Monday, February 15, 2016

Scalia's death triggers political battles, will shape major SCOTUS decisions

Here's a trio of links from the NY Times exploring the political and judicial consequences of Scalia's absence.

... Democrats heaped criticism on the Republicans. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said on Twitter: “Abandoning their Senate duties would also prove that all the Republican talk about loving the Constitution is just that — empty talk.”

It takes five votes to accomplish most things at the Supreme Court, and until Saturday, that meant Justice Anthony M. Kennedy was in control when the court’s four-member liberal and conservative blocs lined up against each other. But with three remaining conservatives, only the liberal side can command a majority if it attracts Justice Kennedy’s vote. And if it does not, the result is a 4-to-4 deadlock.

On the home front, challenges to the AIRC maps are in trouble partly because the AZ AG pitched his arguments to Scalia.

What makes Scalia’s death significant for that case is the possibility the court would have ruled 5-4 that the Independent Redistricting Commission acted illegally in creating districts with unequal populations. Without Scalia — assuming he would have sided with the challengers — that would result in a 4-4 tie, leaving intact the lower court ruling, which concluded the commission did not act illegally.

And that, in turn, means the current lines remain through at least the 2020 election, lines that Republicans who challenged them contend give unfair advantage to Democrats.

What is beyond doubt is that the battle will push the parties farther apart, ensuring that an already rancorous election year becomes even more contentious as Republicans and Democrats alike try to rally their voters by portraying the opposition’s approach to the nomination as illegitimate.

An already unpredictable election pitting grass-roots activists on the left and right, unenthusiastic or flabbergasted by their presidential choices, against party leaders is suddenly erupting into a rare battle royal for control of every branch of government: the White House, Congress and the Supreme Court. Mr. McConnell’s threat to block a confirmation could complicate the re-election chances of Republican senators in swing states.

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