Friday, February 19, 2016

RIP Scalia, 1936-2016

Couldn't you have hung on until next January? That would have been much better. None of us get to choose the time of our departure, I guess. My wife and I were at a yoga class (the second one I have ever attended - the things we do to please our spouse for Valentine's Day), and just before we started I glanced at my phone and saw that Antonin Scalia had died. I have to admit I was rocked pretty hard by this one.

For one, Scalia made law school bearable. Whether you agreed with him or not (and I often did), his decisions were a joy to read. You don't hear that much when referring to the writing in Supreme Court decisions. But Scalia possessed both a razor mind and a razor pen. And he was by far the most powerful Justice on the Supreme Court for decades, because Scalia got two votes whereas the other Justices just got one vote. (I am, of course, referring to Clarence Thomas, who almost always voted with Scalia and would often just sign on to Scalia's decisions vs. writing his own).

ABOVE: What is Clarence "yeah, what he said" Thomas going to do now that Scalia is gone? Think for himself?

On a more serious note, I'm not sure what to think of the Republican Senate standoff with Obama on appointing Scalia's replacement. This rhetoric of "let the people decide" (as in, wait until after the election so the people can weigh in on the direction of the replacement) is crap. That is not in the Constitution, as Scalia himself would probably point out. And the people did weigh in. Obama was re-elected.

I think what should happen is that Obama fulfills his Constitutional duty and nominates someone, and the Republicans in the Senate give him or her their due hearing and then most likely vote them down. Drag it out until the election, and then let the next president pick someone. That seems better than refusing to even hold a hearing without even having a nominee yet. At least go through the motions. This holdout could be worse for the Republicans in an election year than just having some contentious hearings and then voting "no."

Do I think the Democrats would do the same thing if it were reversed? Of course. In fact, both Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid have statements exactly to that effect from back in the waning days of George W. Bush's presidency. I wouldn't agree with them doing it either (and you know if this were the democrats doing this, talk radio-world would be raising a sh*tstorm about the dems circumventing the Constitution, etc.)

Our Founders certainly intended for the president to nominate someone and then for the Senate to advise the president on that nominee and then consent or not. I don't think they meant "advise and consent" to mean "No. It doesn't matter who you nominate. We'll just leave the seat vacant for a year."

Anyway, Scalia was quite simply one of the greatest minds we have ever had on the Court. A giant. I leave you with the ever quotable Antonin Scalia...

“Never compromise your principles, unless of course your principles are Adolf Hitler’s, in which case you would be well advised to compromise them as much as you can.”

“More important than your obligation to follow your conscience, or at least prior to it, is your obligation to form your conscience correctly.”

“A Constitution is not meant to facilitate change. It is meant to impede change, to make it difficult to change.”

“This Court, however, concludes that this limitation would prevent the rest of the Act from working as well as hoped. So it rewrites the law to make tax credits available everywhere. We should start calling this law SCOTUScare.”

“A man who has made no enemies is probably not a very good man.”

"A Bill of Rights that means what the majority wants it to mean is worthless."

"That’s the argument of flexibility and it goes something like this: The Constitution is over 200 years old and societies change. It has to change with society, like a living organism, or it will become brittle and break. But you would have to be an idiot to believe that. The Constitution is not a living organism, it is a legal document. It says something and doesn’t say other things."

"You’re looking at me as though I’m weird. My God! Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the devil? I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the devil! It’s in the Gospels! You travel in circles that are so, so removed from mainstream America that you are appalled that anybody would believe in the devil! Most of mankind has believed in the devil, for all of history. Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the devil."

"To pursue the concept of racial entitlement–even for the most admirable and benign of purposes–is to reinforce and preserve for future mischief the way of thinking that produced race slavery, race privilege and race hatred. In the eyes of government, we are just one race here. It is American."

"Undoubtedly some think that the Second Amendment is outmoded in a society where our standing army is the pride of our Nation, where well-trained police forces provide personal security, and where gun violence is a serious problem. That is perhaps debatable, but what is not debatable is that it is not the role of this Court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct."

"Bear in mind that brains and learning, like muscle and physical skill, are articles of commerce. They are bought and sold. You can hire them by the year or by the hour. The only thing in the world not for sale is character."

"God assumed from the beginning that the wise of the world would view Christians as fools…and He has not been disappointed. Devout Christians are destined to be regarded as fools in modern society. We are fools for Christ’s sake. We must pray for courage to endure the scorn of the sophisticated world. If I have brought any message today, it is this: Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity. Be fools for Christ. And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world."

"If, even as the price to be paid for a fifth vote, I ever joined an opinion for the Court that began: ‘The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity,’ I would hide my head in a bag. The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie."