Sunday, February 14, 2016

Antonin Scalia passes on.

By the time this goes up here, this will hardly be in the category of really new "news", as it was already widely discussed and analyzed on the very day that it occurred.  The story, of course, is that Judge Antonin Scalia has died at age 79.

I've posted a lot about the Supreme Court and the fact that the system we have would create in the very near future an opening on the Court that would be of huge significance, so the analysis being done today is something I've already touched upon.  Suffice it to say, however, while no man controls the date of his passing, the passing of Justice Scalia couldn't come at a time that would have more impact.  Or, perhaps, make the impact of Presidential elections more obvious.  Some far left Liberals are frankly almost gloating about this death, which is unseemly to say the least, but his death, like his life, may have more of a Conservative impact than those gloaters may think.

First, the man. Scalia was, by all who would evaluate him objectively, a massive intellect.  In recent years Scalia stood out with his political opposite Ruth Bader Ginsberg in those regards.  Not every Justice can have that claimed and almost none can have it claimed to the extent it was true about Scalia.  It was impossible to ignore him as the force of his logic and opinion were simply too great to to do so..

Appointed by Ronald Reagan, Scalia was only older than the other surviving Reagen appointee, the disappointing Anthony Kennedy.  He was not the oldest Justice at the time of his death, that being Ruth Bader Ginsberg.  For some time I've been expecting either Ginsberg or Scalia to pass on, simply based on their appearance, which did not look good to me.  That may sound morbid, but it's realistic. Kennedy appears much healthier.  But, any way this is looked at, at the age that four, now three, of the Justices have been, death has been something that's been in the Court chambers every day.  During the next President's term, whomever that is, there will be at least one more Justice to replace in this manner, if not three.  This fact alone, evident seemingly to all, has made me wonder why Ruth Bader Ginsberg did not resign last year, thereby making it semi assured that President Obama would pick her successor rather than potentially a Republican President next term.

That gets ahead, I suppose, of the story a bit.

Scalia was born in 1936 in Trenton New Jersey.  His father was from Sicily and his mother was an American whose parents had immigrated from Italy. At the time of his birth his father, who would go on to be a professor of Romance languages, was a graduate student.  His mother was an elementary school student.  He attended a public grade school and a Jesuit high school before going on to Georgetown University and then Harvard Law School.  

As a lawyer, he only practiced for six years before moving on to a teaching position at the University of Virginia.  In 1971 he began a series of posts with the then Administration which he retained until appointed to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in 1982.  He was appointed to the United States Supreme Court on September 17, 1986.  He was the longest sitting justice at the time of his death.

Scalia's career, quite frankly, defines much of what I have criticized about the United States Supreme Court.  He practiced in the real world very little, and was yet one of the many Ivy League graduates to be appointed to the bench. And, of course, he occupied the position for eons, leaving it only through death.  But I'll concede that Scalia's intellect argues against my position.  He was a giant.

One of the justices whose opinions were consistently well thought out and frankly brilliant, it won't be easily possible to replace him.  And his death occurs at a time when American politics have descended into an increasingly extreme stage, epitomized by a very odd Presidential race, while the Court has been consistently split between four conservatives and four liberals with Justice Kennedy in the middle.  His death means we now have a more or less liberal court with a swing vote that is problematic.  So, this court will swing between deadlocked and liberal at least until the next appointee makes it something else.  

The appointment of that Justice is of massive importance.  President Obama will nominate somebody, but of course he well knows that there is little chance that nominee shall be approved (but not no chance whatsoever).  Given that, it will be interesting to see who he chooses for a position that can probably not be obtained, at least right away.  And now, who will fill this vacated bench, will become an issue in this campaign.

Who fills the Supreme Court seats should in fact always be an issue, and perhaps in this fashion Justice Scalia serves us one more time. Grant that it should be somebody of such equal intellect.

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