June 1, 2023
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ColumnsElephant in the Room

Scalia’s legacy is honorable

We lost a brilliant and influential man last week with the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia. He did more to shape the discussion on what the Constitution means and the importance of the rule of law than anyone else in the past three decades. And while liberals are currently branding Scalia’s legacy as anti-progress, many of us are remembering a man who devoted his life to protecting the idea of a strict Constitution and serving the country he loved.

To most people, Scalia’s name meant nothing. To some people, Scalia was a conservative justice. And to me, Scalia was a legend. I have never been so inspired to pursue an education in law than when reading Scalia’s writings. His creative and colorful language will be missed.

The day Scalia died, President Obama held a news conference to honor Scalia’s life and announce that he would be filling the seat. Not even a day could pass before Obama chose to spark the political debate that we find ourselves in now over the vacant seat. This was disrespectful to Scalia’s legacy.

In the debate on Scalia’s seat, both sides are hypocrites. Republicans call out Senator Chuck Schumer’s 2007 comment about blocking judicial nominees and Vice President Joe Biden’s 1992 argument that judicial appointments should wait until after the election. Democrats point to Senator McConnell’s 2005 statement that then-President George W. Bush’s nominations should be approved without a hassle.

My message to Republicans is as follows: Instead of dwelling on Democrats’ contradictions, use this opportunity to take the high road and set a precedent. Hold a hearing. Hold a vote. And let the system of checks and balances play out. Republicans should strive to not just go with the status quo but to do the right thing.

An argument put forth by Democrats is that Justice Anthony Kennedy was confirmed in former President Ronald Reagan’s last year. This is true, albeit misleading. Kennedy was Reagan’s third choice. Reagan’s initial pick, Robert Bork, was voted down, and his second choice withdrew his own name. Finally, Justice Kennedy was confirmed, making him the swing vote for numerous 5–4 cases over the years.

In his dissent of King v. Burwell, which focused on subsidies in the Affordable Care Act, Scalia accused his fellow justices of interpretive jiggery-pokery, saying they were full of nonsense. In honor of the late Scalia, let’s stop this debate full of jiggery-pokery and remember a man who changed the court and our country.

Kyle Stewart can be reached at kstewart1@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @KyleStew107