Word came late in the afternoon yesterday out of San Antonio, Texas that Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia died in his sleep at a ranch he was visiting on a hunting trip. He was 79 years of age.
Once the proper respects are paid and Mr. Scalia is laid to rest, this sets off quite a political battle. With Antonin’s passing, the vacancy means that until it’s filled, there will be eight Supreme Court justices, four appointed by Democrats and four by Republicans. With an even number of justices, it makes 4-4 stalemates possible, in which case the ruling of the lower court is retained as the standing law.
President Obama can name the replacement to Scalia, in which event the Republican Congress is bound to put up a fight to reject whoever the nominee is, possibly by filibuster. That way, should the GOP nominee for President win, whoever that nominee for President is gets to name the Supreme Court nominee to replace Scalia sometime in 2017.
Obama can also punt the ball altogether and let whoever replaces him as President name the replacement. I can’t imagine that happening, lest the Democrats lose the judicial system advantage they would possibly gain.
All three governmental branches are now up for grabs.