Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death causes uncertainty


Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in a September 2010 file image at the University of California, Hastings. Scalia died on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group/TNS)


On Feb. 13, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away at the age of 79. Scalia’s family declined an autopsy to determine the official cause of death, and it is still unclear if he died as a result of a heart attack or natural causes, according to the Washington Post.

Scalia was first appointed to the Supreme Court in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan, and was the first Italian-American Justice. In 2010, he became the longest-serving Justice of the current Supreme Court Justices.

Scalia presided over many significant Supreme Court cases, such as: DC v. Heller, Obergefell v. Hodges, and Citizens United v. FEC, cases that deemed a ban on the private ownership of handguns, the ban on same-sex marriage, and the ban on political campaign donations from corporations unconstitutional, respectively.

Scalia’s death has created uncertainty about the next Supreme Court Justice appointment. President Obama’s term is coming to a close, but he has almost eleven months to appoint a new Justice. However, the Republican-run Senate may oppose confirmation of another Democratic Justice.

Obama has promised to select a new Justice as soon as possible, but Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell believes that the next president elected should appoint Scalia’s replacement, according to CNN.

On Feb. 13, a GOP debate took place as well, and all republican candidates were in agreement: the appointment should be made by the next president. Democratic candidates agreed that it was Obama’s duty as current president to fill the position as quickly as possible.

In the last 30 years, the longest Supreme Court seat has been empty has been 274 days.

The Court started its new term on Feb. 22. The Court has many significant cases on its docket, including cases on veterans’ rights in business, abortion, voting rights challenges, the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act, and Obama’s new executive orders on immigration.

The Court will have eight judges until Obama and the Senate appoint a new Justice, which poses a problem for all the cases pending in the February term. According to CNN, any case in which the court can not come to a majority decision results in no decision by the Supreme Court, and the decision made by a lower court becomes the final say on the issue.

“The remaining Justices can still vote, but the lack of majority will probably affect the outcome of the upcoming cases,” social studies teacher Tony Del Puppo said.

Grace Mottley is a News Editor for The Patriot and

Tags: Tony Del Puppo