Several sources are confirming the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, who was found dead at a luxury resort in Texas Saturday morning. According to MySanAntonio.com, Scalia was vacationing on the Cibolo Creek Ranch. When he did not come down for breakfast in the morning, the hotel went to check in on him and found him.
A federal official who asked not to be named said there was no evidence of foul play and it appeared that Scalia died of natural causes.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott released a statement, since Scalia passed away in his state:
— Evan Smith (@evanasmith) February 13, 2016
When a Supreme Court Justice dies it’s always a big deal. When it happens when the court is relatively evenly-split, it’s even more substantial. Now add in that it’s an election year, and you’ve got a recipe for insanity. This year is a significant one for progressive cases before the court, as well. According to the Alliance for Justice, SCOTUS will make the following major decisions in 2016
- Limit the ability of unions to collectively bargain (Friedrichs).
- Further restrict the use of race in college admissions (Fisher).
- Drastically limit the ability of people to band together in class actions to stop corporate wrongdoing (Spokeo, Campbell-Ewald, Tyson Foods).
- Dismantle environmental regulations (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission).
- Expand the scope of forced arbitration (DIRECTV and Zaborowski).
- Further undermine the voting rights of communities of color in urban areas (Evenwel).
- Sanction far-right efforts to radically restrict women’s abortion rights and ability to obtain contraceptive medical coverage (Whole Woman’s Health and Zubik).
What does that mean for these cases before the court right now? According to a statement from Jeffrey Fisher, a professor of law at Stanford University, who told Business Insider, “if the Court divides 4-4 the lower court opinion is affirmed without creating any Supreme Court precedent.” Supreme Court justices can also decide to rehear pending cases after the confirmation of a new Justice that replaces Scalia, or they can decide to make a ruling on the cases this year without the full bench.
While most politicos on Twitter are assuming that the U.S. Senate won’t confirm any justice before President Obama leaves office, I would propose that it would be to their own political detriment. The American electorate is angry at Washington and has been for some time now. They see our government as nothing more than “politics as usual” and a group of people unwilling to do what is right for the country if it is against their ideology. Thus, we have an entire branch of government that isn’t functioning right now. Because the executive branch can’t function without Congress, we have two branches who can accomplish very little outside of executive orders. Is it really wise for one branch of government to prevent the third branch from being able to function properly too?
Similarly, in an election year when so many Republican Senate seats are up for reelection, is it a good idea for that lawmaker to so obviously play politics with our government? It seems like it woudl set up some easy attack ads to run against the incumbent. “Are you angry that Congress isn’t doing anything? Look at Senator X who is stopping our Judicial branch of government from functioning too. Playing politics instead of getting work done.”
Obstructing a Judicial nomination during an election year is going to be a win-win for Democrats. There’s no way Donald Trump wins a general election and obstructing Congress might just bring down some Senators as well.
Featured image via Wikipedia Commons.