U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died from natural causes Feb. 13, according to Texas authorities. Appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986 and serving until his death, the 79-year-old was the longest serving justice on the current Supreme Court.
Because of his unexpected passing, the country will be thrust into a political battle about who should be appointed in his place.
What did Scalia do while in the chair?
Scalia was a strict constructionist who had a limited judicial interpretation of the Constitution. He was the first justice of Italian-American descent. Being an active conservative voice, one of Scalia’s most famous opinions came from District of Columbia v. Heller.
In a controversial majority opinion, he wrote that the Second Amendment allows U.S citizens to own guns in their homes.
What is the federal process for choosing a new Supreme Court Justice?
Supreme Court Justices serve life terms. When one justice dies, the president nominates a replacement.
Numerous factors are considered when a president chooses a new justice, including experience, political allegiance, gender, race and judicial ideology.
After a president makes a nomination, a majority vote from the Senate is required for confirmation.
What makes the particular appointment so important?
Many Republican presidential candidates and congressmen have called President Barack Obama a lame duck — an elected official approaching the end of his tenure. This is inaccurate. A lame duck is when someone’s successor is chosen. As such, they argue the next president should appoint Scalia’s successor.
But after Scalia’s death, Obama said he intends to nominate a new justice and that there is enough time for the Senate to “fulfill its responsibility to give that person a fair hearing and a timely vote,” before his term ends next January.
With a Republican majority in the Senate and Scalia being a conservative, Obama will have a difficult time trying to replace Scalia with a more liberal justice.
During the Republican debate Saturday in Greenville, South Carolina, frontrunner Donald Trump said the decision should be up to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Trump said McConnell should delay the vote until the new president takes office. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) said he agreed.
“We are one justice away from a Supreme Court that will strike down every restriction on abortion,” Cruz said. “We are one justice away from a Supreme Court that would undermine religious liberty for millions of Americans.”