On Saturday evening, Americans were shocked to learn that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia had passed away.
By Sunday morning, a political brawl had broken out between Republicans and Democrats over when — and who — to replace Scalia, who had served on the Supreme Court since 1986.
Given the all–out–crazyfest that is the 2016 election, Scalia’s passing has a huge impact. President Obama has already said that he will move quickly to nominate a new justice, specifically pointing to his Constitutional authority and responsibility to do so.
While everyone clearly realizes that the President’s actions are politically motivated — he wants to add a third justice to the court before the clock runs out on his term — he’s right: the Constitution calls on him to appoint “judges to the Supreme Court.” Here’s the actual words from the U.S. Constitution, Article II, Section 2:
“[The President] shall nominate, and, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, (emphasis added) and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.”
So while we are going to hear a lot about “the Constitution” and “Article II” over the weeks and months ahead, there’s another part of the Constitution we’re probably not going to hear as much about: The Bill of Rights.
While the Constitution protects Americans’ rights and liberties generally, the Bill of Rights (the first 10 amendments to the Constitution) protects specific rights. Religious freedom, freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, the right to trial by a jury.
With a federal government that is increasingly infringing on these rights, it’s more important than ever that the next Supreme Court justice understand and protect our Constitutional rights.
In the noise of an election year, this brings up the question no one is asking: Will President Barack Obama nominate a Supreme Court justice who will be a fair referee, play by the rules — not their own feelings — and justly interpret the law?
That’s the question that really matters to you and me. Who really wants an unelected referee making calls based on what they had for breakfast that morning? Or deciding the fate of millions just so it’s not awkward at a party? We’re all human, we all change our mind, even the best judges. That’s why the job of the Supreme Court is not to make our decisions for us, but to interpret the law.
We hope you’ll ask your Senators — and the President — that question: Will the next Supreme Court justice be a fair referee, play by the rules — not their own feelings — and justly interpret the law?
What are your thoughts? Is that the right call? Ask your friends, and sound off on our Facebook page!
While we’re thinking about the Supreme Court’s job, what’s the job of government in general? Find out more about the best role for government here.