Leading pro-life groups and advocates are mourning the passing of pro-life Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Scalia, 79, was found dead this past Saturdaymorning at the West Texas, Cibolo Creek Ranch, where he was a guest. Justice Scalia was considered to be one of the four justices most likely to support overturning Roe v Wade, if a case ever reached the high court. Chief Justice John Roberts stated, “He was an extraordinary individual and jurist, admired and treasured by his colleagues. His passing is a great loss to the Court and the country he so loyally served.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called Justice Scalia “the solid rock who turned away so many attempts to depart from and distort the Constitution.”
It has been more than 8 decades since a Supreme Court vacancy arose and was filled in a presidential year. President Obama could nominate a candidate to fill the vacancy, but winning confirmation by the Republican-controlled Senate in an election year would be difficult. The opening will undoubtedly fuel a debate in the presidential campaign about the importance of choosing Scalia’s successor on a closely divided court.
Court watchers will no doubt be concerned at the loss of a conservative justice as the Court prepares to hear a pivotal pro-life case on March 23rd
, when it will hear oral arguments in the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor, who refuse to violate their beliefs by implementing the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate.
Other pending cases whose decisions might have had momentous political implications, includeFriedrichs v. California Teacher’s Association, a landmark case regarding the mandatory collection of union dues and their use for political purposes.
Another key case is U.S. v. Texas, in which opponents challenged the legality of the president’s executive orders dealing with illegal immigrants.
But Scalia’s passing – and the news that the Republican-led Senate will likely not confirm an Obama nominee, means such cases could end up with 4-4 decisions. This means the lower court’s rulings will stand, such as the Friedrichs case, where the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled in favor of the teacher’s union.
The American electorate is in the process of choosing the next president. Votes have already been cast, and the current Supreme Court term is already underway. The important next step of replacing Scalia can and must wait until the people have had their say. The direction of the Court hangs in the balance.