MI First Election
The passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has ignited a debate between Democrats and Republicans: should President Obama appoint a Supreme Court nominee when the country is in the midst of an election year?
According to Renee Knake, a professor of law at Michigan State University, Obama has the law on his side if he wishes to make a nomination.
“The Appointment Clause of the Constitution is clear that when a vacancy occurs, the president ‘shall nominate … and appoint judges of the Supreme Court.’ There is no requirement that he delay during an election year,” Knake said.
However, Republicans, such as those in Congress, have been vocal in their belief that the new justice should be decided by the next president. This is a rationale that Ronald E. Owens, founder of MSU Spartans for Hillary, finds offensive.
“The argument that the people should have a voice in who’s the next Supreme Court Justice is both baseless and insulting to the American people,” Owens said. “We had a voice when we elected President Obama in 2012, and he is that voice until Jan. 20, 2017.”
MSU law student Madeline Brown noted the consequences of Obama not nominating a new justice.
“I believe that it’s Obama’s presidential duty to keep the system going,” said Brown, a freshman. “Without his nomination, a lot of cases could come out the wrong way. There’s an even number of justices on the court now. It could be problematic, because there could be a hold on cases if they can’t come to a decision.”
Knake shared a similar concern.
“If a tie happens, the decision is not binding throughout the country, only within the jurisdiction covered by the lower court,” Knake said.
Another first-year law student, Steven Rachor, wasn’t convinced that the only solution was for Obama to make a nomination. He said this has been a popular topic in his law classes, with varying opinions.
“It’s a tough scenario. The Republicans rule the Senate, and they’re not going to want Obama to appoint anyone. And I think they have the right to deny his nomination,” Rachor said. “There’s a lot of politics involved, and I don’t necessarily believe it has to be Obama. The next president can do just as well.”
As Rachor predicted, Senate Republicans recently announced they will not consider any nomination from Obama. Without their consent, a new justice cannot be named.
“It’s time for Republicans to pluck up and do their job,” Owens said. “Justice delayed is justice denied.”
Regardless of who nominates the next justice, Scalia’s death has left large shoes to fill.
“Scalia’s passing is an incredible loss for the Supreme Court,” said Knake. “Whether one agreed with him on the merits of a particular case, he was extremely intelligent and had enormous respect for the rule of law.”