The sudden death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was met with a range of visceral reactions that were as divided and polarized as our current discussions over who should replace him. From approbations heaped on his name by members of the far right to the indignant withholding thereof by members of the far left, only one thing is certain—that suddenly, a seat of judgment on our nation’s highest court is vacant at the most precarious time in recent history.
In the next year, SCOTUS will decide on a range of issues that will shape its most progressive docket yet. Although they are currently amorphous, judgements on these issues (i.e., immigration reform, unions, redistricting, and women’s reproductive rights) will form precedents that will dictate the doctrines we follow into the foreseeable future.
Another appointment also allows the president to leave an imprint on the nation that will outlast his time in office. First, however, his choice must withstand the tendentious attacks that seek to undermine his constitutional authority to fill the court’s current vacancy.
Senate Republicans and presidential candidates have prematurely infused partisan politics with their reactions to Justice Scalia’s untimely death. As they call for filibusters to block Obama’s appointment, the President is presumably positioning himself to add to his legacy — one that already encompasses the appointments of two other justices to this nation’s highest court.
Senator Ted Cruz had this to say:
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) February 14, 2016
And Jeb Bush had this to say:
— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) February 14, 2016
Polarities aside, the White House has announced that the President will not make an announcement this week. In the meantime, the speculative nature of politics has run amok over who that person might be.
Here are four predictions of the president’s top picks:
Having long been considered as Obama’s nominee in the making, Mr. Srinivasan would make history as the bench’s first Hindu appointee. He currently serves as an attorney in United States Court of Appeals, which is the second most powerful court in the nation. His appointment to that post was backed by Republican solicitor generals, thus suggesting that his multi-party appeal could translate into an easier confirmation hearing on the Senate floor. Thought to be a Supreme Court breeding ground, if selected, Srinivasan would join Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Bader Ginsburg as picks from the DC Circuit.
Experts are currently predicting that Attorney General Loretta Lynch will most likely succeed Scalia. Another first, Lynch would be the only African American woman ever nominated to the bench. However, Lynch’s current appointment as attorney general took months to pass through Congress. So, traditionally, her appointment to the bench would be an uphill battle. However, the fact that we are currently in the midst of an election cycle makes all the difference. A Republican strategy to block her could work in Obama’s favor because delaying Lynch’s appointment would dampen Republican efforts to reach minority communities, which further inhibits their chances of winning the general election. Picking Lynch would be the equivalent of calling the Senate’s bluff. Either way, her nomination would galvanize voters on both sides of the aisle.
Considered a favorite by the populist, Kamala Harris is certainly a viable pick. She currently serves as the Attorney General of California, and her record as a prosecutor would be hard to refute. However, her liberal stances would raise the ire of Senate Republicans who are already intent on leaving this process to the next president. Furthermore, she is unlikely to accept because doing so would force her to abandon her current bid for the United States Senate. When compared to the Supreme Court, the Senate cowers in comparison, but when thinking about the long term, accepting a nomination doesn’t make sense because she may run for president one day. Rolling the dice on such a large political future will likely cause her to decline, but it is plausible to assume that she is being vetted by Obama’s team nonetheless.
Another member of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, Garland is more senior to fellow contender Srinivasan. He serves as the court’s chief judge, and he is an esteemed graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law. At 63, he is also the oldest candidate on this list, but his perception as a moderate may make his appointment an easier pill to swallow by our factious Senate Republican leaders.