Southland legal scholars and elected officials are joining those around the nation today in reacting to the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died today while on a hunting trip in Texas, apparently of natural causes.
“This is huge. Scalia has been such a dominant conservative force on the Court,” said Laurie Levenson, professor of law and David W. Burcham Chair of Ethical Advocacy at Loyola Law School. “There are big cases before the Court this term, including those affecting affirmative action and abortion. His voice was sure to have an impact on those cases.”
“As for the longterm impact, the real question is whether (President) Obama will be able to get a replacement confirmed before the election.” Levenson said.
President Barack Obama — in Rancho Mirage in Riverside County ahead of Monday and Tuesday meetings with leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations — said in a brief address that Scalia was one of the “most consequential judges and thinkers to serve on the Supreme Court” and a “larger-than-life presence on the bench.”
“But at this moment,” Obama said, “we most of all want to think about (Scalia’s) family. Michelle and I join the nation in sending our deepest sympathies…we thank them for sharing Justice Scalia with our country.”
In confirming Scalia’s death, the U.S. Marshal’s Service in Washington said the 79-year-old justice was staying on a luxury ranch in the Big Bend area of South Texas, according to published reports.
The passing of Scalia, a staunch conservative, leaves the nine-member court with a vacancy, and with conservatives and liberals on the court now split 4-4, it is sure to roil the presidential campaign.
Obama said today he will nominate someone to fill Scalia’s seat “in due time” and called for action by the Republican-dominated U.S. Senate to confirm his nomination.
“These are responsibilities that I take seriously, as should everyone,” Obama said. “They are bigger than one party.”
That point was underscored today by Erwin Chemerinsky, founding dean and professor at the UC Irvine School of Law.
“Justice Scalia’s death leaves a pivotal vacancy on the Court,” Chemerinsky said. “President Obama should nominate someone quickly and put pressure on the Senate to confirm and not leave a vacancy for the rest of this term and all of the next.”
Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich released a statement mourning Scalia’s passing.
“The passing of Justice Scalia is a great shock and tremendous loss for our judicial system,” Antonovich said. “…Justice Scalia was a titan in the conservative movement and constitutional scholarship. He leaves a legacy for future generations with an unwavering commitment to justice and dedication to American values.”