BLOGThe Weekly Digest: 2-17-16

By James Arnold Posted on: | February 17, 2016
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This week's digest centers on the passing of Justice Scalia. While other newsworthy items certainly occurred, nothing had as much impact as his passing.

On Justice Scalia

We were all grieved over the weekend to hear that Justice Antonin Scalia passed away. Alliance Defending Freedom CEO Alan Sears had this to say of Justice Scalia:

"The entire Alliance Defending Freedom team mourns the loss of a true friend of ordered liberty and of all Americans: Justice Antonin Scalia. Justice Scalia was the most vocal and passionate voice on the Supreme Court for religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family over the past three decades. While we grieve his passing, we must always remember that God is in charge. We also note that it is unlikely that a new justice will be installed prior to the election of our next president. All of us are thankful for Justice Scalia’s legacy of consistently standing in defense of our constitutionally protected freedoms. Please join us in prayer for the Scalia family, the entire Supreme Court family, and our nation."

Hopefully most of the comments you’ve seen regarding Scalia's passing were at least respectful, regardless of political or ideological affiliation. In fact, I hope we would react as the Church of England did when it heard that Richard Dawkins had a stroke this last weekend: with prayer.

The best and, in my opinion, most touching response comes from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, well known as a good friend of Justice Scalia. You can read her response in full here, but it is worth noting that she refers her relationship with Scalia as that of "best buddies." Despite ideological and political differences (after all, the two of them were nearly always on the opposite side of controversial cases), there was a deep admiration and respect, something we should all seek to emulate with our "foes."

The rest of the Supreme Court Justices, as well as a few retired Justices, also expressed their condolences and sorrow over the loss.

Over at the ADF blog, Emily Conley points out 7 quotes that demonstrate Scalia's signature approach to both life and law.

Perhaps the most-shared and most-read piece on Scalia is this sweeping article at The New York Times. The article is long—and therefore most-shared is more accurate than most-read, I suspect—and takes a historical tone. The New York Times also has Ross Douthat's piece, which is worth a read.

The Atlantic ran a piece entitled “What Made Antonin Scalia Great” and then focused on arguing that Scalia was inconsistent in his jurisprudence. It seems that they only mean he was great in that he had a standard to which he could be inconsistent.

One trend you may pick up on among the main-stream media voices: They almost all opt to mention the Obergefell v. Hodges decision on same-sex marriage last summer. Perhaps this is unsurprising, given how often his dissent in that case has been mentioned in the months following the conclusion of the case.

There are two questions the nation is now facing, regarding the Supreme Court. The first is straight-forward: Who will replace Justice Scalia on the bench? Some are suggesting Loretta Lynch will get the nomination from President Obama, while others suspect that whoever the nomination is, it doesn't really matter, since the GOP is likely to block any nomination in hopes of choosing their own after the election cycle this fall.

The other question has to do with the current term: What happens to the cases currently before the Court? National Law Journal walks us through the immediate impact. The short version is this: The Court will operate with 8 justices, and in the event of a tie, the lower court's ruling is upheld, and the decision does not set any precedent. Any decisions that Justice Scalia had worked on (and may have even finished) that have not been released yet are now null and void, according to the NLJ.

And, stemming from the broad question is this one: How does this impact the particular cases before the court? Any potentially split case (notably Whole Woman's Health v. HellerstedtTrinity Lutheran Church of Colombia v. Pauley, and Zubik v. Burwell, which was combined with ADF case Geneva College v. Burwell) is worth watching closely.

The loss of Justice Scalia is one felt around the whole world. His impact cannot be overestimated, and it is encouraging to know that people of all stripes admired him.

James Arnold

News and Research Manager

James Arnold manages and edits the Alliance Alert, a daily repository of news in all forms—written, spoken, or in video format.

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