Nicole Zelniker, Managing Editor
February 26, 2016
Almost immediately after Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away on Feb. 13, Republicans vowed to block U.S. President Barack Obama’s nomination for a replacement.
“He was the most conservative member of the Supreme Court,” said senior political science major Samantha Evans. “So replacing (Scalia) with a more liberal (person) will change the next Supreme Court cycle.
“Even someone moderate on the Supreme Court will make a huge difference because a moderate will be replacing a very conservative person.”
In his time as a justice, he repeatedly called on his fellow justices to repeal Roe v. Wade, argued for the death penalty and voted against gay marriage. One of the things he was most known for was his view on the Constitution.
“Scalia professed the Originalist view of the Constitution, that we must interpret the Constitution as it was originally interpreted,” said Professor of Political Science Ken Gilmore in an email interview. “Frankly, he only seemed to believe that when it suited his predetermined opinions.”
Whoever serves will be making decisions alongside the eight other justices and could possibly overturn some decisions as well.
“In the short-term, we’re talking about decisions on abortion, labor unions, climate change,” said Gilmore. “In the medium-term, any chances of overturning Citizens United and on Heller, the Second Amendment right to own a gun, hinge on Scalia’s replacement.”
However, the Republican-dominated Senate is ready to fight whoever Obama nominates to be Scalia’s replacement.
“We’re in the midst of a consequential presidential election year, and Americans deserve an opportunity to weigh in given the significant implications this nomination could have for the Supreme Court and our country for decades to come,” said Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte in a statement Sunday.
Others believe that Obama has to nominate someone.
“The Constitution is very clear,” said Assistant Professor of Political Science Robert Duncan. “The president shall … appoint a replacement. Once a president does that, then it’s up to the Senate to ratify and confirm.”
The plan is to wait until after November.
“The GOP is definitely going to try to hold out and see if they can get a Republican president nominated and then have that person confirm even though that is unconstitutional,” said Evans.
If the Republicans do manage to delay Obama’s nomination, that could be a problem for the judicial process.
“We’re in the heartbeat of all the debates and all the primaries … But people forget that we still have eight, nine months until the (general election), and having eight people on the court can be really problematic because they need a majority,” said Associate Professor of Justice & Policy Studies Will Pizio.
If the Supreme Court cannot come to a majority, any decision they vote on will be passed back to lower circuit courts. Depending on where they are in the country and who is serving on the courts at the time, these decisions could go either way.
Scalia’s death has also alerted many at Guilford to the inner workings of the Supreme Court, something not a lot of students pay attention to.
“I don’t think there’s really that big of a focus (on the Supreme Court) unless there’s one champion case, which is unfortunate because it really matters,” said Evans.
This upcoming election is important not just in terms of who serves in the White House, but also in terms of who deems laws constitutional or not for the next 30 years.
Nonetheless, regardless of political beliefs, Scalia will be missed by many.
“(He) was a good friend and really a life force at the court,” said Associate Justice Stephen Bryer in an interview with CNN. “It’s going to be a grayer place without him. (He was) a decent man who has made an enormous impression. We’re all sad at this moment.”