Saturday, February 13, 2016

Local Reactions to Passing of Justice Antonin Scalia

Consensus that the late jurist had been a major influence on the U.S. Supreme Court and on the legal issues of our time.

Posted By on Sat, Feb 13, 2016 at 5:32 PM

  • Antonin Scalia, 1936-2016
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a behemoth of the “originalist” or conservative persuasion, died Saturday in Texas, where he had gone on a hunting trip. He was 79.

Justice Scalia addressed a luncheon at The Peabody and an assembly of the University of Memphis Law School in late 2013; at both sites his comments were characteristically pithy. From the Flyer's review of that occasion:

"Every banana republic, every president-for-life could boast a bill of rights," Scalia said at the luncheon. "The former Evil Empire, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, had a wonderful bill of rights." It is the "distribution of power" which is the genius of the American system, he said. Again: "Gridlock is what the system is designed for, so that only good legislation can get passed."

Local figures whose careers have intersected with law and politics have begun to comment on Scalia's passing:

Former Shelby County Commissioner and assistant dean of the University of Memphis Law School Steve Mulroy:

Justice Scalia was one of the most influential Justices of the last century. Agree or disagree, his brilliance was beyond dispute. His passing will leave a large ideological hole on the Court.

Because he was a member of the conservative majority, his passing may prove to be truly momentous, giving a Democratic president a chance to change the Court from majority-conservative to majority liberal. Whether the GOP-controlled Senate would allow President Obama to appoint a successor in an election year seems doubtful. If not, it dramatizes the high stakes in the upcoming presidential election.

Former state Senator and current Shelby County Chancellor Jim Kyle

Since his appointment to the Supreme Court Justice Scalia played an important role in the most important issues of his day. His passing will change the Court for the next generation of Americans.

State Senate Majority Leader and constitutional lawyer Mark Norris:
It's a tremendous loss. He wasn't politically correct, but he was constitutionally correct. He was blunt and insightful and just what
jurisprudence needed as a reign on judicial activism.

He was an original and an originalist. He had a great sense of humor and a uniquely fine sense of culture. When it came to the Constitution, he believed in original intent, construing it reasonably "to contain all that it fairly means."

He was also a heck of a duck hunter. I miss him already.

Former Republican chairman, long-termRepublican national committeeman, and general counsel of the RNC John Ryder:
He was larger than life, an intellectual and legal giant whose views, even in dissent, influenced the direction of the Court. His impact on constitutional law will be felt for many generations. Jstice Scalia restored respect for the meaning of the words of the Constitution and the intent of the Framers. His advocacy for originalism has reshaped constitutional thinking over the past thirty years.

I have to note that he was a great lover of opera, and when he visited Memphis a few years ago those of us on the board of Opera Memphis presented him with a CD of our greatest hits, which he greatly appreciated.

9th District congressman Steve Cohen:

It brings the appointment of Justices to the forefront as to what is most at stake in the November election of the next President, as the Supreme Court is where long -time power resides in our system.

There are three remaining Justices who are in their late 70's or 80's, and the next President's appointments will determine what the future of our nation will be more than anything else she or he does or the Congress does.

State Senator Brian Kelsey, chairman of Senate Judiciary Committee:

Justice Scalia did more to uphold the original meaning of the constitution than any other justice in history. Our country lost a true patriot today. We currently have a balanced court. A judge with a liberal interpretation of the constitution could undermine our system of government for a generation. Leader McConnell and the Senate should stand strong for the appointment of a constitutional conservative.

Former Shelby County Chancellor and current Judge, Tennessee Court of Appeals, Arnold Goldin:

Justice Scalia was a charismatic and provocative individual and you always knew where he stood on issues of constitutional law.

Former Democratic chairman David Cocke:

The Republicans may be missing an opportunity to force the President to nominate a moderate Democrat. Their current 8-vote majority in the Senate is very likely to erode substantially in the upcoming election, and if a Democrat wins the presidency, they face the prospect of a much more liberal justice being appointed and approved by the Senate next year.

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