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America Deserves a Better Choice to Replace Justice Scalia

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

News of Antonin Scalia’s death left me shocked and sad. For nearly three decades, he had been a fixture on our nation’s highest court, holding tight to the founding fathers’ constitutional vision and fending off encroachments on our freedom, whether they came from plaintiffs or his fellow, more liberal justices. He will be missed.

His passing leaves a gaping hole in a Supreme Court that has caused quite the tiff over the past month. The media (social and otherwise) has been the battlefield, with one side defending the president’s prerogative to appoint a replacement immediately (including his own VP who once made the exact opposite case under a Republican president) and the other advocating for a pause allowing the next president to shape the court in his or her image.

While I understand it’s technically a sitting president’s prerogative to more deeply imprint his ideology on another third of our nation’s political power structure, it would be a break with recent precedent if by “recent” one means 80 years. (The option being pursued by President Obama, of nomination and confirmation in an election year, last happened in 1932 when Herbert Hoover tabbed Benjamin Cardozo.) I give Republicans credit for pushing back, but the current political climate made it all but inevitable. Having lost the fight over the IF of an appointment, I hope they have more success on their fight for WHO is appointed.

Unfortunately, the WHO chosen by President Obama, Merrick Garland, has shown a predilection for ruling in favor of big government and its job killing ways. He must be stopped.

While many confirmation hearings for past justices have hinged on so-called social conservative issues like abortion or gun rights, Garland poses a direct threat to fiscal conservatism, based on a series of decisions he rendered in support of positions taken by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Environmental Protection Agency.

During my time as a ranch owner and an elected official, I have seen the impact of unrestrained government interference that is typically based more on emotion and public sentiment than data. When an agency with essentially unchecked powers arbitrarily decides a species of bird is endangered, the ripple effect of fines, lawsuits and lost jobs resonates directly in the lives of hardworking Americans.

Whether one is a job creator, landowner or private citizen, our only real line of defense against such agencies is the courts. However, when the folks in the black robes consistently disregard our constitutional rights in favor of governmental primacy, we have a real problem. Garland gives every appearance of making that problem worse. I have little reason to believe he’ll experience an epiphany upon sitting in the seat once occupied by Scalia, unless it’s possessed by that great jurist’s persuasive ghost.

It is for that reason, not partisan preferences, that we should all call on President Obama to find a better candidate to take his or her place among the nine justices who hold such sway over our nation’s future. There is too much at risk, from personal freedom to jobs, to confirm Merrick Garland.

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