It’s always a shock when a justice of the Supreme Court dies. Love ’em, hate ’em, agree or disagree, they are part of a small, elite group of jurists who set the course of justice for an entire country. Once appointed, they hold their position for life, so it should come as no surprise that to replace one is news making.
I had the honor of meeting Justice Antonin Scalia on the very same day, ten years ago, that I also met Justice Samuel Alito. For an Italian-American attorney, this was the double-header, to say that I have studied under two justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. Heck, it was only a CLE course but how many attorneys can say they got up close and personal with two of The Supremes?
Actually, up close and personal was not exactly what Justice Scalia would allow. As you can see from the photo, he was not the warm and fuzzy kind and did not want his photo taken with anyone. Alito, on the other hand, was only too happy to pose when approached with respect and not expectation.
Justice Scalia passed away this past weekend and while his opinions from the bench were always newsworthy, it is his passing that is garnering more than its share of controversy in this Presidential election year.
Conservative Republicans are playing the stubborn elephants of their party’s mascot, digging in their heels and waving their big trunks, vowing to stall any nomination to the court by President Obama. Are they that threatened? No matter who gets appointed, isn’t a judicial nominee supposed to leave their party affiliations at the door of the Supreme Court Building? Republicans have kicked the sand in the sandbox like spoiled children long enough. To stall a nomination is not only childish but irresponsible, shackling the court in likely deadlocks for the next eleven months.
If I were President, I’d wait till the kids take their summer recess and then make a recess appointment. It’s legit. The President wouldn’t need the approval of the Senate and maybe some cases that mean something could be decided. A “recess appointed justice” would only hold her position until the end of the next Senate session. To continue to serve beyond would require a re-appointment and Senate confirmation. And in our nation’s gloried history, of the ten justices appointed during a recess, only one was not subsequently confirmed by the Senate.
By the way, did you notice that I suggested that “she” would have to be confirmed by a full Senate? Yes, maybe it’s time for a truly balanced bench with a fourth female justice to serve…then again, that might have to wait until we have a new female President