February 14, 2016
Known as one of the conservative minds of the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Antonin Scalia died at the age of 79. A leading conservative voice of the Supreme Court, Justice Scalia, believed issues such as equal protection as well as cruel and unusual punishment are vague texts of the constitution but yet, he subscribed to the notion that decisions of the Supreme Court be based on the constitution, a reason why some considered him a controversial member of the highest court.
Scalia died in his sleep, while on a hunting trip in Texas. Based on news reports, he went to bed Friday night and told friends he wasn’t feeling well. He failed to get up for breakfast on Saturday morning and his hunting partners left without him. A person at the ranch who went to check on him later discovered him unresponsive.
Soon after news of his death hit the media, there was a debate about whether President Obama should nominate a new candidate for one of the most important seats at the Supreme Court. Senate House Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, released a statement calling for such nomination to wait until a new President takes office, while a top Democrat and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, called for the President to fill the seat right away.
The firestorm between leaders of both parties is a sign of a looming political gridlock and impending confirmation war likely to dominate the Presidential election and Washington politics. Conservatives from both the Senate and the House, see a threat if President Obama decides to nominate a liberal candidate, while Democrats consider the latest development a great opportunity to do away with a court seen as too conservative and replace it with a more liberal Justice.
In the wake of ongoing partisan war between both parties, it seems incomprehensible that the GOP leadership would choose to have the U.S. Supreme Court remain without a sitting Justice for almost a year, while they wait for Obama to vacate the White House. With so many cases pending before the Supreme Court, it is reasonable to fill the vacancy and allow the President to choose a nominee as demanded by the constitution.
The constitution stipulates that the President appoint Justices to the Supreme Court with approval of the Senate. It is nowhere in the law that the President must wait to vacate office before filling a position considered paramount to U.S. judicial system. Perhaps, it is necessary to change the composition of a court many think is too conservative with opinions that are sometimes influenced by political appointment, making some to doubt credibility of the court as a model for independent judiciary.
As a conservative voice, Scalia will be best known for his opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller, holding that the Second Amendment protects the right to own a firearm at home, in the aftermath of unreasonable killings and gun violence that almost ripped the nation apart. He was a critic of Roe v. Wade on the right of women to abortion and he was the opposition and author of a dissent in the same-sex marriage case Obergefell v. Hodges, calling the decision that made same-sex marriage legal a “threat to American democracy.”
It makes no sense to render the court handicap by allowing partisan politics to delay appointment of a new Supreme Court Justice. Pending before the court are cases involving a major challenge to public sector union, a race conscious admission plan at the University of Texas, a big abortion case, voting rights, the contraception mandate under ObamaCare and a challenge to the President’ executive actions on immigration.
The American people can’t wait in perpetuity for those issues to be resolved, while both sides continue to disagree on how liberal or conservative the court should be. No doubt the passing of Scalia, is a set back for the conservative campaign that will trigger a confirmation war. But yet, the reasonable thing to do is for both sides to do away with their political differences, find a consensus and allow President Obama to nominate a Justice for the symbol of American judiciary.
Adeyemi Oshunrinade [E. JD] is an expert in general law, foreign relations and the United Nations. He is the author of ‘Wills Law and Contests,’ ‘Constitutional Law-First Amendment,’ ‘Criminal Law-Homicide’ and ‘SAVING LOVE’ available on Amazon. Follow on Twitter @san0670.