Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia Passes Away

United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away unexpectedly on a hunting trip in Texas on Saturday February 13, 2016.

ScaliaOriginally nominated to the Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan in 1986, Justice Scalia was the longest serving member on the court.

Antonin Scalia was born in Trenton, New Jersey, March 11, 1936. He married Maureen McCarthy and has nine children. He received his A.B. from Georgetown University and the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, and his LL.B. from Harvard Law School. Mr. Scalia has a long and distinguished law career from being a Fellow, in private practice, a professor, and Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel from 1974–1977. He was appointed Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1982. President Reagan nominated him as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, and he took his seat September 26, 1986.

In 2011 Judge Richard A. Posner wrote in The New Republic that Justice Scalia was “the most influential justice in the last quarter century.” Justice Scalia began his service on the court as an outsider known for caustic dissents that alienated even potential allies. But his theories, initially viewed as idiosyncratic, gradually took hold, and not only on the right and not only in the courts.

Within hours of his death, the political establishment in Washington began to issue clashing statements about replacing Justice Scalia. Many of the court decisions were made by a narrow 5-4 majority and the death of Scalia allows President Obama the opportunity to shape the ideological position of the court for potentially a generation – something Senate Republicans have vowed to fight. Justice Scalia death will cast a wide shadow over the 2016 Presidential election and is the first time in over 70 years the death of a Supreme Court Justice will impact election year politics.

Scalia death comes at a time when the court was to hear/decide cases ranging from whether the California Teachers Association could charge public school employees fees to cover the cost of collective bargaining to eventually deciding the legality of EPA’s new rules on coal-fired power plants.

With the court likely to deadlock on many decisions by a vote of 4-4, many wonder what is the impact of a tie vote in the Supreme Court.

A tie vote means that whatever decision was made at the federal Appellate Court level stands. Typically, the Ninth Circuit is the most overturned Appellate Court in the U.S. but perhaps no more with the Supreme Court unable to make decisions by a majority. Another effect of this “legal gridlock” is that Appellate decisions are only valid within that circuit so it is very likely the law will mean one thing in a particular circuit and something else in another circuit. What a circus!

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