Death of Supreme Court Justice

Same topic, different views

By Joe Carbonari and Tim Baldwin

By Joe Carbonari

The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia changed our political picture. A number of politically contentious cases have been decided on 5-to-4 votes. Since the early 1970s the results have generally favored conservative viewpoints with Justice Scalia often prominent in the development of those decisions.

Scalia strove to determine and to adhere to the meaning of the words in the Constitution as understood and intended by those originally authoring and agreeing to abide by it. He felt that if the words need updating due to changes in viewpoint or circumstances, then those changes can and should be done by Constitutional Amendment, not by judicial initiative.

The Court could soon address, or re-address, several areas of interest; abortion, gun rights, refugees, immigrants, affirmative action, health care, and clean energy requirements. With the prevailing 5-4 conservative split becoming 4-4, ties would revert back to the lower courts’ rulings. At 4-4 the Supreme Court would not decide. President Barack Obama, or his successor, could reverse the 5-4 balance, or reinstate it. Life could change.

Obama may try to get a moderate nominee through the Senate confirmation process while he is still in office. Senate Republicans may look blatantly obstructionist, spelling trouble for them in the November voting, both at the top and in down-ticket races. Generally, big turnouts favor Democrats.


By Tim Baldwin

While at a hunting ranch in Texas last Saturday, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died. Scalia was appointed by Ronald Reagan and known for his Originalist interpretation of the Constitution. News articles reported that he died of the “natural cause” of a heart attack.

The Texas county sheriff requested an autopsy from a state court before Scalia’s body would be embalmed. The judge who would have handled the request was out of town, so a temporary judge was assigned, who denied the request. One would think that with top federal offices, such as Scalia’s, autopsies would be routinely required to ensure no foul play. Why not?

Meanwhile, Obama is looking to appoint a justice of his choosing. Most politically interested people are sensitive to open Supreme Court justice seats. It allows the president to appoint a justice that more closely carries a certain political or constitutional school of thought. But most people do not consider that the states can overrule US S CT rulings through an Article V Convention (see e.g. 11th and 14th Amendments).

Supreme Court justices are too important in our legal system to deny a requested autopsy. It’s important to ensure that our system operates openly, fairly and absent from corruption and subterfuge. Ironically, the judge who was absent when the autopsy request arrived said she would have granted it. Maybe the sheriff will appeal the denial.

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