Dear President Obama,
I was deeply saddened at the news of Justice Antonin Scalia’s passing. His tenure, spanning three decades, has been an incredible formative influence on our country and its laws. He will be sorely missed. As you undertake the challenge of nominating a replacement for him, I would like to offer a few friendly recommendations.
As a true conservative, I am a firm believer in the balance of power established by our founding fathers, setting the executive, legislative and judicial branches in opposition as a way to protect the citizenry from unrestrained power. While it makes good political theater to complain when one of the branches opposes our personal desires (your 2010 State of the Union address comes to mind), the system has worked for hundreds of years and must continue for our nation to endure. That is why it is so important for you to choose wisely.
Whomever gets your nod will have enormous shoes to fill. Scalia was not only the longest serving active justice on the Court, he was also possessed of an incredibly sharp mind, rock solid conservative values and a Constitutionalist’s unwavering take on the issues. His opinions on landmark cases, both those where he aligned with the majority and with the minority, are astonishing works of plainspoken literature unto themselves.
They not only portray a sharp legal mind, but a grasp of the Supreme Court’s place in the power structure of our nation. Writing in his dissent to the King vs. Burwell case (in which the Court essentially saved your Affordable Care Act), he wrote, “This Court holds only the judicial power—the power to pronounce the law as Congress has enacted it. We lack the prerogative to repair laws that do not work out in practice, just as the people lack the ability to throw us out of office if they dislike the solutions we concoct.”
While my fellow Republicans debate about whether you should forego nominating a replacement for Scalia, I won’t waste my breath on begging you to hold off. Instead, I will simply advocate for the best possible candidate. In my view, a candidate for our nation’s highest court should have a well-documented history of the following:
A strict embrace of the Constitution. While some consider it a “living document” subject to changing interpretation, it is the bedrock document of our republic and should not be modified to suit shifting cultural whims.
A sense of the Court’s proper role. It is increasingly common for judges at every level to disregard the role of the executive and legislative branches in the process of making and enforcing the law. The next Justice needs to show that he or she is willing to operate within the boundaries established by the founding fathers.
A disregard for political expediency. It’s human nature to side with the majority and run with the
tribe pack, but a Justice must be willing to tune out the caterwauling of various political factions when contemplating a decision. The right (ie. Constitutional) ruling isn’t always popular, so we need decision makers who don’t care about winning any popularity contests.
In your remaining months in office, freed from the need to be reelected, you can set aside partisan perspectives and choose a justice who is insightful, impartial and unflappable. The lasting impact of that choice will truly determine your legacy as it demonstrates your ability to choose what’s best for America. For the sake of our country and my grandchildren, I am hopeful you will choose well.