Who Will Replace Scalia?

Antonin Scalia, former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, passed away on February 13, 2016.

Scalia was appointed to the Supreme Court by Ronald Reagan in 1986 (NY Times). He was a Republican Originalist–he believed in the constitutional interpretation that met our Founding Fathers’ original views. Scalia was arguably the most influential Supreme court justice of the “last quarter-century” (The New Republican). 


In the midst of a tense election year, Scalia’s death left an empty seat in the Supreme Court. Many believe Obama’s appointment will be futile–the Republican-controlled Senate will likely reject any liberal judge he decides to appoint. In fact, Senate leaders have claimed they will make no decisions regarding the new Justice until a new president is elected in November. The Thurmond “Rule,” a political precedent, states that a President shall not appoint a judge to any high-level courts in the months leading up to a presidential election (ACS Law). However, Scalia’s death occurred nearly a year before the new president will be sworn in, and, therefore, neutralizes the Thurmond precedent. 

With (possibly) a conservative president on the way, liberals will not be welcomed. Because Scalia was one of the most conservative Justices on the Court, any slight inclination to more liberal ideologies will change the Supreme Court’s direction for many years. 


On March 16, 2016, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to fill Scalia’s position. Garland, already a judge, has currently spent 19 years on an appeals court. In addition, he has experience in the executive branch.

Not only is he incredibly qualified, but Garland’s presence in the Supreme Court will create the most liberal court within the last fifty years (NY Times). As the Court is home to mostly New Yorker and Californian Justices, Garland’s upbring in Illinois will provide a voice for Midwestern citizens.

Although he’s a liberal, Garland received major support from Republicans when Bill Clinton appointed him to the United States Court of Appeals in 1997. This previous support will likely toughen Republican efforts against him.

So what does Garland care about (NY Times)?

  • Pro Death Penalty
  • Supports Freedom of Press
  • Supports Victims of Unfair Labor Practices
  • No Abortion Stance (Huffington Post)

What Will Happen?

As of April 2016, Scalia’s seat in the Court remains empty. Any Supreme Court cases that were not resolved before his death will be decided by the remaining 8 Justices. However, they balance each other out. If a case is settled 4-4, then the lower court’s decision will be upheld.