, and writers ever to sit on the high court.” He may have been a controversial figure because of some of his decisions but he never failed to stay true to who he was and what he believed was right. Scalia was a literal interpreter of the constitution and never waivered in his opinions, even though he was always open to discuss with others about why they disagreed. Scalia was headstrong in the fact that people should read the constitution in the way that the Founding Fathers intended it to be read. As one of the biggest constitutionalists on the court, he also was famously known for his strong friendships with other judges on the court, most surprisingly liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The arguably most important aspect to come out of this situation was a chance to show the world, especially during this heated and polarized presidential race, that people with differing views can get along. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the most left wing justices on the court, calls Scalia one of her “best buddies”. She explains that even though the two were extremely “different in our interpretation for written texts, [we are] one in our reverence for the Constitution and the institution we serve”.

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