Obama to nominate successor to Justice Antonin Scalia, dead at 7 - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Obama to nominate successor to Justice Antonin Scalia, dead at 79

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Associate Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was an influential and controversial conservative on the U.S. Supreme Court. (Source: AP/Matt Rourke) Associate Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was an influential and controversial conservative on the U.S. Supreme Court. (Source: AP/Matt Rourke)
The flag outside the Supreme Court building was lowered to half-staff in Scalia's honor. (Source: CNN) The flag outside the Supreme Court building was lowered to half-staff in Scalia's honor. (Source: CNN)
President Obama vowed to nominate a successor to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died Saturday. (Source: CNN) President Obama vowed to nominate a successor to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died Saturday. (Source: CNN)

(RNN) - President Barack Obama said he will nominate a successor to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who was found dead Saturday while on a hunting trip in Texas. He was 79.

Scalia had attended a party Friday night at a resort near Marfa, TX. His body was found Saturday morning after he did not attend a scheduled breakfast.

Obama, saying Scalia had a "larger-than-life presence on the bench" and a "brilliant legal mind," vowed Saturday to fulfill his constitutional responsibilities to nominate a replacement "in due time." 

"There will be plenty of time for me to do so and for the Senate to fulfill its responsibility to give that person a fair hearing and a timely vote," Obama said. 

Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Obama should let the next president nominate a successor, while Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said Obama should proceed in offering a nominee. 

Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement, "I am saddened to report that our colleague Justice Antonin Scalia has passed away. 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 also released a statement that said, in part, "Justice Antonin Scalia was a man of God, a patriot and an unwavering defender of the written Constitution and the rule of law."

The flag over the Supreme Court building was lowered to half-staff in Scalia's honor.

Scalia was the longest-serving member of the current U.S. Supreme Court and a flamboyant conservative voice in American jurisprudence. Despite being a staunch conservative, Scalia was good friends with fellow Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who was his ideological opposite.

Chief Justice William Rehnquist was the last justice to die while still sitting on the court. He died in 2005. He was replaced by Roberts.

The Supreme Court is in recess and will re-convene February 22. According to Scotus Blog, any votes Scalia has already cast but have not yet been made public will be voided. However, if the lack of his vote does not change the outcome of the decision, it will still go forward. If he was part of a 5-4 majority, leaving the decision split, the ruling of the lower court will stand.

It also says future votes will continue, just with an eight-member court. Among the upcoming decisions expected by the court is one pertaining to the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, and a ruling on restrictions on abortion enacted in Texas. In the past, Scalia was opposed to both issues.

His death leaves a gap on the Supreme Court during a time when the makeup court is an important political issue. Scalia was a reliable conservative vote on the court, and Obama, a Democrat, will have the opportunity to nominate his replacement. Democratic candidates have mentioned the importance of the Supreme Court during this election cycle because several of the members are aging and expected to retire during the next's president's term.

Scalia was nominated Associate Justice of the Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan and took his seat Sept. 26, 1986, replacing William Rehnquist, who was appointed Chief Justice upon Warren Burger's retirement. Scalia was unanimously approved at age 50, the youngest justice on the Court at that time.

A Republican appointee to the Supreme Court being replaced by a Democratic one could trigger several issues important to both sides being contested in the hopes of reversing previous decisions by the court. With less than a year left in office, Obama faces an uphill battle replacing Scalia, not only with the election to replace him under way, but the Senate, which confirms Supreme Court nominees, is controlled by Republicans.

Recently, Scalia was part of the majority 5-4 vote that blocked the implementation of the "Clean Power Plan." Obama's plan would have reduced carbon dioxide emissions at power plants by one-third by 2030.

A graduate of Georgetown and Harvard Law School, Scalia was born in Trenton, NJ, on March 11, 1936, the son of a Sicilian immigrant who taught romance languages at Brooklyn College. His mother, also of Italian descent, taught in public elementary school until he was born. He was an only child, unusual in a Catholic family of that time.

Scalia began his career practicing law in Cleveland, then taught law at the University of Virginia and the University of Chicago. In 1972, President Richard Nixon appointed Scalia to a general counsel position for the Office of Telecommunications Policy, beginning his career in public service.

He went on to work for presidents Nixon and Gerald Ford, and President Ronald Reagan named him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 1982.

Reagan appointed him to the Supreme Court four years later.

Scalia, a Constitutional originalist, proved to be one of the most prominent and influential legal minds of his era - and one of the most beloved and hated justices in the history of the court. He wrote multiple books and was the subject of many more.

He had a distinctive writing style, known for his witty, scathing and straightforward opinions, especially his dissents. An excellent - and hilarious - example is his dissent in the case of PGA Tour v. Martin (2001), in which the court ruled that disabled golfer Casey Martin must be allowed to ride in a golf cart rather than walk between shots, as PGA rules at that time dictated:

If one assumes, however, that the PGA TOUR has some legal obligation to play classic, Platonic golf - and if one assumes the correctness of all the other wrong turns the Court has made to get to this point - then we Justices must confront what is indeed an awesome responsibility. It has been rendered the solemn duty of the Supreme Court of the United States, laid upon it by Congress in pursuance of the Federal Government's power “[t]o regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States,” to decide What Is Golf. I am sure that the Framers of the Constitution, aware of the 1457 edict of King James II of Scotland prohibiting golf because it interfered with the practice of archery, fully expected that sooner or later the paths of golf and government, the law and the links, would once again cross, and that the judges of this august Court would someday have to wrestle with that age-old jurisprudential question, for which their years of study in the law have so well prepared them: Is someone riding around a golf course from shot to shot really a golfer? The answer, we learn, is yes. The Court ultimately concludes, and it will henceforth be the Law of the Land, that walking is not a “fundamental” aspect of golf.

Scalia wrote as he adjudicated, from the viewpoint that he was always right, of which he was truly convinced. He was uncompromising in his views, preferring to write a stinging dissent rather than accept less to win a majority.

One of history's most vehement proponents of the originalist interpretation of the Constitution, Scalia believed the Constitution should be interpreted as it was when it was written, according to the intent of those who wrote and ratified it. Original Intent is a school of constitutional thought held by political and legal conservatives.

Scalia spoke out against "judicial activism" when judges take the values of contemporary society into consideration when they interpreted the Constitution. He believed the Constitution was not there to facilitate change, but to impede it.

His reputation as the conservative anchor of the court is well-founded, though he did vote with liberals on a few significant decisions. Among them was the 1984 case that qualified flag burning as an expression protected under the First Amendment.

He offended many conservatives when he voted against abortion rights, not on the grounds that it was morally wrong, but rather that it was not a constitutionally protected right. He said each state should be able to make its own abortion law, but the federal government had no authority in the matter. He had responded to fellow Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's support of abortion as "perverse."

Scalia's voting record is overwhelmingly conservative. He consistently opposed actions that made distinctions based on gender, sexuality or race. He opposed affirmative action. He called the Voting Rights Act "perpetuation of racial entitlement" and dissented in the overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage. He was also part of the majority decision that guaranteed the Second Amendment right to bear arms as an individual right.

Scalia and his wife, Maureen McCarthy Scalia, had nine children - five boys and four girls - and 28 grandchildren.

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