|Associate Justice Antonin Scalia (1936-2016). |
The announcement of Scalia's death has sparked a political maelstrom that
will reverberate well beyond the 2016 elections. Official Court Photo.
|Antonin Scalia, Ronald Reagan, and William H. Rehnquist in 1986. Scalia was one of four of Republican President Ronald Reagan's successful appointments to the Supreme Court. Renowned as a brilliant conservative jurist, Scalia was confirmed by a vote of 98-0. Most of the attention was on Reagan's simultaneous elevation of Rehnquist from Associate to Chief Justice (which was more narrowly approved by a vote of 65-33). Photo credit: Paul Hosefros|
Purely legal theories of judicial decision making emphasize analogous reasoning and the neutral application of legal principles and precedent. Political scientists, on the other hand, tend to view decision making in attitudinal and strategic terms – that is, they maintain that judicial outcomes are shaped by the underlying attitudes or ideology of the justices and their strategic interaction as a group. Doctrinally, Scalia was extremely influential; he was a prolific writer guided by a clear jurisprudential vision and consistent interpretive methodology. His fidelity to a clear judicial philosophy, acerbic style and intellectual egoism did not, however, always lend itself to consensus building. Scalia’s absence thus creates a potential reconfiguration of relative influence within the Court’s conservative bloc, as well as within the Court as a whole. The lens of judicial behavior and politics thus offers insight as to the profound impact which Scalia’s passing may have on future decisions of the Court, both immediately and in the long run.
The History and Political Science Department offers numerous courses which help to place the law and presidential legacies through Supreme Court appointments within full historical and political context. If you are interested in learning more about the importance of the Scalia vacancy -- or other current events as they unfold – please feel free to stop by the History & Political Science Department and be sure to check out the History & Government Club and the Pre Law Student Association.