Thursday, February 18, 2016

On the Death of a Justice

Loyal Drunkard Miss Othmar wants to know why I haven't written about the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia over the weekend.

I mean, you know...Sunday was Valentine's Day and Monday night the Grammys were on.

I wasn't in love with Lady Gaga's Bowie tribute.
Not that I don't like and respect Gaga, but the best tribute
would have been to blast Blackstar over the PA system
and leave the stage. Just sayin.
But OK. It is a very big deal when a Supreme Court Justice dies, for several reasons. First is that there are only nine of them, and they all are appointed for life, so every vacancy on the bench presents a rare and significant change to the SCOTUS status quo.

Say "SCOTUS status quo" three times fast. It's pretty awesome.

Also, because it falls to the President to nominate a successor, the death of a Justice represents an opportunity for the sitting Commander in Chief to secure his legacy by shaping the makeup of the Supreme Court for potentially decades to come. I'll stop short of saying that every POTUS prays for the death of a Justice during his term of office; but I will suggest that if there is such a thing as a Presidential bucket list, a Supreme Court Justice kicking said bucket is definitely on it.

Some buckets are deeper than others, obviously.

Finally, let's face it: Although serving on the Supreme Court is ostensibly an apolitical appointment, everybody acknowledges that there are conservative Justices and liberal Justices, and that their decisions often (although not exclusively) reflect those labels. So when a liberal President (like Obama) has the opportunity to replace a conservative Justice (Scalia in spades), it is a very big deal for all sides.

In case you're not a SCOTUS groupie, here's the lowdown on the late Justice Scalia: He was an originalist, meaning he believed the U.S. Constitution was not a living document, but rather a sacred text that should be interpreted only through the lens of the 18th century, when it was written. As in, black people and women should be strictly controlled and not simply given rights willy-nilly. He was also anti-choice, anti-homosexual, and pro-gun.

Now listen up. I believe Justice Scalia was an extremely intelligent man, a gifted jurist, and a person of singular conviction. I think many of his positions on morality and jurisprudence were dead wrong (e.g., “Dick Cheney is a very good wing shot”). I do not mourn the death of the opinion that moral law should be shaped by popular opinion, nor that the America of the 21st century should be bound by the prevailing opinions of the 1770s. 

I welcome the future of this country. And I welcome a Supreme Court Justice whose interpretation of the Constitution will lead us there, rather than miring us in historical times when only white men were allowed to vote, own property, or be educated.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch "Turtle Head" McConnell and others who would obstruct America's future: Go pound sand.

If this is the face of America, then I declare my
allegiance to Poland, you guys.
I'm not saying that the next Supreme Court nominee should fall on the left, or the right, side of the political spectrum. I'm just saying, everyone gets a turn. Even if they're the first African-American President and that is killing you, everyone gets a turn.

I do not fear that intelligence or personal opinion should inform SCOTUS' choice.Those things matter, but ultimately matter less than understanding that sometimes America doesn't mean exactly what you believe it means.

RIP, Justice Scalia, and sincere condolences to his loved ones. I hope you  have thick skin, because Antonin's legacy ain't nearly done being debated. May his knee-jerk conservatism inform the next nominee to aspire to the bench.

How was that, Miss Othmar?


  1. I just want to point out, he died in your home state. Is there anything you're not telling us?

  2. I'd just like to add one small correction: he was an originalist when it suited him. Among other things he refused to allow reporters to record his speeches, even in public.
    Yeah, I guess the only recording devices that existed in the 1780's were quill pens and paper.

  3. OMG I love this so much. Very nice, my friend.

  4. Yeah, that'll do ;-)


You're thinking it, you may as well type it. The only comments you'll regret are the ones you don't leave. Also, replies to threads make puppies grow big and strong.