Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

An 'Originalist'

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

An 'Originalist'

Article excerpt

THE DEATH of a sitting U.S. Supreme Court justice can change the ideological balance of the high court. In quieter times, the process to replace a justice is both deliberative and political. These are not quiet times. Yet perhaps there is something fitting about the inevitable rhetorical combat to come after the death Saturday of Justice Antonin Scalia.

News of Scalia's passing came as a surprise. Although 79 years old, he was not known to be in ill health and was on a hunting trip in Texas when he died. Perhaps the hunting trip is also fitting, because Scalia will be best known for his majority opinion that found that the Second Amendment protects the rights of individuals to bear arms. To conservatives in America, Scalia was a hero. He believed in a strict interpretation of the Constitution -- an "originalist" -- and strove to base his decisions on the framers' original intent. To liberals, he was an anathema, not supporting a woman's right to choose or expanding rights to gays and lesbians.

He was controversial -- not always for his opinions. A duck- hunting trip with Vice President Dick Cheney, who at the time was a litigant in a lawsuit that was before the high court, brought him widespread criticism. Scalia was not repentant.

His caustic wit was often on display in his dissenting opinions. While we have often disagreed with his conclusions, whether he was writing in the majority or in dissent, Scalia leaves a rich 30-year legacy of service on the Supreme Court that cannot and should not be dismissed.

That legacy in today's heated political climate will be co-opted by the right and left. The Republican-controlled Senate is unlikely to work with President Obama on even conducting hearings on a nominee, let alone confirming that individual.

The American people -- conservative, liberal or somewhere in the middle -- cannot accept this position. …

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