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Student Question

Who should be the next Supreme Court Justice to replace Antonin Scalia? 

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As is the case with almost all Americans, I do not have a specific name to give as the best replacement for the late Justice Scalia.  Instead, I will give three different opinions as to what sort of person should replace Scalia. People of different political persuasions will agree with different opinions.

One possible opinion is that Justice Scalia should be replaced by a liberal justice.  The Constitution says that the president gets to nominate justices to the Supreme Court whenever vacancies occur.  It does not say that a president should refrain from choosing a new justice if he (or someday she) is near to the end of his term.  Therefore, President Obama should pick a new justice.  Since Obama is liberal, he should pick a justice who would agree with him politically.  This would change the face of the court for years to come.

A second possible opinion is that Obama should pick a more moderate justice.  From this point of view, it will be impossible to get a liberal nominee confirmed by a Senate that is controlled by the Republicans.  If Obama nominates a liberal, he will just lose the confirmation fight and might lose the chance to get a new justice on the Court before he leaves office. Therefore, he should nominate a moderate who would be acceptable to both parties.  This would lessen the chance of rejection and would make it less likely that the next president (who might be Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz and therefore very opposed to Obama’s ideas) would get to nominate their own choice.

Finally, there are those who would argue that Scalia should be replaced by a conservative justice.  Scalia was the most important conservative mind on a closely divided Court.  Replacing him with a liberal or moderate would change the ideological makeup of the Court too drastically. By this thinking, Obama should appoint a conservative justice so as to maintain the partisan balance of the Court at a time when the US is very divided.  Doing otherwise would be too inflammatory at a tense time in our history.

These options describe types of people who might be considered as Scalia’s replacement.  The links below provide a few names that have been discussed by various experts.

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