Justice Scalia was found dead of natural causes on a luxury resort in West Texas. He will best be remembered for the opinion he delivered in the Heller v District of Columbia case in 2008.
Appointed in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan, Justice Scalia was one of the most conservative members of the high court with him being renowned as a vocal opponent of abortion and gay rights. He was also the first Italian-American justice. His death will shift the balance of power on the US high court as it will allow President Obama to add a fifth liberal justice to the court.
Three of Scalia’s most well-known cases:
- Heller v District of Columbia 2008.
Perhaps the most notable case of his career, this was a landmark case in which the Court held in a 5-4 decision that the Second Amendment, or ‘”The right of the people to keep and bear arms”, applied to federal enclaves and protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm for lawful purposes.
- Obergefell v Hodges 2015.
After Roe v Wade, this is possibly the most notorious US Supreme Court ruling of the last 100 years. This landmark case overturned Baker v Nelson, and ruled that same-sex couples have a fundamental right to marry. Justice Scalia opposed the majority opinion, with his belief of denying same-sex couples the right to marry. This would not have been considered unconstitutional at the time of the Fourteenth Amendment’s adoption and so should not be considered so today.
- Grutter v Bollinger 2003.
Another landmark case in which Scalia was part of the minority opinion. This landmark case ruled that affirmative action admissions policy was legal. Scalia opposed this with his belief that any attempt to discriminate, even positively, was unconstitutional and that all schools should admit students under a race-neutral system.
What will Justice Scalia’s death mean for the Supreme Court and U.S.A?
His death will present President Obama with an opportunity to change the balance of the Supreme Court. This will give Obama a chance to have five liberal voices on the Court, however this may be made more problematic due to the current presidential elections. Already leading Republican candidates have called for no Supreme Court nominations to be confirmed until there is a new president. If however, Obama does get someone confirmed in time, the absence of Justice Scalia could help the President in his push to restrict access to guns.
This would be Obama’s third appointment to the nine-justice court. Obama’s other appointments were Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan both of whom were confirmed comfortably, however at the time the Senate was controlled by Democrats. With the Republicans now in charge of the Senate, Obama may well be forced to pick a moderate with no history of advocating for liberal causes.
Two names being linked as possible nominees are Sri Srinivasan, an Indian-American judge who has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and Paul Watford, a black judge on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.