In Memoriam: The Conservative Supreme Court

Justice Antonin Scalia’s body is not yet cold and he’s already been turned into a political pawn. I can’t say I feel sorry about that, I think he might actually enjoy this.

Whilst Democrats and liberals are rejoicing behind closed doors, doing the ‘Chandler jig’ from the sitcom ‘Friends’, Republicans and conservatives are pouring their hearts out on Twitter and other social media and shaming other liberals who have trouble hiding their glee at the death of Scalia.

Along with the tributes for Scalia, Republican leaders also wasted no time stating there should be no new appointment of Scalia’s replacement until a new president is elected. Keep in mind Obama still has another 11 months in office, which is a very long time to keep a seat vacant on the nation’s highest court. The ‘no new appointment’ pledge is a not so subtle way of saying the Republican controlled Senate will not confirm any candidate the president puts forward.

For Democrats and progressives, one can’t but feel God is on their side today. Not that progressives rejoice in the death of another (I hope), but Scalia’s death was unexpected, he was not suffering from any illness that the public was aware of, so it’s fair to say no one wished him a hasty demise. Regardless, here we are, in Obama’s last year in office, he gets another chance to appoint another Supreme Court Justice. Even if his appointment doesn’t get confirmed by the time he leaves office, it’s a great opportunity to play political chess, even for the sole pleasure of yanking your opponent’s chain.

This can go a few ways:

1.) To appoint a wildly liberal candidate for the nation’s highest court, knowing full well that it will never pass confirmation, but just seeing the GOP senators filibustering while foaming at the mouth and wildy gesticulating on the hallowed halls of the Senate looking like rabid animals is a great way to get a good laugh and pass your last few months in office.

2.) Obama appoints a moderate candidate to appease moderate Republican senators, which the Republicans will still strongly oppose and filibuster and block the nomination, it will then serve as a tool for the presidential election campaign. It’s a chance to make the Republicans look even more out of touch (if that’s possible) even unstable upstairs to take the job of the president of the United States. The Democratic candidates can also use this event to their own benefit depending on if they agree with Obama’s choice or not.

3.) Obama does nothing, or ‘leaks’ a few names here and there, but ultimately kicks it down the road for the incoming president, whoever it may be. This scenario would suit the Republican playbook too well, it would essentially give them what they want. But Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders can both jump on this issue and start floating around names of who they would appoint and benefit their campaigns.

I am personally not in favor of doing nothing, because it will become another unnecessary talking point in the general election. Instead of focusing on the issues, they will talk about will he or won’t he appoint a new Supreme Court Justice and everyone have to weigh in on their opinion. The option of not giving an opinion regardless of which party you belong to will be near impossible.

About the newly departed Justice Antonin Scalia, he was seen as a stalwart of the Conservative movement in the Court. He was appointed by Ronald Reagan for his conservative views of small government and reverence to the Constitution of the United States. He’s praised for being an exemplary jurist, a brilliant intellect with a strict adherence to the Constitution with the belief that it’s a living document.

I am no legal scholar nor have I recently read the Constitution of the United States cover to cover (I last read it in high school). I can’t speak to the decisions he made with respect to the Constitution. Naturally, he has fierce intellect and a strong passion for the law along with a devotion to constitutional law, any person being considered for a seat on the Supreme Court will need to be an ‘excellent jurist and have a passion for the law’ along with superior intellect. This is not to diminish the talent of Justice Scalia, I am simply saying this is a job requirement for anyone who seeks a place on the Supreme Court. However, anyone who believes that the Constitution is a ‘living document’ when it was written over 250 years ago and the issues which weren’t present 250 years ago, we are to interpret modern day legal quandaries based solely on the words written 250 years ago, not allowing any room to apply the Constitution to modern America (which looks very different from the Founder days) is absurd.

Justice Scalia’s job was to interpret the law, in many of his decisions, especially socially relevant decisions such as gay rights, abortion rights and women’s rights, he still refers to a document that is 250 years old, when slavery was still legal, when women didn’t have the vote and LGBT individuals lived on the margins of society. When he does this, he’s no longer interpreting the law, he’s making new laws based off of old laws. He likes to accuse those that deviate from the Constitution as judicial activists, judicial activism is a concern amongst judges but wasn’t his strict adherence to a document, a document which was written in very vague terms no less, another form of judicial activism, especially when it advances conservative causes and denies people their basic rights? This is the same thing as Christian fundamentalists who take the every word written in the Bible literally and live their lives according to the teachings of Bible, literally. Today we think of those people as being out of touch with reality and many question their judgement. How is Justice Scalia’s purist views of the Constitution not the same? Granted, there’s been many amendments to the constitution, but last amendment ever made to the constitution was made on May 7, 1992, the 27th Amendment, which was has to do with salaries of members of Congress. It was an amendment that was put forth on September 25, 1789, and it was ratified 202 years later.

Like the presidency of the United States, being a Supreme Court Justice, there’s no book to guide you or inform you of your duties.  You take the sum of your experiences, on the bench and off the bench, along with scholastic learning about the law, previous experience prior to joining the bench, along with common sense and you render your best decision based on your application of the Constitution. It’s not a blind and strict adherence to the actual document itself.

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