I read the article in the Great Bend Tribune: “Obama’s disgraceful snub of Scalia” (Febr 24th issue). I was sad that the late Supreme Court Associate Justice recently died on a Texas ranch. A suitable time of mourning has passed. It seems to me that the document, the U.S. Constitution, should be applied and partisan quibbling should cease. While I don’t support hardly any of President Obama’s policies, he does have one legitimate Constitutional power vested in him: The power to appoint people to fill vacancies to courts including the U.S. Supreme Court with the conjoined duty “with the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate.”
My viewpoint is: Let the process begin now. That doesn’t mean that any nominee is automatically approved. The Senate’s duty is to scrutinize and in a timely way and then vote the candidate “Up” or “Down”.
Chances are Pres. Obama’s initial prospective nominees would be considered too liberal and activist. The Senate should simply reject (by vote) any unworthy prospect. Then, Pres. Obama could submit another name and then another.
If I were the President I’d choose someone with “middle ground”, perhaps a former nominee made by former President George W. Bush, to a lower court who previously won easy confirmation. While the Obama Administration might hope for an ultra-liberal, they would be smarter to do a trade-off for a “moderate”.
I realize this is unlikely. Having studied Constitutional Law at university, I know how vital just one vote can be on the High Court, which normally recesses in June with a new Supreme Court Session always starting, by Statute on “the first Monday in October.” All of this is still during President Obama’s term. Yes, Mr. Obama may be a “lame duck president”, but in certain respects he isn’t. He has powers incumbent on him until the day he leaves Office. I sincerely hope the Senate doesn’t turn our highest judicial panel into a Tug-of-War nor by shirking their duties create a “lame duck Court.” That could cripple vital cases which need prompt resolution. This is no time for gridlock or stonewalling. The procedure itself can go forward with each side (The President and the Senate) doing its duty to promptly find an acceptable replacement to fill a vacant Chair on the High Court.
The Court, when properly filled has nine Justices. That odd number is deliberately set to avoid “ties” in opinions. We have three branches of government: Executive, Legislative and Judicial. The old saying goes: “Separate, but Equal.” Well, if we leave one branch short-staffed, it is hamstrung. Leaving the chair on the U.S. Supreme Court vacant til a new President is sworn-in is far too long. It’s the wrong thing to do. It would keep fostering an already dysfunctional Court. It would engender lots of 4 to 4 ties. Let’s get our Supreme Court fully staffed again. It can be done if those involved sought honorable compromise.
James A. Marples.