Supreme Court Justice Scalia Dies at 79

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Isabel Giovannetti, RHStoday Editor-in-Chief

On Saturday evening, it was announced that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away. At age 79, it is most likely that his death was of natural causes.

Appointed by President Reagan in 1986, Justice Scalia has presided over a wide range of landmark cases.

“I think he influenced modern politics by delivering opinions which tended to protect the right of individuals— such as the right to bear arms,” said US History and Economics teacher Melissa Mousseau.

Well-known for his conviction and straight-forward stances, Scalia’s majority and minority opinions over the years have shaped the conversation surrounding issues such as same-sex marriage and the Affordable Care Act. Having offered the dissenting opinion in both of those cases, Scalia has often been recognized as the voice of conservatism on the bench.

“He was a conservative voice on he court and I think the timing of his death is going to bring controversy surrounding who should be allowed to appoint the next justice,” Mousseau said. “His most memorable opinion for Floridians has to be the one where he stopped the recount in Florida [during the 2000 election], overturning the State Supreme Court.”

Now, for the first time since Justice Sotomayor’s appointment in 2009, there is an open seat on the bench of America’s highest court.

The Supreme Court now stands evenly divided, four and four, between left- and right-wing justices. Therefore, the appointment of the next judge will tip the scales one way or another in favor of either Democrats or Republicans.

This year is a particularly complicated one for such a pivotal appointment to be made, since it is an election year. The likelihood that the Republican majority in the Senate will be quick to approve a nominee from the Obama administration is slim. However, in a press briefing on Saturday night, the President confirmed that he intends to choose the next Supreme Court justice.

“I plan to fulfill my Constitutional responsibility to nominate a successor in due time,” he said during the briefing.

If Obama gets his nomination through, he will have chosen two of the nine Supreme Court Justices.”

If the President does manage to get a nomination through the Senate, he will have chosen two out of the nine judges on the Supreme Court, likely influencing the outcome of many upcoming cases and ensuring a liberal majority.

During his 30 years on the Supreme Court, Justice Scalia’s opinions were widely noticed. While some may have seen his positions as antiquated, others might have seen him as a champion of small government and conservatism. Regardless of political views, Justice Scalia hugely influenced American politics. His successor is likely to do the same.