With the surprising news of the death of Supreme Court (SOTU) Justice Antonin Scalia, a pause is needed to consider his impact should be taken. The longest serving member of SOTU, Justice Scalia was appointed in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan. In that time he presided over several controversial and important issues facing the nation.
Justice Scalia had a long history as an attorney and Justice. Cases he has worked on go back to 1961. But most of the public is likely only aware of his decisions on cases since joining SOTU. Even with this narrow look at his career, there are some 2,836 cases he was involved with.
He presided over 437 cases addressing Civil Rights, 106 on Due Process, 181 on the 1st Amendment, 58 on privacy (including 20 cases on Abortion), and 72 cases on Unions. The breadth of the cases he was involved in during his tenure on SOTU reflects the concerns of the nation and the direction it has traveled. More than once Justice Scalia stood boldly as critics were angered by his understanding of the Constitution and how modern laws were affected by it.
Justice Scalia viewed the Constitution as an Originalist. A strict interpretation that accepts the Constitution and Amendments as written. As in the case of the 2nd Amendment, that it was for the protection of the public against the Government as opposed to the more modern Liberal interpretation that it only applies to hunting and target shooting. It’s a view that has at times conflicted with his personal views, but he stood by his convictions any way. He referred to an example in a 2008 interview with 60 Minutes,
“His philosophy has occasionally led him to decisions he deplores, like his upholding the constitutionality of flag burning, as he told a group of students in Missouri.
“If it was up to me, I would have thrown this bearded, sandal-wearing flag burner into jail, but it was not up to me,” Scalia told the students.
To Scalia, flag burning was protected by the founding fathers in the First Amendment, which is his only criterion, he says, under originalism.”
Equally controversial was his comments on Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Peña where he stated in part,
“To pursue the concept of racial entitlement—even for the most admirable and benign of purposes—is to reinforce and preserve for future mischief the way of thinking that produced race slavery, race privilege and race hatred. In the eyes of government, we are just one race here. It is American.”
With the loss of Justice Scalia, the Supreme Court now stands with a vacancy. President Obama is sure to seek to immediately fill that seat, which would turn SOTU to a left leaning majority. This could have drastic implications going forward.
Already names of potential replacements are circling the internet. Secretary of Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson has been mentioned by MSNBC host Rachel Maddow . On Twitter, Jeffrey Toobin, CNN legal analyst and New Yorker writer, suggested the choice from an article he wrote in 2013 – Sri Srinivasan. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has stated that there should be no replacement made until the new President is in the Oval Office in 2017. This was refuted by Sen. Harry Reid, who believes there should be an immediate replacement made.
The only thing that is universally accepted, is that Justice Scalia made an indelible mark on the Supreme Court during his tenure. Whomever is chosen to replace him, and whenever that may happen, they will have very large shoes to fill.