POLITICS
The End of an Era
by Henry Ellison
2016-03-11 08:00:00
Antonin Scalia, an excellent judge and revered by both right and left alike, has passed away. Appointed by Ronald Reagan, Scalia was a conservative stalwart, giving numerous, epic dissents to liberal opinions. His opinions will be read in law schools for many years to come.

On February 13th, 2016, Antonin Scalia passed away by natural causes at a hunting lodge in West Texas. His passing shook the nation, not only for its tragic nature, but also for its political repercussions. Only hours after his death, pundits began discussing the appointment of the next supreme court justice. During his 30 year tenure, Scalia polarized the nation with his steadfast views on abortion and gay marriage. Regardless of public opinion on his conservative outlook and outspoken personality, however, he will always be remembered as one of the most influential and memorable justices in American history.

Scalia was born in March of 1936 in Trenton, New Jersey to Salvatore and Catherine Scalia. His father, an immigrant from Italy, and his mother, a first generation Italian-American citizen, raised him in a multiethnic neighborhood in Queens. Self described as “not a cool kid,” Scalia spent much of his adolescence developing two things: his faith and his intellect. Both of those qualities served him well in his later years. As an 8th grader, Antonin was given a scholarship to attend Xavier High School, where he graduated first in his class. He then went on to attend Georgetown University where he graduated summa cum laude and, once again, graduated first in his class. Finally, to close out his impeccable academic career, Scalia graduated from Harvard in 1960 as a part of the exclusive Sheldon Fellowship. As if these accolades didn’t award him enough prestige, as a young man Scalia was also a champion debater, an editor for the Harvard Law Review, and a noteworthy thespian. Scalia went on to work at a fairly prominent law firm in Cleveland for a number of years before stepping away to teach law at the University of Virginia. That’s where Antonin and his wife, Maureen, began a family. A few years later, President Nixon gave him his first job in public service, where he would work for the rest of his life. Over the course of the next 3 years, Scalia testified in defense of the Ford administration in the aftermath of Watergate, fought the Freedom of Information Act, and presented numerous cases before the Supreme Court. His continued success as a public servant drew attention from law firms and courts alike, but it wasn’t until he was offered a seat on the D.C. Circuit that Scalia picked up the mallet. In his four year tenure on the D.C. Circuit, Antonin earned a conservative reputation, one that lined up well with President Ronald Reagan’s views. With the resignation of Chief Justice Warren Burger, Reagan appointed Scalia Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Scalia faced no opposition and was confirmed on September 17, 1986 as the first Italian American Justice in history, 98-0.

Opinions on Scalia’s Supreme Court career have been anything but unanimous. Some people who met him thought him to be arrogant and grouchy, while others saw him as witty and endearing. Regardless of opinion, however, none could argue that his rulings weren’t fair. As a matter of fact, his evenhandedness was the one thing Scalia knew no one could take away from him. He was a firm supporter of Originalism, which is the belief that the Supreme Court’s job is to interpret, not create, the law. This belief even took precedence over Scalia’s firm Catholic faith. Scalia was a believer in democracy, and while he stood in opposition to things like gay marriage and abortion, he believed that the constitution was made so that the people had the ability and right to amend it. He urged voters to go out and find like-minded people to fight for their beliefs, even if they contradicted his own.

With the passing of Antonin Scalia, the fight to appoint a new justice has made an already messy political scene messier. Candidates, senators, and representatives have all spoken out, voicing their opinion on the matter. Supporters of Obama have called for the President to appoint the next justice (as is his right), while his opposition has called for the unwritten and seldom used “Thurmond Rule.” This unspoken precedent states that Judicial Appointments should not take place in the months leading up to the next election. The Senate, then, can take advantage of its right to give or withhold its “advice and consent” on the nominee (confirm or fail to confirm a justice by a simple majority). It’s easy to see where both sides are coming from. Liberals want the chance to stack the Supreme Court while conservatives want to maintain the status quo. The Court now hangs in the balance; with the passing of Scalia, the next justice’s political affiliation would become the majority, 5-4. Constitutionally, judicial appointments are the responsibility of the current president, not the future one. At the same time, however, it does seem questionable to give a man halfway out of office the right to appoint a judge for life.

Regardless of argument, there can be no doubt what the correct decision is. Republicans, despite their best efforts, are fighting an uphill battle. The Thurmond Rule is both a law that has no bearing in court and one that runs two ways. Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader and an advocate for blocking Obama’s right to nominate a justice, argued the Thurmond Rule just 8 years ago… only for the other side. Back in 2008, McConnell fought democrats on the rule by saying, “Our Democratic colleagues continually talk about the so-called Thurmond Rule, under which the Senate supposedly stops confirming judges in a presidential-election year… The seeming obsession with this rule that doesn’t exist is just an excuse for our colleagues to run out the clock on qualified nominees who are waiting to fill badly needed vacancies.” It’s hypocritical, yes, but, even more importantly, it’s unnecessary. People are going to pay no heed to the desperate pleas of the Republicans, and Obama is going to try to appoint a new Justice whether they like it or not. What’s really going to matter is how his appointment gets along with the Senate; ultimately, they are the ones that have to give the nod. And in a Republican dominated congress, it’s not likely to happen without some conservative backing. The situation leaves Republican senators stuck in a sort of limbo. They’re opposed to an appointment by Obama, but they’re even more dead set against letting Hillary appoint one, perhaps even with a Democratic Senate to join her if the election yields that result. They either hedge their bets and go for the lesser of two evils (Obama), or gamble that Cruz, Rubio, or even Trump can offer them a better option.

With all the political posturing, it’s easy to lose sight of what really matters. Regardless of whether the next justice is a Democrat or Republican, the void left behind with the passing of Justice Scalia is one that won’t be filled for a long time. As his best friend and fellow Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, put it, "I disagreed with most of what he said, but I loved the way he said it.” Scalia’s rough charm, sharp wit, and energetic fervor befriended even his most antagonistic opponents. In the wake of this great tragedy, it’s important to not only grieve for the loss of a brilliant lawyer and justice, but to celebrate the life of a man whose profound effect on government and law will last forever.



The End of an Era

On February 13th, 2016, Antonin Scalia passed away by natural causes at a hunting lodge in West Texas. His passing shook the nation, not only for its tragic nature, but also for its political repercussions. Only hours after his death, pundits began discussing the appointment of the next supreme court justice. During his 30 year tenure, Scalia polarized the nation with his steadfast views on abortion and gay marriage. Regardless of public opinion on his conservative outlook and outspoken personality, however, he will always be remembered as one of the most influential and memorable justices in American history.

Scalia was born in March of 1936 in Trenton, New Jersey to Salvatore and Catherine Scalia. His father, an immigrant from Italy, and his mother, a first generation Italian-American citizen, raised him in a multiethnic neighborhood in Queens. Self described as “not a cool kid,” Scalia spent much of his adolescence developing two things: his faith and his intellect. Both of those qualities served him well in his later years. As an 8th grader, Antonin was given a scholarship to attend Xavier High School, where he graduated first in his class. He then went on to attend Georgetown University where he graduated summa cum laude and, once again, graduated first in his class. Finally, to close out his impeccable academic career, Scalia graduated from Harvard in 1960 as a part of the exclusive Sheldon Fellowship. As if these accolades didn’t award him enough prestige, as a young man Scalia was also a champion debater, an editor for the Harvard Law Review, and a noteworthy thespian. Scalia went on to work at a fairly prominent law firm in Cleveland for a number of years before stepping away to teach law at the University of Virginia. That’s where Antonin and his wife, Maureen, began a family. A few years later, President Nixon gave him his first job in public service, where he would work for the rest of his life. Over the course of the next 3 years, Scalia testified in defense of the Ford administration in the aftermath of Watergate, fought the Freedom of Information Act, and presented numerous cases before the Supreme Court. His continued success as a public servant drew attention from law firms and courts alike, but it wasn’t until he was offered a seat on the D.C. Circuit that Scalia picked up the mallet. In his four year tenure on the D.C. Circuit, Antonin earned a conservative reputation, one that lined up well with President Ronald Reagan’s views. With the resignation of Chief Justice Warren Burger, Reagan appointed Scalia Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Scalia faced no opposition and was confirmed on September 17, 1986 as the first Italian American Justice in history, 98-0.

Opinions on Scalia’s Supreme Court career have been anything but unanimous. Some people who met him thought him to be arrogant and grouchy, while others saw him as witty and endearing. Regardless of opinion, however, none could argue that his rulings weren’t fair. As a matter of fact, his evenhandedness was the one thing Scalia knew no one could take away from him. He was a firm supporter of Originalism, which is the belief that the Supreme Court’s job is to interpret, not create, the law. This belief even took precedence over Scalia’s firm Catholic faith. Scalia was a believer in democracy, and while he stood in opposition to things like gay marriage and abortion, he believed that the constitution was made so that the people had the ability and right to amend it. He urged voters to go out and find like-minded people to fight for their beliefs, even if they contradicted his own.

With the passing of Antonin Scalia, the fight to appoint a new justice has made an already messy political scene messier. Candidates, senators, and representatives have all spoken out, voicing their opinion on the matter. Supporters of Obama have called for the President to appoint the next justice (as is his right), while his opposition has called for the unwritten and seldom used “Thurmond Rule.” This unspoken precedent states that Judicial Appointments should not take place in the months leading up to the next election. The Senate, then, can take advantage of its right to give or withhold its “advice and consent” on the nominee (confirm or fail to confirm a justice by a simple majority). It’s easy to see where both sides are coming from. Liberals want the chance to stack the Supreme Court while conservatives want to maintain the status quo. The Court now hangs in the balance; with the passing of Scalia, the next justice’s political affiliation would become the majority, 5-4. Constitutionally, judicial appointments are the responsibility of the current president, not the future one. At the same time, however, it does seem questionable to give a man halfway out of office the right to appoint a judge for life.

Regardless of argument, there can be no doubt what the correct decision is. Republicans, despite their best efforts, are fighting an uphill battle. The Thurmond Rule is both a law that has no bearing in court and one that runs two ways. Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader and an advocate for blocking Obama’s right to nominate a justice, argued the Thurmond Rule just 8 years ago… only for the other side. Back in 2008, McConnell fought democrats on the rule by saying, “Our Democratic colleagues continually talk about the so-called Thurmond Rule, under which the Senate supposedly stops confirming judges in a presidential-election year… The seeming obsession with this rule that doesn’t exist is just an excuse for our colleagues to run out the clock on qualified nominees who are waiting to fill badly needed vacancies.” It’s hypocritical, yes, but, even more importantly, it’s unnecessary. People are going to pay no heed to the desperate pleas of the Republicans, and Obama is going to try to appoint a new Justice whether they like it or not. What’s really going to matter is how his appointment gets along with the Senate; ultimately, they are the ones that have to give the nod. And in a Republican dominated congress, it’s not likely to happen without some conservative backing. The situation leaves Republican senators stuck in a sort of limbo. They’re opposed to an appointment by Obama, but they’re even more dead set against letting Hillary appoint one, perhaps even with a Democratic Senate to join her if the election yields that result. They either hedge their bets and go for the lesser of two evils (Obama), or gamble that Cruz, Rubio, or even Trump can offer them a better option.

With all the political posturing, it’s easy to lose sight of what really matters. Regardless of whether the next justice is a Democrat or Republican, the void left behind with the passing of Justice Scalia is one that won’t be filled for a long time. As his best friend and fellow Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, put it, "I disagreed with most of what he said, but I loved the way he said it.” Scalia’s rough charm, sharp wit, and energetic fervor befriended even his most antagonistic opponents. In the wake of this great tragedy, it’s important to not only grieve for the loss of a brilliant lawyer and justice, but to celebrate the life of a man whose profound effect on government and law will last forever.