By Don Rajael, CCNN Writer
Antonin Scalia, one of the 9 justices in the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) – the highest court of the USA – passed away on February 13th. Scalia was one of the more conservative justices who interpreted the law as an “originalist” and “textualist,” meaning he very strictly interpreted the “text” of the Constitution (the highest law in the country), according to its “originally” intended meaning. Scalia served from 1986 to 2016 and his death creates an opening on the Supreme Court. There will now be a tug-of-war between Republicans and Democrats for his replacement, since justice serve for life and can dramatically affect the country’s laws.
So, what kinds of issues are brought to the attention of the highest court in the land? Well, SCOTUS has the ultimate power to interpret the country’s laws. They’re especially responsible for making sure the Constitution, the supreme law of the USA first adopted on September 17, 1787, is followed. It’s not always black and white, though, which is why there are 9 people who serve as Supreme Court justices. That way, there won’t ever be a tie when it comes to making a decision. If 5 justices disagree with the other 4 justices, the decision’s made in favor of what the majority 5 believe.
The justices serve for the rest of their lives once they’re approved, unless they choose to leave or are removed after getting in trouble (which has never happened). Because of how long they’re in office, the process for becoming a justice is very intense. First, a President, according to the Constitution, has the power to nominate (recommend) justices. Then, the Senate (which, along with the House of Representatives, controls Congress) has a Judiciary Committee review their background, interview the candidate, and decide whether they’ll be voted on. After some back-and-forth, the nominated individual either becomes a SCOTUS justice, has their name withdrawn by the president, or is rejected by the Senate. Usually, the Senate is very cautious about rejecting possible justices, and has only done it 12 times in its history.
Since it’s a presidential election season, with Americans voting for a new president on November 8th, 2016, there is disagreement on whether President Barack Obama should nominate someone before he leaves office. Democrats say he should, since it’s within his power, and Republicans think he shouldn’t, since USA voters will choose the next president soon.
Featured image courtesy of Patrick McKay on Flickr.