Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s Death Leaves Uncertainty

Date: February 15, 2016 Last Edit: March 16, 2016

Court Now Split Between Republican, Democratic Appointees As Debate Grows Over Replacement

On Saturday, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was found dead while vacationing with friends in Texas. He died of natural causes, the AP and the Wall Street Journal reported. Almost immediately, tributes poured in from colleagues and public officials, including those who disagreed with his legal decisions. Chief Justice John Roberts added, according to the New York Times, that Scalia’s “passing is a great loss to the Court and the country he so loyally served.” The Washington Times quoted President Obama as saying Scalia “influenced a generation of judges, lawyers, and students, and profoundly shaped the legal landscape.” Obama added, “He will no doubt be remembered as one of the most consequential judges and thinkers to serve on the Supreme Court.” At the same time, Bloomberg News described Scalia as a “sharp-tongued” justice “who sought to limit constitutional protections to those envisioned by the nation’s founders.” According to Bloomberg, Scalia “was a polarizing force on the court and across the country.”

Following the immediate news of Scalia’s death, discussion turned to the process to replace him, which is expected to be more contentious than other recent Supreme Court nomination processes. USA Today reported that President Obama “could nominate a candidate to fill the vacancy, but winning confirmation by the Republican-controlled Senate in an election year would be difficult, if not impossible.” Bloomberg Politics reported “the ferocity of early reactions from [Senate Majority Leader] McConnell and [Senate Minority Leader] Reid, barely an hour after Scalia’s death became public, foreshadowed a bitter and bruising political fight over how to replace him.” The New York Times reported Obama’s advisers “made clear privately that he had no intention of leaving the matter to the next president.” In addition, the Times added, the President’s “allies made the case that Republicans would be irresponsible to block an appointment.”

What This Means For Small Businesses

Scalia’s death leaves potential implications for small businesses in the short as well as mid-term, in part because there were several key Supreme Court decisions expected to be decided this year. Of particular interest to small businesses, McClatchy pointed out that Scalia “appeared poised this term to help a slender conservative majority upend California teacher union fees.” However, according to McClatchy, the court “that decided 20 percent of its cases last term on the closest possible 5-4 margin is reduced to an eight-member body that is evenly split between Republican and Democratic appointees.” This could alter Supreme Court decisions in ways that negatively affect small businesses.

Additional Reading

Many outlets reported on the implications Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death may have on court decisions, including the Los Angeles Times, The Hill, and Reuters.

Note: this article is intended to keep small business owners up on the latest news. It does not necessarily represent the policy stances of NFIB.

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