Death of Justice Scalia raises question of who will take his place

Zoe Meneghetti, Opinions Editor

On March 16, 2016, President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland, the chief judge of the United States Court of appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, to serve as the replacement for late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.

With the 2016 presidential election fast approaching, the Republican leadership which chairs the senate judiciary committee has publicly refused to hold hearings or even meet with any nominee for the position. Many Republicans have pledged to defer any official replacement for Scalia until after a new president is elected. Justice Scalia was a reliably conservative vote on the Supreme Court, and many Republicans feel that any nominee from President Obama will be more liberal in their decision-making. The Democratic leadership argues that with 10 months left of Obama’s term, there is ample time for the Senate to select a new justice.

Michael Lynch (‘17) said, “It is hypocritical for the Republicans to block Obama’s nominee. But at the same time, Obama tried to filibuster Samuel Alito’s nomination in 2006, so democrats have done similar things in the past.” Currently, there are many Supreme Court cases in which the jury is deadlocked, meaning that without a ninth justice, no progress can be made. “It’s unfortunate that we don’t have a ninth justice on the court right now; no side is in the right or wrong, that is just politics,” said Lynch.

The decision as to who will replace Justice Scalia will determine the final word for many unresolved conflicts relevant to students today. One of these issues will be surrounding affirmative action. In the case of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, Fisher, a White student, contends that the university accepted lesser-qualified applicants than herself based on their ethnic status. The University of Texas at Austin is on board with the Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action policy, which aims to “identify underrepresentation of people of color, women and/or other underrepresented groups and their underutilization at all levels of employment.” According to UT Austin’s website, “It is the responsibility of all departments and personnel to insure the University’s compliance with the EEO/AA policy.”

Fisher argues that the 14th Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause, renders it unjust for the University to consider race in the admissions process. If Garland or another more liberal Justice is appointed, it is likely that Fisher would win her case. If this were to happen, it could call into question affirmative action admission policies at universities across the country. If she loses, affirmative action as we know it today will remain in place. It is likely that the next Supreme Court nominee, no matter who it is, will cast the deciding vote in this case.