The death of a justice |

The death of a justice

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away in Texas on Saturday. Justice Scalia was the standard-bearer of the way the Supreme Court should make its rulings. He was true to the “originalist” concept of the Constitution, meaning he looked to the interpretation of the meaning of words and concepts as they were understood through the Constitution itself and the Federalist Papers.

He was best known for his tireless crusade for judicial restraint as opposed to the judicial activism favored by liberals, and for his concise, direct, and sometimes scathing dissents. His 2008 opinion in favor of gun rights was considered by many to be his crowning achievement.

He was a strong advocate for personal privacy as set forth in the Fourth Amendment over intrusive searches. He also advocated states’ rights in many matters, including abortion laws and execution of criminals.

Of course, those views and opinions did not sit well with liberals. Some liberals showed restraint and decorum in merely regretting his passing and acknowledging his accomplishments much like most conservatives would if the situation were reversed.

That said, it did not take long for the vitriol to surface in tweets and media. It is interesting that many more liberals could not restrain themselves to at least a respectful silence than those liberals who exhibited some class by showing respect for his life. Sadly, that is the liberal way. It is all about them.

His death has sparked numerous conspiracy and murder theories. While he was in seemingly good health the night before, let’s face it: He was 79 years old. Things happen. The only thing I find odd is the hurry-up death certification and lack of an autopsy. An autopsy is nearly always done (apparently not always) when a major government official dies. Even so, I discount the conspiracy angle.

There is now a vacancy on the Supreme Court. Given President Obama’s penchant for far-left women nominees (Kagan and Sotomayor), the balance of the court could change and allow Obama to rule virtually unchecked. That is of major concern. So much so that Republican Senators have announced their opposition to a new appointee before the new President is elected. Opinions abound on whether that is legal or appropriate, but the fact is there isn’t much that can be done about it. That assumes the newly-shown Republican backbone doesn’t break.

Of course the media has launched a full court press on the Senate to confirm, without question, whoever Obama nominates as a successor. I wonder if they would have that view with a Republican President and Senate. Do I really need to ask?

Democrats, not unexpectedly, are crying foul and saying such blocking actions are unprecedented. Really? Remember Robert Bork? They were so vicious with this nominee that it coined a new term, “Borking.” It is said that Obama can make a recess appointment to the Supreme Court. However, that court in 2014 set the tone for recess appointments in general when a unanimous ruling overturned Obama’s recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board. The opinion was apparently broad enough to preclude any recess appointments.

So have Democrats never opposed late-term appointments? Here is one quote. “How do we apply the lessons we learned from Roberts and Alito to be the next nominee, especially if — God forbid — there is another vacancy under this president? … [F]or the rest of this president’s term and if there is another Republican elected with the same selection criteria let me say this: We should reverse the presumption of confirmation. The Supreme Court is dangerously out of balance. We cannot afford to see Justice Stevens replaced by another Roberts, or Justice Ginsburg by another Alito. Given the track record of this president and the experience of obfuscation at the hearings — with respect to the Supreme Court, at least — I will recommend to my colleagues that we should not confirm a Supreme Court nominee except in extraordinary circumstances.” — Charles “Chuck” Schumer, at the American Constitution Society, 2007, advocating blocking a George W. Bush nomination in his last 18 months.

So there you have it. Scalia’s death makes this next presidential election absolutely critical. Not only has Scalia passed but Ginsburg is apparently in poor health as well. The next two appointments could change the face of the nation.

Tom Riggins’ column appears every other Friday. He may be reached at