Justice Antonin Scalia dies, vacancy on Supreme Court

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia
died on Feb. 13 in Texas.
Online photo

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died on Feb. 13 in Texas. Online photo

Another topic of discussion has come to the forefront of presidential candidate conversation after the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Saturday.

Justice Scalia’s passing results in an open seat on the bench, causing discussion of what political party member will fill his seat.

President Ronald Reagan appointed Justice Scalia – an Italian-American conservative – to the court in 1986, making him the longest-serving justice on the current Supreme Court.

According to CNN, President Barack Obama said Saturday night at a press conference that he plans to nominate a replacement. The Republican-controlled Senate is currently in recess and will resume responsibilities on Monday.

“It will be interesting to see how Obama works with the Senate,” junior Josh Gage said. “He could technically order them into another recess, and then he could nominate a judge without the Senate’s approval. It’s like an executive order for the Supreme Court.”

According to the New York Times, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he believes the nomination should wait until the next president comes into office. However, the Constitution gives the president the right to appoint a new justice if there is a vacancy on the bench. The Senate then holds hearings until it confirms the nomination.

“I expect them to hold hearings,” Obama said in a press conference. “This is the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land. I understand the stakes. This would be a deciding vote. But that’s not how the system is supposed to work.”

Members of the Republican Party would be successful in blocking the president’s nomination if a Republican candidate were elected in November.

“I think the Republicans wanting to block the nominee is too idealistic and they’re putting too many eggs into one basket,” senior Laura Shodall said. “This isn’t about the Republicans losing a seat. It’s not about Democrats losing a seat. It’s about America losing a seat – and that’s exactly what’s going to happen if people don’t get it together and do their jobs.”

Since taking office, Obama has appointed two Supreme Court justices – Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

“Obama has appointed two of the most diverse justices to the Supreme Court during his time as president,” Shodall said. “Scalia was a fair and diligent justice. I know that Obama knows what he is doing, but I hope he picks someone who is fair and balanced to replace Scalia.”

The Constitution does not regulate how long the seat on the bench may remain vacant. Replacing Scalia could only take a few days or it could take months. According to NPR, the longest vacancy on the Supreme Court was 27 months between the John Tyler and James K. Polk administrations.

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