Scalia's death already is being treated as a political matter, with leading Republicans claiming President Barack Obama should not nominate Scalia's successor, leaving that task to the next president--who will not take office for almost a full year.
But before focusing on the politics of Scalia's death, Americans should understand that he was one of the most destructive public officials in American history. He also was a fraud and--for lack of a better word--an asshole. If Obama nominates a reasonably competent successor, who receives Senate approval, Scalia's death could be some of the best news to hit this country in quite a while.
Are those nasty things to say about a dead man? Yes, they are. But Scalia didn't pull punches in life, so I see no reason to pull punches about his death.
We could analyze many cases to show the damage Scalia did to our democracy, but let's focus on just one--Bush v. Gore (2000). In a per curiam opinion, Scalia and his conservative colleagues essentially installed George W. Bush as president--leading to 9/11, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, political prosecutions, use of U.S. attorneys as political weapons, astonishing political corruption, rampant Wall Street sleaze, and an economy that almost sank into a depression.
By law, two concurring justices--Scalia and Clarence Thomas--should not have participated in Bush v. Gore. But they ignored their duties under the law and helped install a man who likely will go down as the worst president in American history. Noted educator and commentator Dr. Paul R. Wrubel calls Bush v. Gore a "judicial canker sore." Here's why, looking first at Clarence Thomas:
One of the Supreme Court judges at the time owed his job to the father of one of the litigants in Bush v. Gore. That judge was Clarence Thomas. How is it possible that he could enter into the deliberations without a prior personal bias? He was appointed by George H.W. Bush, the father of litigant George W. Bush. That would never pass the “smell test” in the event he were to be sued successfully by Anita Hill if the presiding judge in that case had been appointed by a family member of Ms. Hill. How then was it OK for Mr. Thomas to weigh in on a case where one of the litigants was the son of the man who appointed him to the Court? It wasn’t OK and if there were another impartial higher court, the outcome would have been overturned probably by a unanimous decision.
What about Scalia? His conflict of interest might have been even worse:
Enter Antonin Scalia, the champion not of impartial law but of Mr. Antonin Scalia. Scalia, it turns out had a different family-related conflict of interest. In this instance, his son, Eugene, a budding lawyer, had been promised a job with the new administration if Mr. Bush were to be elected. It was a well-known “secret”. Mr. Justice Scalia was well aware of the pending appointment at the time of Bush v. Gore and he not surprisingly voted with the Court’s majority that overturned the Florida recount while it was being conducted. He also knew at the time that there is a federal statute that “requires a judge to recuse himself from any case in which their spouse or CHILD has an interest that could be substantially affected by the outcome of the proceeding”. (Mr. Thomas may also have the same problem given the activities of his wife.) The outcome of the recount had implications for his son’s legal future. Sure enough, Eugene Scalia was nominated by President George W. Bush to be Solicitor of Labor in the Department of Labor, a position that could influence a range of issues relating to worker safety and other working conditions. Everyone including Congress knew that Eugene Scalia didn’t give a fig about worker safety or the laws that protected workers from harm. The confirmation hearings were confrontational as they should have been. His chances looked grim.
Eugene Scalia was finally appointed by George W. Bush using the recess appointment route that allowed him to circumvent Congress. During his term as a recess-appointed official, Mr. Scalia argued a case involving one of his former paying clients, Pacific Marine Association. It is not surprising that his former client won the case in its conflict with ILWU (the longshoreman’s union). Apparently, the affinity for conflicts of interest is congenital in the Scalia clan.
According to Source Watch, after Eugene Scalia’s recess appointment expired, President Bush fulfilled his pre-Bush v. Gore promise and appointed him as the Acting Solicitor of Labor which was yet another strategy to avoid the Congressional approval process.
The notorious Bush ruling also helped reveal the man behind the facade of Antonin Scalia. To those who found the court's handiwork troubling, Scalia repeatedly said, "Get over it." Those are the words of an asshole.
When he tried, lamely, to defend the ruling, Scalia was outed as a liar. He repeatedly has said Bush was a 7-2 decision, that "it wasn't even close." Not exactly true. From Think Progress:
Bush v. Gore was not a 7-2 decision — and indeed, Scalia could tell this is true by counting all four of the dissenting opinions in that case. Although it is true that the four dissenters divided on how the Florida recount should proceed — two believed there should be a statewide recount of all Florida voters while two others believed a narrower recount would be acceptable — not one of the Court’s four moderates agreed with Scalia that the winner of the 2000 presidential election should effectively be chosen by five most conservative members of the Supreme Court of the United States.
The death of Antonin Scalia brings two words to mind--Good riddance.