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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Justice Antonin Scalia: The Legacy and Aftermath

With political candidates lighting up the newsfeeds and the impending Presidential election at the forefront of American consciousness, it is indisputable that our country is at a crossroads. Add to this the monumental passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, and it is clear that we are facing a critical time in American history.

Justice Scalia was appointed in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan and stood out on the bench for many reasons including his position against abortion, his goal to create a closer relationship between government and religion, his views on criminal executions and his desire to limit lawsuits. He was also well known for his commitment to originalism, the method of constitutional interpretation that looks to the meaning of words and concepts as they were understood by the Founding Fathers. "Justice Scalia did more to advance originalism and judicial restraint than anyone in our time, and it all started with just two words: 'I dissent,' " said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

Justice Scalia's humor, no-nonsense attitude and conservative values left an indelible mark on the American justice system, but now many are turning to the huge political struggle just ahead: who will take Justice Scalia's place in the Supreme Court? Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are neck-and-neck in the primaries and the Republican candidates continue to battle the issues and each other in televised debates; it's anyone's guess as to when an appointment will take place and who that person will be. Certainly President Obama is hoping to fill the seat before the upcoming election while the Republican Party is attempting to filibuster the decision in hopes that one of their contenders will win the presidency. Afterall, the next judge has the potential to help determine the fate of a vast array of controversial issues for decades to come such as immigration, gun control, campaign finance, health care, affirmative action, gay rights and abortion.

"The stakes are as high as anything we have dealt with in Washington in a decade," said Jay Sekulow, the chief counsel for conservative group American Center for Law and Justice. "This is not even the beginning of what this fight will be. It's full-media, full-legal research, full-government affairs, full-throttle on this."

However, their Democratic counterparts are equally prepared to fight for a timely appointment. "Failing to fill this vacancy would be a shameful abdication of one of the Senate's most essential Constitutional responsibilities," Senator Harry Reid of Nevada stated.

Scalia's impact is twofold: his legacy and character will be a hard act to follow while the fight to fill his seat will be equally challenging. This will no doubt be a passionate, impactful struggle. Hopefully, the next judge to take Scalia's place will heed this piece of advice from Scalia: "The judge who always likes the results he reaches is a bad judge."


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