Gamers will remember him for the majority opinion in Brown v. EMA, which ruled that video games had the same 1st Amendment protection as all other forms of mass media.
Gun owners will remember him for the majority opinion in DC v. Heller, which struck down the DC gun ban.
But virtually everyone will remember Justice Antonin Scalia as a sharp legal mind with an even sharper wit (some of his dissents have a legendary rep for being equal parts blunt and sarcastic). Today he was found dead at a ranch in Texas, reportedly of “natural causes.”
Tonight, a quick look at the aftermath of his death, and what the possibilities are for the future.
1.) Baseline. The man was called “the intellectual cornerstone of the court’s modern conservative wing” by the Washington Post, Ted Cruz said Scalia was “champion of our liberties and a stalwart defender of the Constitution, he will go down as one of the few Justices who single-handedly changed the course of legal history.”
Scalia was a reliable conservative, first appointed to the Court in 1986 by then-President Ronald Reagan. He built a reputation as an originalist, someone who believes in very strict interpretations of the Constitution. Indeed, during a speech in Atlanta, as early as 2014, Scalia is quoted by FOX News as saying “The Constitution is not a living organism. It’s a legal document, and it says what it says and doesn’t say what it doesn’t say.”
2.) Aftermath. Scalia’s death opened a political battle almost immediately, with Republicans looking to stall replacing him on the Court until the next election, and Democrats slamming the idea as “unprecedented”
Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s Majority Leader, has basically promised that he will hold off confirming anybody until 2017. ““The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president,” he said.
Democrats, of course, swiftly criticized McConnell’s promise. The President, for his part, has said he will nominate a successor “in due time.”
3.) Confirmation. But that nominee has a large hurdle to clear if Republican opposition is what McConnell hopes it is. A “simple majority” is all that is required is a simple majority. A simple majority from a Senate with 55 Republicans.
4.) Direction. We don’t get into speculation around here, so looking at “possible candidates” honestly is not worth our time. We know the kind of candidates the current President will nominate. President Obama is not an originalist, nor does he have a history of appointing conservative Justices.
If, however, McConnell holds to what he said and stalls until November, it could open a number of paths to confirmation. It would be a remarkable story to see a conservative President essentially “preserve” Scalia’s ideological seat.
But the idea of going a full year with an absence on the Court is indeed unprecedented, and it remains to be seen if McConnell will stand by what he said. If he does not, an appointee more in-line with the President’s views is almost certain to become the next Supreme Court Justice.
Considering the President’s views, that should make anyone in favor of the right to self-defense extremely nervous. McConnell almost certainly will pay a political price for not keeping his word.
Stay alert. Stay informed. Stay free.